Hall says Beavers 'will mend as a family'
Reflections after Oregon State's 36-33 Saturday loss to Colorado at Reser Stadium in Cory Hall's first game as interim head coach, following the resignation of Gary Andersen …
• A postgame video of Hall's talk to his players in the OSU locker room conjured memories of Democrat Howard Dean during the 2004 presidential campaign.
"You just learned something about yourself," Hall told the group, his voice rising with every sentence. "We start on Monday for the rest of our perfect season. We are gonna fix us. Because now we know what to do. You get to come back and have something to look forward to. … If you understand football, you can walk out of here with your head on 'hot'. … You kept your eye on the goal today, and you did not waver. Change does not happen overnight, but that was the first brick laid to the house that we're building here. … Seniors, you will not go out sad, I promise you. … We're going to get better every day as a team. We're going to mend together as a family and watch what happens."
Oregon State (1-6 overall, 0-4 in Pac-12 play) did not win on the scoreboard. But the statistics told a story, 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).
The game went down to the final seconds, when a 52-yard field goal by Jordan Choukair — who was 4 for 4 on 3-point attempts to that point — fell just short of forcing an overtime session.
It was a far cry from the previous five losses under Andersen, with the Beavers wilting in the second half each time. Against Colorado, they showed fight for 60 minutes, leading much of the way and battling to the final gun.
Hall was fire and brimstone on the sidelines Saturday, imploring his players to pull off the victory. They fell short, but the coach's enthusiasm rubbed off on the players.
Quarterback Darell Garretson — who played the game of his life — felt it as much as anybody.
"There was a lot of energy out there," 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. "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."
• Maligned coordinators Kevin McGiven (offense) and Kevin Clune (defense) seemed up to the task, too.
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.
McGiven mixed up the play-calling well, keeping the Colorado defense off balance throughout. The Beavers were effective through the air and on the ground, and workhorse Ryan Nall had season highs in carries (24), rushing yardage (174) and touchdowns (three).
In season-ending victories over Arizona and Oregon a year ago, Nall averaged 27 rushes for 139.5 yards. In his five games this season, the 6-3, 235-pound junior averaged 12.8 carries.
Hall said the coaching staff decided during the week of practice to get back to the Beavers' offensive identity against the Buffaloes.
"It was about establishing the run, getting back to the basics of who we were and how we left off last season," Hall said."The way the offense performed and ran the ball — it's who we are. It's our identity.
"The score is no indicator of what really happened, 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."
The Beavers played a lot of good defense, too, against a Colorado offense that is one of the best in the Pac-12. Clune mixed up his pressure packages and got to quarterback Steven Montez often, especially in the first half. The Buffaloes made some adjustments at halftime and went more to the passing game, taking advantage of the absence of injured OSU starting cornerbacks Dwayne Williams and Xavier Crawford.
Hall — who coaches OSU's cornerbacks — said he had multiple discussions with McGiven and Clune during the week of practice about philosophy and personnel, but otherwise left the plans up to his coordinators.
"I don't like to take credit for the work of others," Hall said. "When I inherited this (head coaching) job, it's my responsibility to look at things as a whole. There are certain things I believe in, but I'm not going to go in there and butt my nose into what they're doing. I asked for some things to be done, but within their schemes.
"And my hat is off to the two Kevins. They did a great job and deserve the credit. They're great coaches and professionals. So is our entire staff of coaches. There is no doubt in my mind that there's respect for one another in the room. I'd like to think that showed on the field on Saturday."
• There are plenty of things to improve upon when Oregon State next takes the field at home on Thursday, Oct. 26, against Stanford.
The Beavers' offense was by far better than it has been all season. Punter Nick Porebski was called upon once in the game, in the third quarter. In 10 possessions, the Beavers scored seven times — three touchdowns and four field goals — had one interception and the missed field goal at game's end.
Had just one of those field goals been a touchdown, the Beavers may well have won the game. Clock management was poor in the closing seconds of the end of the first half, when an available timeout went unused with the ball at the Colorado 14. OSU settled for a Choukair 3-pointer, but missed on a chance to throw a pass in the end zone that could have resulted in a TD.
"We have some time now to get together as a staff and talk about things like that," Hall said. "We'll get better at everything. We have to."
• Oregon State was hurt by penalties — nine for 79 yards, including five majors in the second half.
That didn't bother Hall.
"We had some administrative penalties we need to clean up," he said. "The aggressive penalties, as long as they don't get out of control, I can live with.
"I make an analogy of the rose. At the base are the thorns, which are prickly. They hurt and make you bleed a little bit. At the top is the bloom, which is beautiful. We'll talk about the thorns, but we'll also focus on the bloom. There was a lot of that for us on Saturday."
• Hall must also focus on his quarterback situation. When Garretson was momentarily hampered by a leg cramp in the second half and had to be attended to by medical staff, Mason Moran was the player warming up to take his place if necessary.
Mason Moran? The redshirt freshman who had been switched from QB to safety before training camp?
The problem is that Garretson's backup, sophomore Conor Blount, had been ticketed for a redshirt season barring an emergency. With starter Jake Luton out with a thoracic spine fracture, an injury to Garretson would seem to qualify as an emergency. Word was that Blount is reluctant to burn the redshirt this late in the season.
"That's a conversation I have to have with Conor, what his role is moving forward," was all Hall would say.
The coach confirmed that Moran had taken snaps at QB during the week in practice, just in case.
• Then there was the strange case of Seth Collins, who was not in uniform and did not play Saturday due to what team officials said was an unspecified illness. The junior receiver was seen with teammates at the Beaver Walk prior to the game, however.
Hall said Collins' illness was not a recurrence of the meningitis that hit him at the end of last season, but said he'd have no comment until speaking with Collins.
• Oregon State's situation at cornerback seems precarious, with a season-ending injury to Williams (knee), the loss of Crawford (shoulder) the past two games and a recurring hamstring injury slowing Jay Irvine. The Beavers are down to sophomore Shawn Wilson and senior Kyle White, a converted tailback, along with true freshman Isaiah Dunn. Against Colorado, they used senior safety Brandon Arnold at nickel back.
Hall is hopeful to regain the services of Crawford and have Irvine fully healthy for the Stanford game. That would allow a switch of White to the nickel position. But Hall believes the future is bright for the OSU secondary.
"I wish our fans knew more about the players we have waiting in the wings," Hall said.
The 6-foot, 175-pound Dunn, he said, "is going to be a great one. He's getting settled in. The transition is big from high school to playing the first year. He's starting to get it. A lot of the thinking is taken out for him now."
Redshirt freshman Christian Wallace, 6-1 and 220, who hasn't played this season, "will be a big-time player."
"Christian was a high school quarterback," Hall said. "It's not an overnight thing. Sometimes it takes awhile. I'm watching him get better every day. The dynamics are there."
Justin Gardner, a 6-2, 155-pound freshman who is redshirting, "reminds people around here of (ex-OSU All-American) Dennis Weathersby," Hall said. "The kid is long and fast and his hips are fluid. He's very smooth."
The OSU safeties are all young. Starters Jalen Moore and David Morris are a sophomore and true freshman. Three freshmen are redshirting — 6-1, 200-pound Jeff Manning, 6-1, 195-pound TraJon Cotton and 6-2, 175-pound Moku Watson.
Add junior safety Austin Hudson, who is out with an injury, and all but two members of the secondary return next season.
"It's a talented, developing group of very good players," said Hall, who played cornerback for six seasons in the NFL.
• Is there concern on Hall's part that the surge in energy might disappear now that his first game as interim coach is over, and that coaches and players could revert to their form of the first half of the season?
"I don't worry about that at all," he said. "The Colorado game is over. It doesn't exist anymore. We're 0-0. Our focus is Stanford. We'll go one week at a time the rest of the season."
Hall is borrowing, and tweaking, a theme from the Chip Kelly era at Oregon.
"We want to win the day, but we also want to enjoy the day," he said. "I want this to be fun for our coaches and our players. That's my approach. I wake up every day and I'm thankful I have another day to do a job that a lot of people would love to do. I'm going to make the most of it, and I want everyone around me to feel that way, too."