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Ducks looks for redemption in Civil War

For all intent purposes, last season's defeat to rival Oregon State was the lowest of lows for Oregon. Not only did Beaver fans storm the field at Reser Stadium following the victory, the Ducks finished a dismal 4-8 on the year. It also ended Oregon's eight-game win streak in the heated rivalry.

That lost set off a chain of events that just one year later has led Oregon to a complete turnaround.

First, the Ducks fired embattled head coach Mark Helfrich and hired USF's Willie Taggart. Then, Taggart convinced star running back Royce Freeman to return for his senior season, promising an offense built around him. Finally, Taggart saved face in the recruiting world, securing a number of day-one freshmen to play right away.

With the ever-smiling Taggart at the helm, the Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) have a renewed sense of focus and, combined with confidence, are bowl-eligible entering the last week of the regular season.

Now comes the game that many players have been waiting for the regular season's finale against bitter rival Oregon State in the Civil War.

"It's Oregon versus Oregon State, two teams that don't like each other," Taggart said. "We got that bitter taste in our mouth that we had in our mouth for an entire year and I don't think our guys want that taste anymore."

The game against the Beavers (1-10, 0-8 Pac-12) comes on the heels of an absolute thrashing of Arizona last week. The return of quarterback Justin Herbert ignited a stagnant offense as Freeman ran for four touchdowns in the 48-28 victory.

Herbert who missed the previous five games with a fractured collarbone threw for 235 yards and totaled two scores. The mere threat of him throwing the ball opened up running lanes as Freeman (135 yards), Tony Brooks-James (124 yards) and the rest of Oregon's offense ran for a season-high 353 yards.

Most impressive in the win over Arizona was Oregon's ability to shut down the Wildcats' star quarterback Khalil Tate. Tate who entered the game averaging 160 yards passing and 201 yards rushing over his previous six games was held to 159 yards passing, 32 yards rushing and two interceptions.

"I thought Jim (Leavitt, defensive coordinator) and the defensive staff did a good job putting a simple game plan together so our guys can go out and play fast and use their athletic ability to help us against a good football team."

The Ducks will look to continue that balanced game plan when they host a beleaguered Beavers team.

Oregon State ranks last in nearly every major Pac-12 statistical category with its only win of the season coming against FCS Portland State who finished winless this year. The Beavers do have running back Ryan Nall, the hero of last year's Civil War, and former Oregon running back Thomas Tyner.

"We show them the lowlights we just show them and remind them what that looked like and just try to remind them that taste they had in their mouth," Taggart said. "I know all of them (Oregon players) was ticked off when I got here."





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