Beavers find most everything but a win
CORVALLIS — For six games this season, Oregon State lacked an identity as a football team.
One game does not a season make, but the Beavers may have found what they've been looking for — at the offensive end, at least.
The Beavers won everywhere but on the scoreboard — which is what matters most, of course — in a 36-33 loss to Colorado Saturday at Reser Stadium.
But the Beavers (1-6 overall, 0-4 in Pac-12 play) regained a few things on a sunny autumn afternoon.
Pride. Self-respect. Competitive fire. The attention of Beaver Nation, for sure. And, perhaps, an identity.
"The score didn't show how we played," said Ryan Nall, who rushed 24 times for a season-high 174 yards and three touchdowns. "You look at the stats, our (time of possession) … we're playing ball. We have to fine-tune some things, but we're playing good ball right now."
The Beavers did Saturday, at least, against a Colorado team (4-3, 1-3) desperate for its first Pac-12 win. The Buffaloes got it, but the Beavers took them to the wire, when Jordan Choukair's 52-yard field-goal attempt to force overtime fell about five yards short with 10 seconds remaining.
The statistics were all in Oregon State's favor, the Beavers holding the advantage in first downs (30-25), total offense (569-385), rushing yardage (280-206), passing yardage (289-179) and time of possession (35:40 to 24:20).
It was an emotional week in Corvallis due to Monday's resignation of head coach Gary Andersen, with cornerbacks coach Cory Hall taking over as interim head coach. Hall was fire and brimestone on the sidelines Saturday, imploring his players to pull off the victory. They fell short, but the coach was not unhappy afterward.
"This is not coach's rhetoric," he began in his directive to the media. "It's not lip service. I never sugar-coat. I tell the truth. I don't embellish anything.
"When you look at the strides that were made today … this team is getting better and will continue to do that. Whether I'm in this position or not, those boys have come together tight. They're determined. They showed a different side of Beaver football since I've been here. I couldn't be happier to see the right kind of emotion after a game like that."
Quarterback Darell Garretson — who played the game of his life — felt it as much as anybody.
"No doubt, our team came together after everything that happened on Monday," said Garretson, who completed 20 of 37 passes for a career-high 289 yards with one interception, ran twice for 13 yards and never got sacked. "When something drastic happens like that, guys tend to come together. It was hard, but the only people who are going to get through it is us together.
"There was a lot of energy out there. That's what Coach Hall brings to the table. You see how passionate he is about the game. It rubs off on a lot of people, without a doubt. It makes it fun to go out there and play."
Oregon State entered the game ranked 116th of 127 FBS teams in total offense at 321 yards per game. The Beavers nearly doubled that Saturday and achieved season highs in nearly every offensive stat.
Hall said the coaching staff decided during the week of practice to get back to the core of what got the Beavers a pair of victories at the end of last season.
"It was about establishing the run, getting back to the basics of who we were and how we left off at the end of last season," Hall said."The way the offense performed and ran the ball today — it's who we are. It's our identity.
"The score is no indicator of what really happened today, but hats off to (the Buffaloes') offense. They made their plays when they had to. We didn't make enough defensive plays. But let the record reflect — we should have won that game."
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre wouldn't go that far, but he paid tribute to the Beavers.
"Hats off to the way those kids played, with all they've been through," MacIntyre said. "They were fired up. We knew they'd try a lot of things, and they did. They hit us on a couple of trick plays. They were rocking and rolling and playing hard.
"This game is the way the Pac-12 is this year. We lost the last two that went down the wire, and could have made a play. In this one, we made a drive and made a stop, and that's what you have to do."
Bryce Bobo's second touchdown reception of the game — for 13 yards from Steven Montez with 1:34 remaining — provided the winning points.
Then the Buffaloes survived a last-ditch bid from the Beavers, who moved from their 30 to the Colorado 31 in the closing seconds. An ill-fated run attempt by Nall — which moved them back to the Colorado 35 — might have been just enough to keep Choukair from forcing an extra session with a game-tying 3-pointer.
"They knock us five yards back, out of our kicker's range — that's football," Hall said. "But we could have been going into overtime. The boys saw how close they came."
Hall said he laid out a goal for the players in a Saturday morning meeting.
"Try to inflict pain," he said with a smile. "That's why you start running the ball. You have to soften (opposing players) up. Football hurts. We want to be aggressive and physical."
It was the best performance by the offensive line all season, and the stats showed it — 280 yards rushing, 289 yards passing and no sacks.
"We did great up front," sophomore tackle Blake Brandel said. "We did inflict some pain."
Oregon State's offensive package was more imaginative than it has been all year. Garretson lined up at slotback, took a pitch and threw a 38-yard bomb to Jordan Villamin. The Beavers used the wildcat formation a couple of times. They had Nall, Artavis Pierce and Thomas Tyner in the backfield at the same time. Garretson wound up and threw a 41-yard bomb to Trevon Bradford.
Hall wasn't taking credit for the ingenuity.
"We have professional coaches here," he said. "These guys have been in this profession a long time. For me to take pats on the back and say I had anything to do with it …
"I give it to the coordinators on both sides of the ball. I asked them to give me their best, give the players their best. My hat's off to that offensive staff for putting together a great game plan."
Even so, the players enjoyed the energy Hall provided.
"Coach Hall brought some juice to the package," safety Jalen Moore said. "We came together as a family."
Colorado's prize running back, Phillip Lindsay, rushed for 185 yards and two TDs on 28 carries. But the Buffaloes won by changing their strategy at halftime and going after an OSU secondary depleted by the loss of injured starting cornerbacks Dwayne Williams and Xavier Crawford. Bobo, who hauled in nine passes for 126 yards, scored both of Colorado's fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"We know what our weaknesses are," senior linebacker Manase Hungalu said. "With the injuries we have, we need guys to step up. You need to fill the role of the person in front of you, to step up another level and make those plays."
That the Beavers couldn't stop Colorado on the game-winning drive is what left Hungalu with a hollow feeling.
"I'm frustrated about the defense," he said. "Maybe I didn't lead enough. Maybe I didn't communicate enough. I didn't do enough for the defense. It was a poor performance by the defense. You need to play all four quarters, not just peeks of good play here and there."
Oregon State, which led most of the way, was on top 19-14 at the half. Choukair was 4 for 4 on field-goal attempts and the Beavers dominated the statistical sheet with a large advantage in total offense (312-181), rushing yardage (147-78), passing yardage (165-103), first downs (15-8) and time of possession (19:47 to 10:13).
The Beavers started the game well, the defense forcing a three-and-out on Colorado's first possession. After a punt, the Beavers moved 60 yards on 10 plays, Nall carrying over from the four for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Buffaloes answered when, on second-and-10 from their 26, Lindsay burst through a gaping hole and rambled 74 yards to paydirt to tie the score at 7-7.
The Beavers had another nice drive, keyed by a 38-yard flea-flicker pass to Villamin to the Colorado 11. Garretson lined up at slotback, took a pitch and fired a deep ball to Villamin, who had gotten past the Buffaloes secondary. The drive stalled, though, and the Beavers settled for a 32-yard Choukair field goal and a 10-7 lead with 5:41 left in the first quarter.
After a Colorado punt, Oregon State was on the move again. Garretson laid in a perfect throw to Bradford on a deep-ball play that covered 41 yards. Choukair nailed a 37-yard field goal to up the Beavers' advantage to 13-7 with 13:41 left in the second quarter.
Oregon State moved to the 2-yard line on its next offensive series but couldn't punch it in. OSU settled for a third Choukair 3-pointer, this one from 20 yards, and a 16-7 edge with 5:26 to go before intermission.
Colorado came back, Montez finding Bobo for 38 yards and a first down to the OSU 16. That set up a flea-flicker by the Buffaloes — a pitch to Bobo, to hit Montez for 11 yards and a touchdown to cut Oregon State's advantage to 16-14 with 1:42 remaining in the half.
Choukair added a fourth field goal, this one from 31 yards, to take a 19-14 lead into intermission.
Oregon State was on the move after taking the kickoff to start the third quarter. On first-and-10 at the Colorado 32, Garretson was hit as he attempted a deep ball. The pass was intercepted by Colorado safety Evan Worthington, who returned it 42 yards to the OSU 46.
Five plays later, Lindsay scored from nine yards, and the Buffaloes had their first lead at 21-19 with 7:07 left in the third quarter.
The Beavers answered, marching 75 yards in six plays. The final three plays were vintage Nall — a 19-yard after reversing field, a 20-yard reception and a 13-yard burst up the middle untouched for a touchdown and a 26-21 lead.
But Colorado regained the advantage, benefitting from a pair of OSU major penalties on an 18-play, 88-yard drive. On third-and-goal from the 9, Montez rifled a bullet to Bryce Bobo for a TD. Bobo caught a two-point conversion, and the Buffaloes' lead was 29-26 with 8:53 remaining.
Oregon State took it 84 yards in 10 plays, Nall converting from four yards out with 4:22 left.
The Beavers needed one more stop. They didn't get it.
But they played the way fans were expecting them to play all season. The team that had wilted in its five losses was there at the end this time, a whisker from forcing overtime. And Hall liked the reaction in the locker room afterward.
"There was disappointment," he said. "Today was like if we were 6-0, and this were our first loss of the season. It was that kind of emotion.
"Those boys were determined. Instead of, 'Here we go again, what else is going to happen,' it was like, 'This is who we are, this is what we've established.' It was a healthy emotion."
NOTES — Hungalu was asked by a reporter if Hall had an impact on the OSU players' mentality going into the game. "With the young team we have, having new energy come in and take over like he's doing, it has affected us in a positive way," the team co-captain said. "Coach Hall does a very good job of that." Did Hungalu have Andersen on his mind during the game? "No, not today," he said. "Not at all." … Oregon State has a bye next Saturday. The Beavers play host to Stanford on Thursday, Oct. 26. … Hernandez had a fine game with seven catches for 55 yards. "Across the board, our receivers played very well," Garretson said. … Penalties hurt the Beavers, especially in the second half. They sustained nine for 79 yards — five for 55 yards after the break. … Sagarin ranked Oregon State's schedule as the second-most-difficult in the country heading into Saturday behind only that of Florida State. The Beavers had faced top-20 opponents Washington, Washington State and Southern Cal in succession before Colorado.
COLORADO 7 7 7 15 — 36
OREGON STATE 10 9 7 7 — 33
OSU — Ryan Nall 4 run (Jordan Choukair kick), 8:59
COL — Phillip Lindsay 74 run (James Stefanou kick), 8:34
OSU — Choukair 32 FG, 5:41
OSU — Choukair 37 FG, 13:41
OSU — Choukair 20 FG, 5:31
COL — Steven Montez 11 pass from Bryce Bobo (Stefanou kick), 1:42
OSU — Choukair 31 FG, 0:00
COL — Lindsay 9 run (Stefanou kick), 7:07
OSU — Nall 13 run (Choukair kick), :20
COL — Bryce Bobo 9 pass from Montez (Bobo pass from Montez), 8:53
OSU — Nall 4 run (Choukair kick), 4:27
COL — Bobo 13 pass from Montez (Stefanou kick), 1:34
Att. — 33,785