On the Road: An Oregonian Saturday

November 5, 2014 by SbS Football Staff | with 0 comments
Filed under: Beavers, Ducks, Linfield, Oregon

For our second “On the Road” event this season, we traveled to the state of Oregon last weekend to spend a football Saturday along state Highway 99W (or the Pacific Highway West), a road that cuts through the heart of the Willamette Valley, as well as the heart of the state's football presence. From Portland to Eugene, six of the nine NCAA level football teams in the state are located along this stretch of highway.
While most people travel the road to make stops at some of Oregon’s finest wineries, we instead chose to travel 99W and make a stop at each of the three most notorious football schools in the state: Linfield College (Division III) and both of the state’s two FBS teams, Oregon and Oregon State. All three teams were hosting conference opponents this day.
1. McMinnville, Oregon
We headed out from Portland early on Saturday morning and made our first stop about 45 miles south in the town of McMinnville. A town in the middle of Oregon Wine County, McMinnville is also home to Linfield College, a small private school that is a traditional Division III national football power.
The Linfield Wildcats, who ranked 5th in the nation coming into the weekend, have won four national championships (most recently in 2004), regularly make the Division III playoffs, and are consistently ranked in the top ten. But, it’s the “streak” that the Wildcats are most known for.
Easily the longest streak in college football history, Linfield has finished the season with a winning record every year since 1956 (59 seasons).

The next longest streak of consecutive winning seasons is 42 years, which was accomplished by three different teams - Notre Dame, Harvard and Central College in Iowa. Florida State holds the next longest active winning streak with 38 consecutive winning seasons.
Linfield Roster Analysis
In what we assumed would be a roster full of kids from the state of Oregon, and a fair number from neighboring Washington, we were surprised to learn that less than half (48%) of the players on Linfield are from the state, and that about one-fourth are from a state other than Oregon or Washington.
There are 22 players on the roster from California, eleven who are from Hawaii (most surprising) and one player each from Alaska, Arizona and Idaho.
One of the players from Oregon is standout Quarterback Sam Riddle, who played high school football 30 miles north of McMinnville in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro. Riddle is one of 33 players on the roster from the greater Portland area.
Perhaps the most interesting thing we learned about the Linfield roster was the number of players relative to the size of the college. Only 1,671 students attend Linfield's McMinnville campus, 40% of them being male. Yet, there are 125 players on the Linfield roster, a total higher than many FBS teams -- and therefore means that one in almost every five males on campus plays football for the Wildcats.
Game Results
Linfield was hosting Willamette that afternoon, a Northwest Conference rival located in the state capitol of Salem only 20 miles east of McMinnville.
Although we were able to get a preview from the head umpire as we walked around Maxwell Field that foggy morning, we unfortunately were not able to hang around for the game as we needed to get to on the road to our next stop. 
However, the umpire assured us that atmosphere would be as good as it gets for a Division III game, and it appears his assessment was spot on as the Wildcats were upset by Willamette 31 to 28 in their first regular season loss since 2010.

2. Eugene, Oregon
After our quick stop to get a feel for Linfield football, we continued south on 99W and made our way down to Eugene to watch the fifth ranked Oregon Ducks take on the Stanford Cardinal, one of the better FBS rivalries in recent years.
On our way to Eugene, we started to get a taste for the real rivalry that the state is known for -- the in-state rivalry between the Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers, commonly referred to as the Civil War. A rivalry that divides Oregonians across the state, the Civil War is one of the most played in-state rivalries in college football history.
One of the aspects that makes the Ducks and Beavers rivalry so distinctive is the close distance between the two schools. Located only 40 miles apart, there are very few in-state rivalries in college football between teams located in towns closer than Eugene and Corvallis.

As we drove through Corvallis, we speculated on how the car in front of us, with its green and yellow Oregon Ducks flags hanging from both windows, would be welcomed if it were to stop in town to fill up on gas. Would the gas attendant refuse to pump gas for the car? 

It was a risky decision for the car to be traveling directly through Beaver country, but thankfully, it kept driving through town, and we did not become eye witnesses to anything unruly between these two hated rivals.

Ducks Geographical Analysis.
As we continued past Corvallis and made the remaining forty mile trek to Eugene, we discussed how impressive it is that the Ducks have been able to be a consistent national power despite its geographic limitations.
The state of Oregon typically ranks in the bottom third of states when it comes to producing NFL players. The state has produced only three first round NFL draft pick since 2000 (Joey Harrington, Troy Polamalu and Ndamukong Suh), and the state ranks 38th in current NFL players who are from its state (42nd ranked state on a per capita basis).
The Ducks rely heavily on recruits from outside of the state as they currently have players from 19 states other than Oregon, and it is one of the rare FBS rosters in which the state representing the most players on the team is not the home state.

There are 47 players on the roster from the state of California, which is more than double the amount of players from Oregon (23), and there are players from every corner of the nation. There are eight players from Arizona, six from Texas and six from Hawaii, including Heisman hopeful QB Marcus Mariota.

Autzen Experience
Although the game was mostly one sided, Oregon defeated Stanford 45 to 16, the atmosphere in and around Autzen Stadium was truly one of a kind. In no particular order, below are our top five observations from the game and our Autzen experience.
1. Facilities – The athletic complex and facilities at Oregon have a reputation of being one of the best in the country, and our observations would definitely echo those thoughts. We were blown away with how impressive Autzen Stadium and the surrounding facilities are (practice fields, baseball field, soccer field, etc.). The words “first class” kept continued to come to our minds.

2. Rain – Prior to the game we learned about the Oregon tradition of the stadium announcer proclaiming “it never rains at Autzen Stadium” just before kickoff of each game. After three hours of sunny skies leading up to the game, the announcer made the statement shortly before the game started and the crowd chanted along in unison. It was a very true statement when it was announced, and then two minutes later it started to rain.

3. Loyalty – It seemed as though every Duck fan we interacted with showed a major sense of loyalty to the team. While tailgating we heard about all of the road stadiums and bowl games fans had attended, and we happened to sit next to a fan at the game who stated he hasn’t missed a Duck game (home or away) since 2000. Loyalty to a team is what defines most college football fans, and it was clear to us that Ducks fans are as loyal as any fan base across the country.

4. Mariota – Although his passing was off slightly this night, Marcus Mariota displayed the skills that sets him apart from other Quarterbacks and why he will be a top NFL draft pick. Mariota’s instincts and decision making, along with his unbelievable quickness, make him a threat to score with his feet anytime he decides to tuck the ball and run.

5. Footbridge – Autzen Stadium is located on the other side of the Willamette River from the main Oregon campus, and it is a tradition for students (and other fans) to make the walk across the Autzen Footbridge and through Alton Baker Park to get to the game. We made the 15 minute walk, and it was easily the most scenic stroll to a football game either of us has ever experienced.
3. Corvallis, Oregon
After watching one team from the Civil War rivalry, we headed back up to Corvallis to take in the atmosphere around town during a game for the other half of the rivalry.
The Beavers were hosting Cal that evening, and we arrived in town during the first quarter of the game. After being shocked to learn that the game was not being shown at one of the more well-known sports bars in town (Pac-12 Network issues), we ended up near campus at McMenamins on Monroe to watch the game with the local crowd.
Beavers Geographical Analysis
Similar to the Ducks, the Beavers have the challenge of being located in a state that does not produce a ton of major football talent, and they need to rely heavily on recruits from outside of the state.
Just like the Ducks, the majority of players on the Beavers roster are from California (41), which is more than double the amount of players from Oregon (20). The Beavers also have six players from the state of Hawaii, the exact same number as the Ducks.
The major difference between the two teams involves the state that borders Oregon to the north. The Beavers have ten players on their roster from the state of Washington, while the Ducks only have one current player from the neighboring state.

Corvallis Experience
It wasn't a good night for the Beavers as they were upset by Cal 45 to 31. Oregon State has now lost three games in a row and is in serious jeopardy of not qualifying for a bowl game this year.

In no particular order, below are our top three observations from our Corvallis experience.

1. Quiet Night -- Even though there was a major conference football game taking place only blocks away, the town of Corvallis was surprisingly quiet. Even at McMenamins, it was a relatively light crowd that only started to make a little noise when the Beavers scored three straight touchdowns in the 2nd half. It may have a lot to do with the poor season the Beavers are having, but it definitely was not the atmosphere we were expecting.

2. Sean Mannion -- During the game, Beavers starting Quarterback Sean Mannion set a Pac-12 record for most passing yards in a career. It was fitting that the future NFL pick set the record against Cal, as he grew up 30 minutes south of Berkeley in Pleasanton, California. Unfortunately, Mannion's record may be the only thing Beavers fans want to remember about this disappointing year.
3. Taxi Service -- It is highly recommended that you take a taxi ride or two if you ever travel to Corvallis. We took three different rides from three different drivers, and each ride was eerily similar to the others. For all three of our rides, the taxi driver looked like Santa Claus, had the urgency of a turtle, and told us some very unforgettable stories.

Trip Summary
A recent study found that more people are moving to Oregon than any other state. The study sites some of the reasons for this movement as nice amenities, good public transit and an abundance of outdoor activities.

With the streak in McMinnville, the unbelievable facilities in Eugene, and the underdog nature of Corvallis, our study found that football needs to be added to the list of why the state of Oregon is so great.