Noah Togiai brings it to OSU game
CORVALLIS — There were plenty of things to like about Noah Togiai's performance in Oregon State's 58-27 loss at Colorado State to open the 2017 season.
The 6-4, 245-pound redshirt sophomore tight end hauled in seven passes for 77 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The West Valley, Utah, native also had what should have been a second TD, a diving snag in the end zone that was ruled incomplete.
"I thought it was a catch," Togiai says. "I saw the ball come in all the way. I still have a big scrape on my arm from holding it under the ball. When I asked the ref, he said he thought the ball hit the ground."
Togiai also had some debits on his card. His fumble after a catch stopped a drive with the Beavers in Colorado State territory and trailing 44-27 in the fourth quarter.
"I should have gone down," he says. "I tried too hard to get some extra yards. That was my fault. Bad ball security."
On Oregon State's next offensive play, Togiai dropped a pass from Jake Luton with nobody within 10 yards in coverage. He'd have certainly passed the 100-yard mark had he made the catch. Was he thinking about the fumble?
"Honestly, yes," Togiai says. "I was still in my head about that."
OSU tight ends coach Dave Baldwin isn't concerned about the pass-catching as much as the blocking.
"Noah didn't grade out as well as I'd like," says Baldwin, a coaching veteran of 40 seasons who was once head coach at San Jose State. "I'd like to see him be more physical. He showed all (training) camp he can be physical.
"To be fair, (the Rams) had an alignment that made it tough. They were flying across his face a lot. He did the right things. He was on the right people, but he's a special athlete. He should dominate. He didn't dominate at all times. He got the job done, but I'm looking for domination."
The Beavers generally use a one-back set with three wideouts, putting the tight end's blocking at a premium.
"Without a fullback, you have to have a tight end who can block," Baldwin says. "He is part of blocking on the edge and also out in space."
Togiai understands. He'll prioritize that as he prepares for Oregon State's home opener at 11 a.m. Saturday against Portland State at Reser Stadium.
"I did well in the pass game, but I still have a lot of work to do blocking for the run," he says. "That's going to be my main focus this week in practice."
It was Togiai's first game since suffering an injury to his right knee on the first play from scrimmage of OSU's second game a year ago, a 37-7 win over Idaho State. It cost him a season, which he got back due to medical hardship.
"It felt good to be out there again," he says. "It's been a long time."
Togiai is the fourth of five children to father Kaio Togiai, a contractor, and mother Gina, a school office worker. Noah has three older brothers and one younger sister.
The Togiais are a football family. The oldest, Ian, is a 6-2, 280-pound senior defensive end at Utah State, a preseason second-team all-Mountain West selection. Next is Andrew, who played linebacker at Mt. San Antonio, a junior college in Walnut, California. Then there is Stone, who is at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah.
"We're all pretty close in age," Noah says. "I went to high school with the youngest two. So growing up, I was the bottom person in everything we did. But it was good in some ways. It made me compete harder in everything, whether it's football, basketball or video games."
Togiai thought about joining Ian at Utah State and also considered Utah before choosing Oregon State. He played in two games for Wayne Tinkle's basketball team as a true freshman in 2015-16, but football was always his focus. The Utah roots of head coach Gary Andersen, as well as then-defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and then-linebackers coach Ilaisa Tuaiki (both now at BYU), played a role.
"Noah should be one of the league's best at his position this season," Baldwin says. "He has the ability to stretch it downfield. He can catch the ball in traffic. He has really good hands. He's a basketball athlete. And he can be physical — that's where I want the domination. If he does that, he's a next-level player."
Baldwin likes another thing about Togiai.
"He's a great kid," the tight ends coach says. "Noah cares about all of his teammates. He really cares about the tight ends. He has helped our freshman.
"He has grown up a lot. He came in here as sort of a basketball player and a wide receiver type. It's been fun to watch his maturation. Now he's grown up. He has a bright future ahead of him."
Togiai feels that way about the Beavers, too.
"I still feel really confident despite the outcome of the last game," he says. "I know what our team can do. We have have a lot of doubters now, but we'll stay close as a group, work hard and see where it gets it.
"There are still 11 games left — hopefully 12. I think we can get to bowl game if we keep working hard. The Colorado State game was a wakeup call. Everybody is ready to work even harder. I see the work ethic and the talent. We can do a lot of good things this season."