CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State's season will likely be remembered for how it ended, when national championship game-bound Oregon shut the Beavers out of the postseason for the first time since 2005.
But Oregon State (5-7, 4-5 Pac-10) was thwarted by an unbelievably tough schedule, one key injury and unrealistically high expectations.
"I know it's not exactly where we want to be with the record, but as far as what they've been through — the schedule ... how they've competed, how they've had some real clunkers but stayed together and not played the blame game, pulled themselves up off the mat time and again, come back and played good football," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "They just kept doing that."
The Beavers opened the season ranked No. 24 with new quarterback Ryan Katz and dynamic brothers James and Jacquizz Rodgers leading the offense. Jacquizz Rodgers, known as Quizz, was considered an early Heisman Trophy candidate.
Oregon State had a daunting opener on national television against TCU at Cowboys Stadium. Although they lost 30-21, the Beavers were praised because they held their own against the Horned Frogs, who finished the season 12-0 and ranked third.
After a week off, a 35-28 victory over Louisville provided a shot of confidence before what many considered a considerable challenge at Boise State. Oregon State drew national attention in the week before the game by painting their practice field blue, but ultimately the Beavers lost 37-24 to a team that went 11-1.
After beating Arizona State at home, the Beavers upset Arizona 29-27 in Tucson. But the win was costly.
James Rodgers made a fingertip catch of a deep pass but was hit hard by Arizona's Adam Hall and had to be helped off the field, unable to put weight on his left knee. He needed surgery and missed the rest of the season.
At the time, James Rodgers ranked sixth in the nation with an average of 176.75 all-purpose yards. He was averaging 18.33 yards on punt returns and 28.67 yards on kickoff returns. He had the second-most career all-purpose yards among active players this season with 5,784.
More than a playmaker, James Rodgers was a respected and enthusiastic leader of the Beavers.
Oregon State went on to drop five of its last seven games, including a double-overtime loss at Washington and a humbling loss at home to lowly Washington State. The only real bright spot was a 36-7 rout of USC on Nov. 20.
Oregon State's schedule included seven ranked teams, five of those ranked in the top 10 when they faced the Beavers.
"We had such a tough schedule," said cornerback James Dockery. "It seemed like we were right there in so many games. There were so many games where just a few inches could have turned the game around."
Quizz acknowledged the week before the Civil War that his season had fallen below expectations.
He finished his junior season with 1,184 yards rushing, for an average of 98.6 yards a game — off last season's numbers of 1,440 yards for an average of 110.8. But he climbed to sixth on the Pac-10's career rushing list with 3,877 yards, passing Arizona's Trung Candidate and former Beaver Yvenson Bernard.
Quizz said he plans to be back next season. Oregon State is petitioning the NCAA for another year of eligibility for his older brother James, who never had a redshirt year.
Katz showed promise but, like the rest of the Beavers, he lacked consistency. He threw for 18 touchdowns and ran for two more, but he was intercepted 11 times.
"It was just an up-and-down season," Katz said. "We had some really good times and some really bad times. We need to find ways to be consistent, find ways to get the ball in the end zone."
All that was left for the Beavers after the 37-20 loss to the Ducks in the Civil War was to look forward to next season.
"I know it looked like we blinked a few times, but they never did," Riley said. "They worked hard, they had good practices. We didn't always play well, but when we didn't play well we picked ourselves back up and usually had a good game. I think it's a group that has been resilient. I knew every day when I went out to practice what they were going to give, and we can't ask for any more than that."