Originally created 09/15/99

Georgia Southern players prepare for Oregon State



STATESBORO -- With all the distractions of Hurricane Floyd's arrival, the canceling of classes and the community's beeline on Highway 25 out of town, the last thing Georgia Southern's players probably wanted to face Tuesday would be a pop quiz.

The nation's No. 1-ranked I-AA team steps up in class this weekend, flying more than 3,000 miles and receiving a nifty $225,000 to play Pac-10 power Oregon State. (OK, so the Beavers are as much a power as Lamar Alexander's a power in the Republican presidential race.)

Since Southern's roster is comprised of players with hometowns in Floyd's storm track. So I wondered how much these Eagles know about what they're getting ready for.

What city does Oregon State call home?

"Corvallis," quarterback Greg Hill answered correctly.

Asked if he knew this before Southern's schedule was announced, Hill slyly grins.

"I always get them confused with Oregon and Eugene," Hill said.

Name the last time Oregon State ended with a winning record.

"1940s?" Hill said. "No, no, 1950s?"

"I've got no clue," slotback Cherard Freeman. "1989?"

The answer is 1970, when a Dee Andros-coached team finished with six wins, five losses. The Beavers have 67 wins and 242 losses since, with 14 last-place Pac-8 and Pac-10 finishes.

So horrid is their history that this 28-year losing-streak drought is Division I-A's longest. Northwestern, Vanderbilt and even South Carolina have tasted success since.

Do you know the last bowl game Oregon State played?

"Couldn't tell you," coach Paul Johnson said.

"Some time in the '90s?" safety Earthwind Moreland said.

"That's a trick question, right?" guard Mark Williams said.

Oregon State lost (what else) to Michigan in the 1965 Rose Bowl.

Name the current Atlanta Falcon who calls Oregon State his alma mater.

"Chris Chandler?" Moreland said.

That would be Pellom McDaniels, a free-agent defensive tackle. Other current NFL alums are lineman Esera Tuaolo, safety Reggie Tongue and receiver Robb Thomas.

Name the last Oregon State first-team All-American.

OK, so this was met with a collection of blank stares. I wouldn't expect Ben Stein to know Jerry Didion, a center in 1968.

Did you know that someone at Oregon State won the Heisman Trophy?

"Who? Gary Payton?" Hill said.

While Payton and Dick Fosbury may be the school's best two athletic products, quarterback Terry Baker captured the Heisman in 1962. Baker is also Oregon State's only first-round draft pick. To their credit, Johnson and athletic director Sam Baker knew Baker.

So with all this negativity, you may expect Georgia Southern to win its first game against a I-A school in 11 tries. This is no Auburn, Miami, Florida, Georgia or Florida State now, is it. Southern's players should not be in awe Saturday.

But if there's ever a year not to play the Pac-10 patsy, the Eagles may have discovered it. Led by Dennis Erickson, the 2-0 Beavers have the nation's leading rusher and a three-game winning streak, it's longest since 1970.

"None of the guys that are on this year's team played in the '70s and '80s," Johnson said. "I hope my guys see on film that this is no pushover. They're bigger, faster and deeper than us. They just beat the team to picked to win the Big West (Nevada) and the team picked to win the WAC (Fresno State) soundly. We're definitely the underdogs, no matter what their past is."

REACH Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219 or rdorsey@augustachronicle.com.