Eugene, Ore. • Oregon State coach Mike Riley and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich don't need to be schooled about the significance of the Civil War to the state.
Riley grew up in Corvallis and was the son of an assistant coach for the Beavers, while Helfrich was raised in Coos Bay, on the southern Oregon coast.
"I was an Oregon fan and certainly growing up there was that back-and-forth in the community that will happen after this game, and you wanted to be on the right side of that, for sure," Helfrich said this week before the 117th edition of the annual rivalry game against the Beavers.
But Helfrich had bigger things on his mind. He is tasked with righting the No. 12 Ducks (9-2, 6-2) after their deflating 42-16 loss at Arizona last weekend. Oregon has lost two of its last three to drop out of the race for the national championship, a BCS bowl and the Pac-12 title game. But the stunned Ducks are still looking for their sixth straight 10-win season, along with their sixth straight victory over their in-state rivals.
"I know what (the rivalry) means," he said this week. "It's more important this week for us to play better. To execute. To compete. To play our way."
The Beavers are also mired in a slump.
Oregon State (6-5, 4-4) is looking to avoid a fifth consecutive loss, which would be its longest losing streak since the Beavers dropped six straight to conclude the 1997 season. The Beavers are coming off a 69-27 loss at home to Washington, which Riley described as "horrible."
"I would have to say that's as out of character as I've seen us play, ever," he said.
Oregon State started the season on a low note, losing at home to lower-tier Eastern Washington. But then the Beavers rebounded with six straight wins and there were hopes for a strong finish in the tough Pac-12 North behind Stanford and Oregon. Now they are one of nine Pac-12 teams vying for a spot in the seven conference bowl games.