Beavers have little to crow about
CORVALLIS — The JumboTron read Oregon State 35, Portland State 32 as the Reser Stadium clock ticked to zero Saturday afternoon.
The reaction from the announced crowd of 34,737 was as muted as any after an OSU victory in recent memory.
Truth be told, this one was as much a moral defeat for the Beavers as a moral victory for the Vikings.
"A win's a win," Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton said after the Beavers squared their record to 1-1 after a win over the FCS Vikings.
But this one was disappointing to even the most ardent Beaver fan.
A loss to an FCS opponent isn't unprecedented — Mike Riley's OSU teams were felled by Sacramento State (2011) and Eastern Washington (2013). But after a 58-27 undressing at Colorado State to open the season last Saturday, Gary Andersen's current Beavers needed to make a statement against a foe from a lower level.
The statement was close to a whimper.
"We are definitely a work in progress," Andersen said after his Beavers got handled by the Big Sky Conference Vikings (0-2) everywhere but on the scoreboard. "But victories are extremely valuable."
Oregon State pulled it out, but Portland State dominated the statistical sheet, ruling the ledger in first downs (28-18), rushing yardage (291-154), total offense (515-389) and time of possession (36:22 to 23:38).
The Vikings had three turnovers — including an interception that OSU linebacker Manase Hungalu turned into a pick-six in the third quarter— several bad center snaps and a place-kicking performance that ultimately cost them the victory.
"Maybe it wasn't the prettiest," Luton said. "We'd have liked it to go another way, probably. But we got the win on the board. Got the first one, and hopefully we can get the ball moving from there."
The verdict wasn't decided until the game's final play, when a 46-yard field-goal attempt by PSU redshirt freshman Graycen Kennedy — which had the distance — sailed a couple of feet wide right.
There was very little celebrating on the Oregon State side afterward. The Beavers knew they dodged a bullet against a team that outplayed them much of the way.
"Well, we won," Andersen said as he began his postgame press conference. "You can't win two until you get one. So we got one underneath our belts. Hat goes off to Portland State, which should be no surprise. I bet (the Vikings) win a bunch of games. They play hard.
"Defensively, we have a long ways to go."
That's for sure.
Oregon State couldn't stop the Portland State ground game. Za'Quan Summers, a 5-9, 175-pound senior tailback, led the Vikings with 106 yards on 18 attempts. Starting quarterback Jalani Eason (11 for 95), redshirt freshman tailback Jason Talley (nine for 54) and reserve QB Josh Kraght (eight for 50) also were effective.
"They ran the ball too much on us," said Hungalu, who missed parts of the second half with a hip injury but was in at the finish. "They got too many yards. That needs to be fixed. We need more tackling and push-back."
"There's not one part of the run defense that we're playing well," Andersen said. "The edges of the defense aren't secured where they need to be. We're not tackling well. The middle is soft at times.
"Take nothing away from Portland State, but we're not where we need to be from a fundamentals standpoint, and the tackling ability. I know the kids are a lot better than they're showing."
OSU's pass defense was also soft enough to allow Kraght — a senior starting receiver — to haul in touchdown passes of 37 and 42 yards.
Oregon State got a break when Eason — a 5-11, 185-pound true freshman from Los Angeles — left the game with an apparent head injury in the fourth quarter, not to return. PSU went to backup Davis Alexander for the rest of the series, then moved Kraght — who has played QB in the past — to the signal-calling spot.
Portland State led 32-28 after a nine-play, 67-yard drive was capped by a 1-yard run by Kraght with 4:05 remaining. Oregon State responded by marching 77 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 17-yard pass from Luton to true freshman Isaiah Hodgins to go ahead 35-32 with 1:30 left.
"Stringing together a drive like that was textbook," said Luton, who completed 18 of 25 passes for 235 yards and a TD with one interception. "Getting that ball in the end zone was a great feeling."
The Vikings weren't done. Kraght moved them from their 18 to the OSU 29 with three seconds to go. PSU coach Bruce Barnum wavered between going for a game-winning touchdown on a game-tying field goal. The Vikings already had missed a pair of PAT kick attempts by true freshman Noah Brosio, who also missed one in a 20-6 loss at Brigham Young the previous Saturday.
After a Beaver timeout, Barnum sent the left-footed Kennedy — a former Wilson High player who had never attempted a collegiate kick — onto the field. Kennedy came very close to sending the game into an extra session.
Portland State's defense focused on stopping OSU running back Ryan Nall, who was held to 59 yards and a TD in 16 carries.
"Teams are going to stack the box on us," said Nall, who also caught four passes for 34 yards. "We know it's going to be tough at times."
Portland State wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. After the opening kickoff, the Vikings moved 79 yards in three plays, scoring on a 42-yard pass from Eason to Kraght in which the receiver was wide open in the OSU secondary just 1:09 into the contest.
"That was a very concerning start," Andersen said.
Oregon State followed with a 13-play, 81-yard scoring drive, capped by Nall's 1-yard TD, to go ahead 7-6 with 7:38 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings came back later in the quarter, Eason's 40-yard scramble giving them the ball first-and-goal at the OSU 1. A bad snap, however, pushed them back to second-and-11 on the 11. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Eason's pass was incomplete and OSU held.
The Beavers — aided by a pair of major Portland State penalties — took advantage, rolling 98 yards in eight plays. Darell Garretson's 4-yard bootleg left for a touchdown gave Oregon State a 14-6 advantage with 1:29 left in the half.
On OSU's first possession of the third quarter, Luton's pass was intercepted by Beau Duronslet at the PSU 36. The Vikings made the ensuing drive look easy, moving 64 yards in 10 plays, Eason scoring from five yards on a quarterback draw.
The Beavers turned the ball over again, this time on a Garretson fumble that was recovered by Duronslet at the OSU 24. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Vikings took over at the Beavers 12. On first down, Eason took off up the middle, cut left and rambled to paydirt untouched. Summers also went untouched on a reverse for the two-point conversion, and Portland State was on top 20-14 with 7:04 to go in the period.
Artavis Pierce's 43-yard kickoff return allowed Oregon State to begin its next possession from its 49. On first down, Luton found tight end Noah Togiai over the middle for 48 yards to the PSU 3. On the next play, Trevorris Johnson bulled in for a touchdown and a 21-20 advantage.
Lightning struck moments later when Hungalu stepped in front of a receiver to intercept an Eason pass and return it 21 yards for a TD. Suddenly, the Beavers were in front 28-20 with 5:03 left in the quarter.
But the Vikings responded with a nine-play, 82-yard scoring drive. Eason found an all-alone Kraght for 37 yards and the TD. Eason was tackled shy of the goal line on the 2-point conversion attempt, but the Vikings were within 28-26 with 12 seconds to play in the period.
The fourth quarter was full of drama, and the Beavers had just a little more juice than the Vikings down the stretch.
"It's great to win, there's no doubt about," Andersen said. OSU players "kept on fighting, kept on battling in bad situations. We had to do what we did."
Hungalu said the Beavers may have taken for granted a win against an FCS foe.
"We came out over-excited," he said. "I felt like we expected too much. We needed to respect our opponent a little bit more.
"We needed to make adjustments as the game went on, and we did, but it could be better. We'll work on that this next week."
Andersen wasn't sugar-coating things afterward. He knows the Beavers can't play as they have in the first two games and expect to win again this season. The defense remains the biggest priority.
"You can't just keep doing the same thing, and expect all of a sudden the results are going to magically be different," the OSU coach said. "We know where we're at from a personnel standpoint. We know what we're going to have to address.
"We're going to have to break (game video) down aggressively and understand where we're at. We made a few of behind-the-line plays, we had them behind the chains, and they turned around and made plays. So it's everything.
"I'm happy. I love to win. Winning is what you do this for. Those kids should remember that. We are fighting our tails off to get better. Every win is one more notch toward getting that to where Beaver Nation and everybody in program want us to get."
NOTES: Andersen was upset with Beaver mistakes, such as the two turnovers and an unnecessary holding penalty downfield by receiver Jordan Villamin that nullified most of a long run by Pierce. "Our ability to shoot ourselves in the foot at times in critical moments is still mind-boggling, and it needs to go away," the OSU coach said. "But we overcame it today." … After not playing against Colorado State, reserve QB Garretson saw action Saturday. rushing six times for 29 yards and giving the OSU offense a different look. "I like it because we have to have a little more offense," Andersen said. "There is no quarterback controversy, but it's a package for us. We need him. He causes some problems with his legs, and he can still run the offense very well. We need (Luton and Garretson); we're going to use them both." … Said Luton: "We knew (Garretson) was going to get in. I love it. It's exciting for him to get out there and be an athlete and switch up the offense a little. We can be a 1-2 punch. He did a great job." … Andersen on Hungalu's interception return for a TD: "Tremendous play. We need Manase. We need him as a leader on that field. We need his athletic ability. When he wasn't in there for a lot of the second half, it was tough."
Portland State had the ball for 10 of the 15 fourth-quarter minutes and still couldn't pull out the win. … Neither team was successful on third down. Oregon State was 3 for 10, Portland State 4 for 13. … Togiai had five catches for 95 yards, and Hodgins had five for 59 yards. …Thomas Tyner saw action only at slotback for the Beavers. The transfer running back from Oregon carried twice for 10 yards on fly sweeps. … Oregon State had no sacks for the second straight game. … In his two-plus seasons at OSU, Andersen is 7-7 in home games and 0-12 on the road. … Portland State is 4-36 against FBS opponents through the years. … The Vikings are 0-5 against the Beavers. … Nall has 1,580 career rushing yards, moving into 15th on the school list behind Billy Main (1,621, 1967-69) with 1,580 yards.
Portland State 6 0 20 6 — 32
Oregon State 7 7 14 7 — 35
PSU — Josh Kraght 42 pass from Jalani Eason (kick failed), 1:09
OSU — Ryan Nall 1 run (Jordan Choukair kick), 7:38
OSU — Darell Garretson 4 run (Choukair kick), 1:34
PSU — Eason 5 run (kick blocked), 8:35
PSU — Eason 12 run (Za'Quan Summers run), 7:04
OSU — Trevorris Johnson 3 run (Choukair kick), 6:32
OSU — Manase Hungalu 21 interception return, (Choukair kick) 5:03
PSU — Kraght 37 pass from Eason (run failed), :12
PSU — Kraght 1 run (pass failed), 4:05
OSU — Isaiah Hodgins 17 pass from Jake Luton (Choukair kick) 1:30
Att. — 34,737