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War for the Rose
December 08, 2008
The 112th meeting between Oregon State and Oregon was one of a handful of showdowns last week in which heated rivals squared off with much more than bragging rights at stake
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December 08, 2008

War For The Rose

The 112th meeting between Oregon State and Oregon was one of a handful of showdowns last week in which heated rivals squared off with much more than bragging rights at stake

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No disrespect intended to the rest of the republic, but nowhere do emotions run higher than in the South. Revenge was the theme of this year's Iron Bowl, where Alabama simply imposed its will on Auburn, which Bear Bryant called "that cow college on the other side of the state." With hardnosed Glen Coffee rushing for 144 yards, the Tide rolled 36--0, winning its first Iron Bowl in seven years while piling up the largest margin of victory in the series since 1962. Despite its No. 1 ranking Nick Saban's crew will be underdogs in this Saturday's SEC title game, which suits this no-frills bunch just fine.

That matchup, to be played in the Georgia Dome, will serve as a semifinal, if you will, to the BCS title game. 'Bama will attempt to slow No. 4 Florida, which embarrassed Florida State in Tallahassee 45--15 and has outscored its last eight opponents 414--97.

Whether running, passing, throwing downfield blocks or bellowing and pumping his arms between snaps like a Braveheart extra, quarterback Tim Tebow took the game over. Displeased with the Seminoles fans who cheered when Gators wideout Percy Harvin suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter, the reigning Heisman winner briefly channeled National Lampoon's Politeness Man. To teach the boors a lesson, Tebow requested, and received, permission to run the ball. "I really wanted to hit somebody extremely hard the next play," he explained.

BACK IN Corvallis, not all Oregon fans felt the need to rub the nearest Beaver's nose in it. Alan Brann, decked out in green and gold, gloated not the least in front of his best friend, Collin Rainville, who sported the colors of Oregon State, his favorite team in the world. Fourth graders at Eugene's St. Paul Elementary, they simply agree to disagree.

In this way they are a microcosm of the Civil War. Yes, it is a genuine clash of cultures: liberal, activist Eugene versus the more rural, conservative Corvallis and the ag school it supports. Beavers joke about Oregon's "varsity Hacky Sack team"; Ducks counter that Oregon State offers a dual major in biology and agriculture so its students can graduate knowing their rear ends from a hole in the ground.

But in a state with such a small population many Ducks and Beavers call one another friends and, in rare cases, spouses. This accommodation is evident in the divided jerseys that bear each school's colors and in the scores of cars outside Reser Stadium last Saturday flying flags of both universities.

"I think people in this state like both teams," proclaims Nick Aliotti, the Ducks' defensive coordinator. "Except for our hard-core fans, I don't think most Duck fans would have been terribly upset to see Oregon State going to the Rose Bowl."

He ventured this opinion a hundred yards or so from where Bishop, the rose-wielding Oregon partisan, had concluded a midfield interview with this sign-off: "Now if you'll excuse me, my son is going to videotape me while I dance on the Beaver."

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