The storied 1967 Oregon State football team was dubbed the "Giant Killers" by Los Angeles sportswriters during a span of 21 days when OSU defeated one #2-ranked team, tied the next #2 team, then blanked the top-rated team. The three opponents were led by Heisman talent—the '67 Trophy winner and both winner and runner-up in the '68 Heisman voting.

After winning its first three games of the 1967 campaign, OSU dropped back-to-back contests to Washington and BYU. Looming ahead on the schedule for Oregon State were #1 USC, #2 Purdue, and #3 UCLA. At 3-2, the Beavers weren't scaring anybody.

Purdue was the first Goliath. The 5-0 Boilermakers had earlier knocked Notre Dame from atop the national rankings, and whipped Ohio State, as well. Leading the charge for Purdue was junior Leroy Keyes, the do-it-all player who would finish second in the Heisman Trophy count his senior year. Making it even tougher, Oregon State had to travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, to play in front of a raucus Homecoming crowd of 60,000-plus. The Beavers were 19-point underdogs. OSU trailed 14-13 midway through the fourth quarter, but used two Purdue fumbles (one by Keyes) to emerge with a solid 22-14 victory.

Two weeks later, breezing past Washington State 35-7 during the interum, the Beavers traveled to Los Angeles to play the nation's new #2 team, UCLA. The Bruins were directed by Tommy Prothro, the former OSU head coach who had bolted for sunnier skies after guiding the Beavers to the Rose Bowl game three years earlier. UCLA's field general was talented quarterback Gary Beban, the soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner. Again, the Beavers met the challenge against a #2 team on the road, mustering a 16-16 tie by virtue of Mike Haggard's 28-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining in the game. According to some sources, Oregon State actually outplayed the Bruins that day, but circumstances dictated a tie.

After the game, OSU head coach Dee Andros quipped, "We're tired of foolin' around with number two—bring on number one!" The "Great Pumpkin" (the moniker was derived from his rotund body draped in OSU orange attire) later clarified his remarks, explaining that momentary elation, not arrogance, provided the impetus for his enthusiasm. Nevertheless, it's a sure bet his statement was conspicuously posted on the locker room bulletin board of Oregon State's next opponent—undefeated, top-ranked Southern California.

The Beavers were surging, but USC was powerful. Southern Cal's offense was averaging slightly under 28 points per game, juiced by Orenthal James "O. J." Simpson, the nation's leading rusher, one year away from the Heisman Trophy. The game received some noteriety—OSU had garnered enough national attention due to the Purdue and UCLA games to be ranked #13. USC was an 11-point favorite over the Beavers, laden with sophomore and junior starters, like saavy quarterback Steve Preece, powerful fullback Bill "Earthquake" Enyart, and gritty center John Didion. Star linebacker Skip Vanderbundt was one of OSU's senior starters. At least Oregon State would face the Trojans on the familiar grass of Parker Stadium.

On a blustery November afternoon, a crowd of 41,494—the largest in stadium history—crammed Parker Stadium. Among the attendees were California Governor Ronald Reagan and Oregon Governor Tom McCall, who had earlier agreed to a friendly public bet. Due to traffic jams on the modest Willamette Valley roadways unable to accommodate the heavy vehicle flow, many seats remained empty until the game was well underway.

The OSU defense bent, but it didn't break. On Southern Cal's very first play from scrimmage, O. J. Simpson scampered 40 yards around the left end. He broke free again during the third quarter for another long gallop and was headed for an apparent touchdown when, in what is remembered by Oregon Staters as somewhat of a miraculous moment, Simpson was caught from behind by defensive lineman Jess Lewis in pursuit from across the field. The tackle, at the OSU 32-yard line, marked the game's last serious penetration by the Trojans into Oregon State territory. Simpson finished the day with 188 total rushing yards, but never reached the end zone.

OSU had a couple big gainers, too. During the second quarter, Bill Enyart blasted through the USC line for a 57-yard romp; in the fourth period, Charlie Olds fielded a punt on his 10-yard line and darted to the USC 35. Unfortunately for the home team, both runs ended in fumble turnovers. Neither team benefited from the pass—USC threw for only six total yards while the Beavers netted just eight!

Oregon State scored the only points of the game when Mike Haggard booted a 30-yard field goal as halftime approached. The slim three-point advantage somehow survived the second half. The Beavers had stunned the college football world by beating the unbeatable! As the season would play out, it was the only loss inflicted on the eventual national champs.

Mike Haggard's 30-yard field goal with 5:18 left to play in the second quarter accounted for the 3-0 final score. OSU missed two other field goal attempts that day.

In his post-game remarks, USC head coach John McKay complained about the playing condition of the Parker Stadium grass, wet from light morning rain. Southern Cal athletic director Jess Hill insisted that the Athletic Association of Western Universities (the conference became the "Pacific-8" the following year) adopt a rule requiring home teams to cover their field if game-day wet weather was imminent. Sour USC boosters collected $15,000 for Oregon State to purchase a tarp. Even Governor Reagan jumped on the bandwagon—he donated the first dollar to a tongue-in-cheek fund created so that Oregon State could replace its natural grass with synthetic AstroTurf.

Following the loss to Oregon State, Purdue won its next four games but dropped the season finale to Indiana in a battle for Rose Bowl participation. Consequently, the 8-2-0 Boilermakers fell to #9 in the final AP poll. For UCLA, the tie with Oregon State started a disappointing year-end skid. The Bruins beat Washington the week after the OSU game, but then suffered setbacks to USC and Syracuse, thereby finishing unranked in the last AP poll. As for Southern Cal, the loss in Corvallis was merely a bump in the road. USC was victorious in its last two games (including a one-point sqeaker over cross-town rival UCLA and a Rose Bowl triumph over previously undefeated Indiana) to claim the 1967 national championship. It would be over three decades before the Beavers would defeat USC in Corvallis again.

1967 OSU Results (7-2-1)

1967 AAWU Final Standings

  1967 Final AP Poll

OSU — 13   Stanford — 7
OSU — 27   at Arizona State — 21
OSU — 38   at Iowa — 18
OSU —   6   at Washington — 13
OSU — 13   Brigham Young — 31
OSU — 22   at Purdue — 14
OSU — 35   Washington State — 7
OSU — 16   at UCLA — 16
OSU —   3   Southern California — 0
OSU — 14   at Oregon — 10

Southern California
Oregon State
Washington State


   1  Southern Cal  (8-0-0)
   2  Tennessee  (9-1-0)
   3  Oklahoma  (8-1-0)
   4  Indiana  (8-1-0)
   5  Notre Dame  (9-1-0)
   6  Wyoming  (10-0-0)
   7  Oregon State  (7-2-1)
   8  Alabama  (7-1-1)
   9  Purdue  (8-2-0)
 10  Penn State  (8-2-0)

Unfortunately, the 1967 Beavers did not play in a bowl game because AAWU policy did not allow post-season participation aside from the Rose Bowl. Still, the final AP poll honored Oregon State (7-2-1) with the #7 spot. The team garnered enough attention that the next year's Beavers were tabbed pre-season #1 by Playboy magazine.

The 1968 squad, with many of the Giant Killer players returning, went 7- 3, within a mere touchdown of going undefeated—the three setbacks were by a total of six points! OSU finished #15 nationally in '68, which in spite of its near-perfect season, was probably justified since two of the losses came to Iowa and Kentucky (one point each), both relatively weak opponents. Additionally, the Pac-8 was not particularly strong that year.

The only OSU football squad to finish with a higher AP rank than the Giant Killers was the 2000 team, which cruised to a near-spotless 11-1 record (capped by a 41- 9 rout of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl) and #4 position in the AP poll. As a matter of fact, after the 1967 ambush, USC did not lose in Corvallis until the 2000 season.

The 2008 season had its own version of the Giant Killers. USC rolled into Corvallis for its Pac-10 opener, having already demolished Virginia 52-7 and #5 Ohio State 35-3. After the one-sided win over the Buckeyes, the prevailing thought among the sports media was that Southern Cal would coast through its remaining schedule. The only question seemed to be about who would earn the right to meet USC in the January national championship game.

The Beavers, at 1-2 so far, were 25-point underdogs. The comparison to 1967 showed similarities and differences alike. Both years, USC was #1 and seemingly invincible. But this time the Trojans were facing an unsung Oregon State team. Unlike 1967, the 2008 Beavers hadn't performed well in previous games, losing twice on the road, to Stanford and Penn State, before rebounding somewhat at home against Hawaii. Virtually every college football prognosticator dismissed any pre-game analysis of the OSU-USC match-up with a shrug of the shoulders and various token comments, all of which when translated meant "no contest." But head coach Mike Riley's Oregon State teams had given USC fits in the past. In fact, the 2006 Beavers dealt USC (ranked #3 at the time) a 33-31 loss.

On a rare Thursday night affair—nationally televised by ESPN—Oregon State absolutely stymied the Trojans during the first half to build a 21- 0 lead. The play during the second half was much more give-and-take. Consequently, USC closed the gap to 21-14 heading into the final quarter, but the OSU defense was able to slam the door. After an Oregon State punt pinned the Trojans deep in their own territory, the Beavers intercepted a pass, then took one offensive play to turn the USC miscue into an OSU touchdown. Oregon State missed the PAT, causing plenty of eyebrows to raise in Reser Stadium. It's a sure bet that the image appeared in more than just a few OSU fans' minds of some sort of 28-27 last-second miracle USC victory. The visitors did manage to score a late touchdown, coming off a huge return of the ensuing OSU kickoff, but the Beavers recovered an onside kick with 1:19 remaining and prevailed 27- 21.

The big win put Oregon State in the driver's seat for the conference championship and its first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1964 season. But like the original Giant Killers, OSU ended the season a game behind Southern Cal and narrowly missed the coveted Rose Bowl berth. After the USC game, the Beavers defeated their next six conference opponents to come within one more victory of a trip to Pasadena, then hated Oregon flattened the Beavers in Corvallis. The "Civil War" rivals finished the 2008 Pac-10 season with identical 7-2 records. The Beavers settled for a Sun Bowl slot, where they chisled a 3-0 win over the University of Pittsburgh. Without the Rodgers brothers, both unable to play due to injuries suffered late in the season, OSU's offense sputtered. However, the rock-solid Oregon State defense did not allow the Panthers to penetrate past the OSU 37-yard line the entire game! The bowl victory enabled the Beavers to finish at 9-4 and ranked in the top 25 for the third consecutive season, one of only ten teams to accomplish the feat during that particular three-year span.

Freshman JACQUIZZ RODGERS rushed for 186 yards, including two TDs, against USC.
Sophomore JAMES RODGERS caught six passes, two of them for TDs, against the Trojans.

Sources: Kerry Eggers, "Giant Killers: Reliving the '67 Beavers" in The Portland Tribune, 9/25/08; Lowell Greunke, Football Rankings: College Teams in the Associated Press Poll, 1936-1984; Jeff Welsch and George P. Edmonston, Jr., Tales from Oregon State Sports.

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