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November 23, 2006

Nothing 'Civil' about it!

Joe Newton grew up a Beaver fan. There was no way he couldn't have. After all, several family members attended OSU and he played under Thurman Bell at Roseburg High School.

"Coach Bell played here and went to the Rose Bowl," Newton said. "So that kind of made our Roseburg team a Beaver team. Growing up around that and having my grandparents and parents being Oregon State alumni, I have been a Beaver fan my whole life, so this game is fun."

And while the senior tight end insists Friday's 110th Civil War is just another game that the Beavers have to come out and play, there's no doubt he's excited about playing the Ducks. He missed last year's game due to a season-ending injury he suffered during fall camp.

"It was frustrating," Newton admitted. "So this being my last home game and the Civil War, it's going to be really fun way to go out for me. Hopefully, we can get a win."

Meanwhile quarterback Matt Moore is simply looking forward to playing in his first Civil War game. He too, missed last season's contest due to injury. And despite being at Oregon State only two seasons, he's well aware of the game's magnitude.

"I want to play this game with just as much emotion and excitement as all the other guys. I know this rivalry is a big game. Especially for me being a senior. You want to treat it like any other game, but it's Oregon vs. Oregon State. It doesn't get any better than that."

It helps that one of the team's main goals every season is to beat the Ducks, which is to be expected considering coach Mike Riley is very familiar with the history of the rivalry. Not only was he raised in Corvallis but his father, Bud, was an assistant coach for the Beavers. His favorite Civil War memory, however, occurred during his first stint as OSU's coach in 1998. Who can forget that thrilling 44-41 double-overtime victory over the Ducks?

"It's one of the great games in college football," Riley said. "I think our state lends itself to a tremendous rivalry because it's relatively small. There's no riding the fence here. You can maybe hide in L.A. and not care about the game, but it's hard to do that in our state."

Count offensive guard Roy Schuening as another player who grew up rooting for the Beavers. He has fond memories of listening to OSU games on the radio while growing up in Pendleton. As a result, he knows all too well how the Civil War divides the state.

"It's mostly just bragging rights for people who didn't play in it or the fans," Schuening said. "I don't think it gets carried away as a lot of other rivalries do, but it gets hyped."

Make no mistake about it though, Friday's game will be extremely physical. After all, it features two teams with identical records that have headed different directions during the second half of the season. The Beavers have won five out of their last six games, while the Ducks have lost two straight.

The Beavers will be seeking to redeem themselves after being routed last year in Eugene 56-14. In the process, the Ducks broke the record for most points scored by a team in Civil War. The previous mark had been set by the Beavers in 2004, when a Derek Anderson-led squad posted 50 points on the board.

"We got our tails beat in last year and two years ago we beat them up," Schuening said. "So who knows what could happen. The years before that, they were close games. I think last year they were a lot better team than we were. This year, I think we are a lot more even. So it's going to be real interesting to see what happens on Friday."

Also, it's safe bet the Beavers don't want to see the nine-year streak of the home team winning end at Reser Stadium. And there's also the matter of locking up third place in the Pac-10 and securing berth in the Sun Bowl.

So with all that's at stake on Friday, there's a good chance the game could go down as another classic. And there have been plenty of them in this, the seventh oldest rivalry in college football. But what makes the Civil War so exciting is you never know what's going to happen. So that's why statistics might as well mean nothing heading into the game.

"It doesn't matter when the Civil War comes who is playing better at the time, or who is the better team," said senior safety Sabby Piscitelli. "You could have 11-1 vs. 5-5 and it's going to be a great game, it's going to be a hard-fought game . . . I honestly think when it comes down to the whistle blowing Friday, it won't matter who has or who doesn't have the 'momentum.' It's going to be a dogfight. It's going to be athlete vs. athlete, it's going to be competitor vs. competitor."

There's all the proof you need. If a kid from Florida understands what the Civil War is all about, you know it's definitely one of the best games in college football . . .

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