Jonathan Smith experienced the Civil War at its height.
Mario Cristobal has only experienced the most lopsided win the rivalry’s 124-year history.
The two first-year coaches are in different stages of rebuilding their respective programs entering Oregon’s regular-season finale against Oregon State on Friday at Reser Stadium (1 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
The Ducks scored the most points and won by the largest margin in the series during last year’s 69-10 win at Autzen Stadium.
Willie Taggart made sure Oregon’s players were ready to shed their fancy raincoats and atone for the 2016 loss.
“I know the previous year, that was a pretty intense deal over there in Corvallis, and that intensity carried over into last year’s game over here,” said Cristobal, who was Taggart’s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 2017. “Let’s just say I’ve always loved and been used to great rivalries, and this one did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded all expectations.”
Cristobal experienced iconic rivalries as a Miami player against Florida State and Notre Dame and coached in the Iron Bowl against Auburn as an Alabama assistant.
Smith was Oregon State’s quarterback when Keith Jackson and ABC arrived for a historic Civil War showdown between top-10 teams. The eighth-ranked Beavers defeated No. 5 Oregon 23-13 to clinch a share of the 2000 Pac-10 title with the Ducks and Washington.
“One of my favorite memories of playing was taking a knee in that game,” Smith said of lining up in the victory formation for a 10-1 finish to the regular season.
Oregon State went on to crush No. 10 Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Smith was hired to make the Beavers relevant again.
The Ducks have won nine of the past 10 games against Oregon State, which and hasn’t won a Pac-12 home game since beating Mark Helfrich’s final Oregon team two years ago.
Cristobal said Smith’s team, which is 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the Pac-12 this season, has nearly taken control of other games this season.
“Emotions do run high in rivalry games, but once you get into the game it then comes down to execution,” Smith said. “So I don’t want to change it in regards to making this bigger than it is. It’s an important game, just like all those games are important.”
The Ducks (7-4, 4-4) can give Cristobal his eighth win of the season, which would be one more than Taggart had after deciding to make the Civil War his final game as Oregon’s coach.
“The motivation for us is extremely high,” Cristobal said. “We didn’t do too well the last time we were over there. So we talk about a lot of things that are motivating factors, but our team is motivated.”
The Ducks will be relatively healthy as they look to end a three-game road losing streak.
Running back CJ Verdell, who had 70 yards rushing and a touchdown against Arizona State before giving way to Travis Dye (105 yards rushing), practiced Monday.
Verdell has been dealing with a neck injury this season, but Cristobal said he “took a shot” to the ribs against the Sun Devils.
Both of the true freshmen who have started at left tackle this season are close to returning. Steven Jones could be cleared from concussion protocol on Tuesday, and Penei Sewell (lower-leg injury) will be ready for the bowl game.
“(Sewell) might be available in an emergency, but we wouldn’t put him at risk where there’s any chance he may hinder his progress toward full health,” Cristobal said.
Starting inside linebacker Sampson Niu, who was in concussion protocol last week and “a little dinged up” during the Arizona State game, is expected to be able to play against Oregon State.
True freshman linebacker Andrew Johnson, who has been rehabbing a high school knee injury all season, might also be healthy enough to help the Ducks in a bowl game.
Tight end Kano Dillon missed the Arizona State game with an abdominal strain and “looked OK” in practice Tuesday, according to Cristobal.
Two walk-ons, wide receiver Justin Collins and linebacker Nate Heaukulani, made contributions to the Ducks’ 31-29 win over Arizona State.
Collins, a former high school track star in California who began his career at Boise State, made a 22-yard reception to get Oregon in position for Jaylon Redd’s touchdown run with 11 seconds remaining in the first half.
Heaukulani, a former Portland Jesuit High standout who transferred from Arizona Western College, played 14 snaps on defense and finished with two tackles.
“A testament to them and their coaches for bringing them along like they did,” Cristobal said. “Those guys work really hard. Those guys do all the right things, all the time. Over here, there is no judgment, whether you’re a fifth-year senior or whether you just walked on.
“If you’re producing and you show that you can be trusted out on that football field, you’re going to get a shot.”
Oregon has averaged 46.4 points with a scoring margin of plus-18.8 (464 to 276) over the last 10 meetings with Oregon State. …
Dillon Mitchell (1,105 yards) needs 36 yards receiving to break Josh Huff’s single-season school record of 1,140 set in 2013. …
Justin Herbert has 22 touchdown passes and two interceptions in nine career Pac-12 road starts. As a true freshman in 2016, he was only 16-for-28 passing for 180 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions at Reser Stadium.
Dino Philyaw, one of the stars of Oregon’s 1994 Civil War win that sent the program back to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 37 years, spoke to the 2018 Ducks on Monday.
“We talk about the history. The guys that have played here before, some of them come back and share stories with our football players,” Cristobal said. “We’ve done that to help them understand, because sometimes when your team has so many guys from so many parts of the country, you hate for them to never understand how deep-rooted the feelings and the emotions are that go in to this rivalry. And we’ll continue to do that all week long.”