Brandel plays for teammates, school, fans -- and chance to beat the Ducks
Blake Brandel is up front about it. He hates the Oregon Ducks.
"Absolutely," Oregon State's senior offensive tackle said. "They're our rivals. I was raised by Beavers. My mom and uncle went to Oregon State.
"Yeah, I hate the Ducks. I hope they hate us, too. That's how it should be."
The 6-7, 305-pound Central Catholic grad will do everything in his power to help Oregon State (5-6 overall, 4-4 in Pac-12 play) beat 14th-ranked Oregon (9-2, 7-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium in the 123rd renewal of the Civil War.
Brandel and OSU quarterback Jake Luton already have been named to play in the Hula Bowl All-Star Game in Honolulu in January.
"It's an honor," said Brandel, who grew up in Milwaukie and lived there while attending Central Catholic. "It's cool to get recognized like that. But I'm trying to keep my focus on the season. I'll worry about that stuff afterward."
Brandel hopes the Hula Bowl won't be his only postseason appearance. Oregon State needs to beat Oregon to become bowl-eligible. Brandel would love to accomplish that, if for no other reason than to get to spend another month practicing with his offensive linemates.
"The guys who have played with me on the O-line have a special place in my heart," Brandel said. "At our position, people only know about you when you're messing up. But there aren't any (O-linemen) playing for the spotlight. We play for our teammates, the school, our fans and each other. It's been an honor being in the trenches with these guys."
Oregon enters the Civil War as a three-touchdown favorite.
"It's a rivalry game," Brandel said. "Anything can happen. I know a lot of people are counting us out, but we have a bunch of guys on this team who all believe we can win this football game.
"It's always super fun to play in this game, especially as an Oregon kid. The challenge is to find the balance of the emotions of a big game and preparing just like it's any other game. The trick is using the emotion to fuel you rather than overwhelm you or get in the way of you doing your job."
Brandel has respect for Oregon's defensive front.
"They have some guys up there who are talented," he said. "They are a well-coached group, and they do what they're told. They use good technique, have good fundamentals and have some playmakers on the edge. It's going to be a really fun challenge to show them what we have. It's always fun to play against the better defenses."
The best defenses Oregon State has faced are those of Utah, California and Washington. In those three games, the Beavers averaged 11.7 points, 206 yards total offense, 62 yards rushing and 144 yards passing. They were able to put together three TD drives in a 21-17 win at Cal, but will need much more offense to beat the Ducks.
"One thing we take away from the Utah and Washington games — we can't change what we're doing because we're going up against better players," Brandel said. "We knew we were going to play strong defensive fronts, and mentally that took us out of our own game. We learned our lesson. You can't try to do more, other than prepare with the knowledge you're going to face a really good opponent."
Brandel will start his 48th consecutive game Saturday, the third longest streak in Oregon State history. He was a redshirt freshman and starting right tackle when Oregon State beat Oregon 34-24 at Reser Stadium in 2016. Brandel's former Central Catholic teammate, Ryan Nall, rushed for 155 yards and four touchdowns in that one.
"I remember our final two drives," Brandel said. "We ran the ball (20) times as a row. As an offensive line, man, that's what you want to do. I remember the fans storming the field. To experience that in my first Civil War was really cool. I want to recreate that feeling Saturday in Eugene."
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