Beavers Kick Rodent Bowl Down Gopher Hole
In a game where both teams did a lot of good things, it will be the errors that overshadowed most of those good things that the Gophers and especially the Beavers will remember.
Minnesota pulled out the win with a pair of 4th quarter scoring drives, after Oregon State had taken a 23-17 lead in the 3rd period, finally overcoming the effects of a pair of first quarter turnovers that produced a pair of short fields that the Gophers turned into touchdowns. But the Beavers had their chances to win as well, only to squander a couple of them with perplexing play calling, and still more mistakes.
Oregon State quarterback Darell Garretson looked every bit a rusty quarterback early, missing badly with his first couple of passes, one of which could easily have been a pick 6. But he recovered nicely, capitalizing on the first of what would eventually turn into 3 targeting penalties on Minnesota.
The Beavers should have been off the field, but a late hit on Jordan Villamin sent Gopher LB Cocy Poock to the locker room minutes into the game. Oregon State’s Ryan Nall proceeded to pick up 71 yards on 2 plays, and Garretson, who completed 8 of 10 passes, found Noah Togiai for the game’s first touchdown, and a 7-0 Beaver lead.
Noah Togiai celebrates the first score of the game, left.
But the real measure of Garretson having not played for 21 months was a lack of back side pressure awareness, which got him absolutely blown up 3 times in the early going, as well as several additional hard hits in the second half.
The latter 2, both by Minnesota freshman Tai’yon Devers, who wasn’t even on the Gopher depth chart, both resulted in Garretson fumbles, and Minnesota turned both of them into second quarter touchdowns, on a 6 yard run by Mitch Leidner, and a 4 yard sprint by Rodney Smith.
“That’s on me,” Garretson said post-game. “I’ve got to see that better, and get the ball out a little bit quicker.”
Beavers Battle Back, But Gophers Go To Locker Room With Lead
Garretson led the Beavers back to the tieing touchdown, completing 5 passes to 5 different receivers on the drive, capped by a 30 yard scoring toss to Victor Bolden, making it 14-14 1:04 before halftime.
The most encouraging thing about the drive were good pass calls to Togaiai and Seth Collins, and a screen pass to Nall, all in response to blitzes by the Gophers.
Minnesota took a 17-14 lead to the locker room though, capping off some good clock management with a 45 yard field goal by Emmit Carpenter. That sequence came about after Oregon State Coach Gary Andersen elected to turn down a penalty that brought up 4th down, but also allowed Minnesota to be 9 yards closer.
The Gophers had a timeout and enough time to run a play that might have made that difference up before kicking the field goal, but the 45 yard kick, plenty long enough, from even 9 yards longer, nevertheless caromed off the left upright, but went through. Might the extra distance made a difference in accuracy? We will never know.
Oregon State Takes 3rd Quarter Lead
Oregon State used Seth Collins effectively several times on direct snaps, but early in the 3rd quarter, the transition back to Garretson after Collins had picked up a first down didn’t go well, forcing the Beavers to burn a timeout not 2 minutes into the second half.
It would loom large later, and Garretson took responsibility for the snafu.
The initially promising drive would go on to stall, but a big hit by Devin Chappell stopped the ensuing Minnesota drive, as the Oregon State defense showed considerable more stoutness than so often last season for much of tonight’s game.
Minnesota saw another linebacker, Jonathan Celestin, ejected early in the 3rd quarter, hitting a sliding Garretson. But Oregon State couldn’t immediately capitalize on the opportunity, as Garretson immediately took another hard sack.
But Beaver punter Nick Porebski pinned Minnesota at their own 5 yard line, and a high snap, the second such of the game by the Gophers, resulted in a safety that pulled Oregon State within 1 point.
Another major mistake led to the next score as well, as Minnesota’s Drew Wolitarsky fumbled Porebski’s next punt, and Oregon State long snapper Ryan Navarro hustled down to get on the lose ball. 4 plays later, Garretson found Tim Cook for a 12 yard swing pass for the touchdown that put the Beavers up 23-17.
Gophers Go Back Ahead As Errors Mount
Minnesota took the lead back with a scoring drive that crossed over into the 4th quarter. The 3rd period ended with Leidner finally finding a mismatch of 6’10” tight end Nate Wozniak overwhelming the nearly one foot shorter Oregon State safety Brandon Arnold, and the drive ended with the Gophers going back ahead, after Smith broke a Bright Ugwoebu tackle to waltz in for a 2 yard score.
The play calling on the ensuing Oregon State drive was a poor sequence to say the least, and resulted in a 3 and punt just when the Beavers needed something to regain momentum in the back and forth affair.
The loss of time set up a much more urgent next series for the Beavers. And it was aided by yet another targeting ejection, ironically this time to Devers. Another screen pass to Nall for 22 yards and a first down got Oregon Sate moving, but Collins would be stopped 1 yard short on 3rd down.
With under 5 minutes remaining, Andersen elected to go for it, but the play started poorly, with a low snap, as the center problems that had plagued Minnesota came round to Oregon State, and first time starter Yanni Demogerontas. But the real head-scratcher element was why the play was a handoff to Tim Cook, who ran for a whole 2 yards on 3 carries, and not Nall, who had 151 yards on the evening.
Cook came up short, and Minnesota took over, clinging to a 1 point lead. Wolitarski was Minnesota’s leading receiver for the night, but only had 4 catches, for 53 yards. Two of the catches came on the drive that allowed the Gophers to extend their lead though, setting up Leidner’s run for the touchdown that extended Minnesota’s lead to 30-23.
The long series of mistakes was far from over though, and Minnesota Coach Tracy Claeys elected to go for a 2 point conversion. Had it been successful, it would have made it a 2 possession game, but 2 point conversions under those circumstances virtually never work, and it didn’t in this case. As a result, Oregon State could have forced overtime with a touchdown and a 1 point conversion kick.
The Beavers couldn’t come close to scoring though, as Garretson opened the drive by nearly throwing a pick-6, and Bolden dropped a pass that would have picked up a first down.
The drive ended when, on 4th down, Garretson, after being flushed from the pocket, threw the ball short, and even had Nall caught the ball, a first down wouldn’t have resulted, and Minnesota took over on downs.
With Oregon State being short that timeout from early in the half, Minnesota was able to run around, giving away over 50 yards, but also running out the clock, especially after Elu Alydon shoved a Gopher and got a personal foul with seconds remaining.
Summing Up The Stats
Garretson had an up and down evening, completing 25 of 40 passes, just 62.5% (after hitting 70% in the first half despite the cold start), for only 228 yards, but 3 touchdowns, and thanks to a several Minnesota drops, no interceptions. But the fumbles and 4 sacks, and what resulted from them, cost the game.
Nall led the Beavers in both rushing, with 71 yards on 13 carries, and 80 yards on a game high 8 catches. Collins, right, had 5 catches, for 57 yards, but only 13 yards on 6 rushes.
The Beavers, as was often the case last year, struggled to establish the run, and finished with only 89 yards on the ground, and therefore only 317 total yards, a couple hundred shy of what will be required to win in the Pac-12 most weeks.
Bolden finished with 5 catches, for 32 yards, and a touchdown, but Jordan Villamin was a non-factor, finishing with just 1 catch, for only 5 yards.
Garretson outshown Leidner in passing though, as the senior Minnesota QB connected on only 50% of his passes, 13 of 26, and for only 130 yards, and no scores. But Leidner added 76 yards and 2 scores on 13 carries.
Coupled with Smith’s 125 yard, 2 touchdown night, on 25 carries, the Gophers dominated on the ground. Had they not handed back over 50 yards on strategic losses, even with the bad snaps, they would have out-gained Oregon State, as the 284 net yards yielded will distort the picture.
Devin Chappell chases Rodney Smith, who had a big night for the Gophers.
Xavier Hawkins was a refreshing bright spot for the Oregon State defense, with a game high 8 tackles, all solo.
However, the Beavers still struggle with pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Despite a fair number of blitzes, they were unable to record any sacks.
Oregon State, having now dropped 10 games in a row, and 18 of their last 22, will now have 16 days to regroup before their home opener against FCS Idaho State.
(AP Photos by Stacy Bengs)