Riley as Hannibal, the most popular series in the history of Beaver Byte gets its third installment for 2013. In 2011 in the inaugral year Riley won none of the key matchups and OSU stumbled heavily to a painful 3-9 season. In 2012 OSU flipped that and was 9-3 during the regular season but still came up short after controlling the vast majority of a high profile matchup vs. the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl. Hopes are high for 2013 and Oregon State is believed by many analysts to be capable of a blistering 7-0 start before seeing a similarly tough final stretch of the season similar to last year where a Rose Bowl slipped through Cody Vaz and the Beavers fingers down in Palo Alto after looking like we had it.
Without further ado, let’s peer into 2013 to see the key battles that will make or break the Beavers hopes for a BCS Bowl in 2013. The Punic Wars beginnings started in the fight for control over some small islands off the coast of Sicily. The Battle of the Lipari Islands or Lipara (260 BC) was the first encounter between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic during the First Punic War as Rome looked to gain firmer control of the Mediterranean. The Carthaginian victory was a result of an ambush, rather than a fixed battle. I liken this to OSU defeating Eastern Washington and Hawaii to start the season and in the main and final battle of these early 3 contests they ambush the Utes in Rice-Eccles, and defeat a Scipio relative who is called an “asina”, or female ass, for his loss and are off to an impressive 3-0 start.
The 2nd Punic War (218 to 201 BC) started with Hannibal marching his men across Spain where his brother Hasdrupal was governor and the game against the San Diego Aztecs early in the season is a good comparison. This will be more than just a skirmish however, and Riley faces a test where any loss of focus for longer than a few brief minutes could spell early season trouble and seriously hamper the season. San Diego does not want to welcome Riley back as an old friend. They are bitter about his poor record leading the Chargers and that community is ready to prove they made the right decision in hastening his exit from their sun filled land. Oregon State could be warm but not yet in full stride so players like Brandin Cooks have to step up in the 4th quarter and just out athlete the Aztecs. The Beavers win 30-24 and continue north across the Pyranees full of wild thoughts of conquest as they stand at 4-0.
The next considerable obstacle in the Beavers path is the Rhone River. The Rhone is the game against Colorado and a mild skirmish with some Gauls. Nothing too fearful but still an obstacle that can’t be overlooked under new coach Mike MacIntyre. OSU escapes and outwits its currents without losing a single elephant. A handful fall into its waters but they turn out to be capable of passable swimming and holding their trunks above water. OSU beats the Buffs 38-17 and is off to take on the Alps and the approaching cold weather.
The Alps are Washington St. Things start well here with OSU taking a 21-7 halftime lead over the Cougars but then the high peaks, lack of oxygen and blistering cold start to take their toll on the troops and the game narrows to 31-28 with just over 5 minutes to play in the 4th. OSU scores a final field goal but then must defend as WSU puts its two-minute Mike Leach Air Raid offense onto the field. They manage a scary 4 first downs as elephants continue to die from the freezing cold, but just before it gets unbearable the Tyrolean valley is seen and OSU makes Connor Halliday throw incomplete on 4th down. The worst over, it becomes an easy downhill march into the Italian countryside and Riley starts to think BCS as he sits atop the only surviving elephant, his trusty Surus “The Syrian”.
Riley camps near the Trebia River and Rome sends a considerable force to meet the invader. This is the contest at Cal, but Riley and OSU are feeling good and hit stride as they pinch the Roman forces against the river’s banks and squeeze with Nubian calvary. Cooks, Cummings, Mullaney, Gwacham and Gilmore show the most striking glimpses yet of how deadly they can be when all attacking in unison. Cal was confident it would defeat the Beavers but instead their force is soundly outwitted and left scattering away as OSU wins 33-21 in a game where OSU was just better from the start. Oregon State is now the much talked about 7-0 and Riley decides to march through some marshes to make Rome wonder where he is at and plan his next strike.
Rome now understands that they should not underestimate Riley and sends many of its premier legions (100,000 men) to hunt him down and defeat him. Riley has taken his troops into the Tuscan lake country and begins to lay out a plan for a colossal ambush of the team that kept him from a Rose Bowl the year prior and went on to take the Pac-12 Championship. Rome’s premier fighting men see some crackling light up in the hills in the night and think they have caught the location of OSU and so begin their march to surprise and attack them at first light. Instead before dawn has even fully arrived they are pounced upon by OSU down from the slopes above Lake Trasimene and the shores see an onslaught of struggle as the sun just begins to awake from its slumber. Stanford has elite men but they are left trapped and in too difficult of a position to defend well. The bodies pile up on the shore and in the cool, crisp water and when all is said and done OSU has yet another surprising victory as it slices down pinned forces and dawn arises to see OSU at an unbelievable 8-0.
Riley now has some options and decides to try to enlist some allies among the local tribes. Many of these tribes are reluctant as impressive as OSU has been they still understand and fear the might and reach of Rome. This difficulty in gathering more tribal allies and some mild skirmishes that ensue is represented by OSU going down to USC and losing a game they just never seem ready to take. Riley starts to burn some villages and fields in retaliation and heads south as he tries to recover his strategy and randomly scorches the earth as he goes. He ends up south of modern day Salerno where the Allies landed many centuries later during World War 2. Now finding OSU down towards the boot of Italy, Rome is ready to send its best force yet. It sends Arizona State and Washington to take on OSU at Cannae. Taking on such a large force Riley understands he needs a grand vision to defeat a clear numerically superior foe. Rome is still intent on their Fabian strategy of outmanning and what emerges is a classical contest of two armies lined up on a grand plain for battle.
Riley however has a plan, and he arranges his men in the shape of a bow. The Wide receivers or calvary are on the outside and the battle begins with Rome attacking the center and pushing in OSU as its position seemingly weakens. Roman generals Todd Graham and Steve Sarkisian press for reinforcements to try to press and seal victory, but as they feel they are winning and OSU is withering it is actually a clever maneuver by OSU as they surround the ASU and UW forces from 3 sides and now have the bulk of the Roman army entrapped and nearly encircled. Cooks leads the calvary to rain down on those crushed men from multiple angles and the Romans cannot recoup and are squeezed until nearly every last Sun Devil and Husky dies. Scipio was able to view this defeat and vows he will never let Rome suffer any such defeat again. Riley may have won a grand battle but Scipio is confident he has learned a great lesson and can prepare Rome so it will never happen again.
What happens next is alternate history. In fact, Hannibal was told by his generals after Cannae that he knew how to win a great battle but not how to use one. They urged him to march on Rome and make Rome surrender or defend their city in one final ultimate clash for the fate of the world. Rome after losing 200,000 fighting men was at their weakest point of any time during the Punic Wars. Hannibal decided to see if he could sue for terms of Roman surrender from too far away. Rome was now genuinely fearful of Hannibal and his forces but without pressing on Rome they didn’t have to be too fearful with Hannibal over a hundred miles away. Riley however in 2013 after coming just short of the BCS in ’12 is now in an alternate universe where he decides that he must march on the very Gates of Rome.
He does so and comes upon Eugene in full on disarray mode as the women and children believe they will be slaughtered if the mighty Ducks fall at home to their hated rival. The Ducks face missing a BCS bowl under new head coach Mark Helfrich because 3 weeks earlier they lost to Stanford on a last second field goal. Despite the ambush of Stanford at Trasimene, the Cardinal have not suffered any other defeat. So in the final game of the 2013 season OSU has to win or face their 2nd loss and missing out on a BCS bowl yet again as a 1 loss Oregon would get the Fiesta Bowl if Riley’s men lose. Despite such an impressive campaign to this point, capturing the Rose Bowl with the tiebreaker over Stanford rides on OSU winning one more battle when they have to have it.
Riley has always been capable of winning plenty of games and plenty of games in winning fashion. However, when they matter most he seems unable to deliver the final killing blow. He lines his men up in Autzen in full display just as on the plains of Zuma and for awhile it goes OK. But soon enough there is a tide that turns and Riley just can’t get it done. It is as if he can’t imagine himself as king and in defeat the Beavers fall to the Holiday Bowl.
Riley and OSU return once again to San Diego to finish 2013 but the team being here now is like a macabre purgatory compared to the wild dreams of glory and a Rose Bowl during their march to Rome. They take on the other OSU, Oklahoma State, in a game where they seem to go through the motions without being fully satisfied of their fate. The other OSU is like a shadow of itself it fights as Riley and Oregon State ponder what if.
Beaver Byte Preseason Top 25:
3. Ohio St.
4. Oregon St.
6. Texas A&M
8. Florida St.
10. Boise St.
13. South Carolina
18. Kansas St.
19. West Virginia
24. Arizona St.