Beavers battling ghosts as well as Sun Devils

CORVALLIS — The last time the Oregon State Beavers won at Arizona State was 1969, the year the Beatles released Abbey Road. Midnight Cowboy was the big movie, and Sesame Street made it's debut on television.

"That's just one of those old ghosts that's hanging around," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.

Reeaallyy old ghosts.

In fact, the last time Oregon State won at against ASU at Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State wasn't yet a part of the Pac-10.

The Beavers, under coach Dee Andros, beat 18th-ranked Arizona State and coach Frank Kush 30-7 on Sept. 27, 1969.

The Sun Devils lead the overall series with the Beavers 23-9-1. They've won 15 straight in Tempe.

"We try not to dwell on that, but there have been a lot of strings around here that have been busted down over the last 10 years here," Riley said. "So this is one more that is hanging out there so we have to go down there and get a win."

Oregon State (2-1) opened the season with a 24-7 victory over Utah, a team that stunned UCLA 44-6 on Saturday. The Beavers lost 34-3 at Cincinnati the next week, then beat Idaho 61-10 at home.

Riley is not just wary that the Beavers seem to be jinxed when they visit the Sun Devils, he's got concerns about being on the road after Cincinnati.

"It's a road game for us, which we failed at miserably the last time we tried," he said.

Under new coach Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils are 3-0 in nonconference play, with victories over San Jose State, Colorado and San Diego State.

Erickson was the coach at Oregon State for four years, finishing with an 11-1 2002 season and a 41-9 victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. That bowl win was played at Sun Devil Stadium, just not against ASU — so it's not the building that has cursed the Beavers.

Erickson was at OSU from 1999-2002 before leaving for a disastrous two-year stretch with the San Francisco 49ers. He has said he regrets leaving Oregon State, and meetings between Erickson and the Beavers — there was one last year when he was the coach at Idaho — have seemed something like running into an old lover.

"I am looking forward to getting into conference play. I don't particularly like having to play (the Beavers)," he told the Portland Tribune this week. "I have such feeling for them after my time there."

Riley downplayed the impact of facing the coach that took the Beavers to the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.

"I think it's a lot bigger deal for people outside than it is for Dennis and me," Riley said. "I have a ton of respect for him, and I like Dennis. He is a great guy and a good coach. But the other part of it is that we both left here, I was fortunate enough to come back and he is coaching in another place."


Sean Canfield's eyes got big when he was told Oregon State last beat Arizona State in Tempe 38 years ago.

"I didn't even know that," the OSU quarterback said. "Is it true?"

In fact it is — just ask former NFL linebacker and Olympic wrestler Jess Lewis, who was milling about at Valley Football Center Tuesday during the team's media availability. Best known for a game-saving tackle of O.J. Simpson in an infamous 1967 win over USC, Lewis played on the last Oregon State team to go on the road and beat the Sun Devils.

"I remember it was really hot, and Arizona State was really fast." said Lewis, 60, now Oregon State's maintenance director.

The Sun Devils were also ranked 18th in the country, but the Beavers won 30-7.

"Maybe it's a mental block, like a complex or something," suggested defensive tackle Curtis Coker.

Running back Yvenson Bernard had another explanation.

"The heat probably, the heat and the whole atmosphere," he said. "It's a real loud stadium."

Oregon State set several records for futility from 1971-98, when the team had 28 consecutive losing seasons. During the renaissance of the past decade many of those streaks have been stopped. The two biggest that remain are a losing streak on the road against USC that dates to 1960, and the 15 straight Tempe losses to Arizona State.

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