CORVALLIS, Ore. -- As the third quarter turned to the fourth and AC/DC blared in Reser Stadium, Oregon State's sideline was rocking, its players thinking they just might pull off a monster upset.
On their side, Oregon stayed cool -- focused on winning the day.
When it was done, and a spot in the BCS national title game was secured, that's when the Ducks finally let loose.
Heisman Trophy contender LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and the fast-paced Ducks (No. 2 BCS, No. 1 AP) negotiated the last speed bump on the way to Glendale, Ariz., grinding out a 37-20 victory over the Beavers in the Civil War on Saturday.
The matchup becomes official Sunday, but there will be no surprises when the final Bowl Championship Series standings come out: Oregon will play Auburn on Jan. 10 for its first national championship.
"The best part about it is ... we expected this," Ducks defensive tackle Brandon Bair said. "It's the way we prepared, the way we planned, we expected this."
James ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns while Barner had 133 yards and scored twice for the Ducks (12-0, 9-0 Pac-10), who used some stiff defense in the red zone -- led by Bair and Casey Matthews -- and three interceptions to fend off their feisty rivals.
Not until the fourth quarter did Oregon finally shake free.
Barner's 23-yard touchdown run with 12:16 made it 30-13 and James popped through the middle for a 10-yard score with 4:27 left to seal it.
Jacquizz Rodgers had 87 yards rushing for the Beavers (5-7, 4-5) and scored a touchdown, but they were forced to settle for short field goals twice in the third quarter -- and that just won't do against the most prolific offense in the country.
"We should have gotten into the end zone on those field goals. It hurt us bad," said Markus Wheaton, who had 10 catches for 137 yards and a late touchdown that was too little too late.
When the clock hit 00:00, James and his teammates bounded over to a corner of the stadium to celebrate with their band, their famous Donald Duck-clone mascot and their fans.
The Oregon faithful spilled onto the field and the push up-pumping mascot got swallowed up as he crowd surfed. The party was headed south, 40 miles down Interstate 5 to Eugene.
The Ducks, the Pac-10's new power with their high-speed spread offense, rising star coach Chip Kelly and the wildest uniforms Nike and Oregon alumnus Phil Knight can provide, are relative newcomers among college football's elite.
Yet Kelly disdains such big-picture talk about a shift in the football landscape. "Win the day," is his motto -- and there are 37 between now and the national title game.
"We're not going to play a national championship right now, we're going to prepare for one," he said. "But we got to this point by our preparation and we know we're going to have to go to work for the next month to show up on the 10th."
TCU, which was sitting in third-place in the BCS standings coming into the weekend and needing an upset to get to the championship game, didn't get it from the Beavers.
The stakes for the 114th Civil War were higher than for any of the rivalry's previous meetings, with the Ducks assured of a spot in the national title game with a victory. The Beavers? They were simply looking to get to .500 and avoid sitting out the bowl season for the first time since 2001.
Oregon State didn't play like a three-touchdown underdog and Oregon never did unleash a wave of big plays, like those that have consumed so many other teams.
The Beavers' blitzes got to quarterback Darron Thomas and the Ducks sometimes sputtered, failing to land a knock-out shot until late.
The Ducks' best play of the third quarter came from their special teams as Michael Clay, the upback on the punt team, burst through the middle of the line and rumbled 64 yards on a fourth down deep in Oregon territory.
That set up a 19-yard touchdown pass off a screen to D.J. Davis that made it 23-7.
The Beavers inched closer with two short field goals by Justin Kahut (26 and 22 yards), and 10 seconds into the fourth quarter Oregon's lead was 23-13. It could have been 23-21 if Oregon State had converted both of those opportunities into touchdowns.
"Big time. Big time stops," Thomas said. "Most people talk about our offense, but our defense came out big time."
With the aide of a pass interference call on third down, Oregon responded. The penalty led to Barner's 23-yard touchdown up the middle. The Ducks, sporting silver helmets and pants (they call it steel colored), were finally in the clear.
Oregon State, maybe looking for inspiration, went with a retro look. The Beavers were decked out in 1967 black throwback uniforms. That team beat No. 1 USC and O.J. Simpson and had a win and a tie against teams ranked No. 2.
This one won't even go to a bowl.
For decades, Oregon was a second-class Pac-10 team, too. But in 1994 Rich Brooks led the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl since 1958 and it turned out to be no fluke. Brooks left for the NFL and handed the program off to Mike Bellotti.
With Knight helping to fund the cause, the Ducks became a factor in the Pac-10 and probably should have played for a national title with quarterback Joey Harrington after the 2001 season. The BCS numbers didn't work out for the Ducks that season and the window of opportunity in the Pac-10 closed the next season as Southern California began its dominant run.
After the 2008 season, Bellotti stepped aside and Kelly, after just one season as offensive coordinator, was promoted to head coach. The Ducks finally knocked the Trojans off the Pac-10 throne and went the Rose Bowl last season, wrapping up the conference title with a victory in the Civil War.
This time, after three early turnovers (two by Oregon), the rivals traded touchdown drives that would typify the way each wanted to play.
Oregon State took 15 plays and a season-high 7:36 off the clock to go 62 yards for a 6-yard touchdown pass to Rodgers.
Oregon responded quickly, needing only 2:43 to go 60 yards, capped by a 3-yard TD pass from Thomas to Barner. The Ducks botched the extra point, a low snap leading to a block. Kicker Rob Beard made a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter and missed a 25-yarder on the final play of the first half.
In between, James capped a 74-yard drive that took 1:55 and included no completed passes with an 8-yard touchdown run to make it 16-7.
The Ducks were far from their best Saturday, but as the clear skies turned gray and clouds began to cover Mount Hood off in the distance, Oregon showed its resolve and toughness.
Now it's on to Glendale, Ariz., for the fashion plates of college football.
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