Broncos Win Game, Beavers Find QB. Or Not.
Boise State beat Oregon State 38-24 Saturday afternoon for the Broncos first ever win in Corvallis, which was as expected. And the margin was almost exactly as expected, by 2 touchdowns.
How it happened did not go exactly as expected, however, which made for an interesting afternoon for the 42,846 fans (almost a quarter of which were Bronco fans) on hand on a classically beautiful, football perfect day at Reser.
The Broncos drove the length of the field for the game’s first score, which was not unexpected, and it wasn’t much of a surprise when the Beavers capitalized on a good kickoff return by Victor Bolden to convert the resulting short field into a tieing score.
But after that fast start, Boise State went on a tear, and a half that rivaled one of the worst Oregon State has ever played, and one of the best an opponent could hope for.
Broncos Break Game Open Early
Despite a pair of turnovers, the Broncos still ran off 24 consecutive points, taking a 31-7 halftime lead. Boise State rolled up 435 total yards, and balanced them almost perfectly, with 215 yards rushing and 220 passing.
Meanwhile, Oregon State managed only 67 yards in the half. Considering 41 of those came on that first scoring drive, that meant the Beavers managed only 26 yards in over 26 minutes of football.
That prompted Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen to make one of the most unexpected halftime decisions ever.
Andersen decided not only to bench ineffective starter Darell Garretson, but to bypass not only backup Marcus McMaryion, but also freshman Mason Moran.
That meant red-shirt true freshman walkon Conor Blount, pictured in the story lead, walked onto the field to start the second half for the Beavers.
Bypassing McMaryion made sense; we have already seen that that doesn’t end well. And it also made sense to preserve a red-shirt year for the presumed future of the program recruit.
But one has to wonder when the last time a Power-5, or any FBS team, turned to a walk-on true freshman quarterback halfway through the 3rd game of the season when injuries weren’t a factor.
Turned out it was a good move, as Blount directed a pair of second half scoring drives, and had the game still in doubt going down the stretch, something no one expected at halftime.
Blount completed 11 of 18 passes, the same number of completions as Garretson had, but for 138 yards, compared to 53 for the starter.
The best half of quarterback play Oregon State has had in some time had some thinking the Beavers might have finally found their quarterback, solving the biggest issue to plague the Andersen era.
Andersen isn’t among those thinking that though, stating afterwards that “If healthy, Darell Garretson will be the starter.” Including next week in Boulder, apparently, against a Colorado team that today upset Oregon 41-38 in Eugene.
But then performance has never been a consideration for Andersen in selecting a quarterback since arriving in Corvallis.
It’s another of the head-scratchers that makes figuring out Oregon State so difficult.
Inconsistency is Consistently An Issue
Another of those head-scratchers also played out today.
Like Oregon State’s defense can’t stop the run or the pass. Except, of course, when it can.
While Blount was auditioning for savior of the Oregon State offense, Boise State was wrapping 3 3 and punts around Adley Rutschman’s on-side kick and recovery. The Broncos, after piling up 21 first downs in the first half, didn’t get another until mid-way in the 3rd quarter.
And their only second half points came when Darren Lee ripped the ball out of Seth Collins’ arms, and took off for a 19 yard touchdown.
Even that didn’t end the uncertainty, as Bolden, above, promptly took the ensuing kickoff back for a 99 yard touchdown return.
It has to be a major concern for Boise State, and their coach Bryan Harsin, as the same thing happened in their last game, where the Broncos bolted to a big early lead over Washington State, only to have the Cougars come roaring back to make it a game.
There were some things that continued to happen that can’t be overlooked, or understated, though.
Oregon State’s struggling offensive line allowed another 6 sacks today. Even replacing Yanni Demogerontas as center with Brayden Kearesley couldn’t stem the sacks, or sustain a running attack.
Ryan Nall, above, led the Beavers on the ground, but with only 67 yards, though he did punch in 2 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols, above, despite the second half quarter and a half stretch where the Bronco offense was stuck in neutral, still rolled up a career high 208 yards and 3 touchdowns, on 28 carries, and added 20 more yards and another score on 4 catches.
Collins, above, continues to be Oregon State’s best weapon, as well as best source of highlight shots. And Blount, to his credit, understands that. After only 2 catches in the first half from Garretson, Blount went to Collins repeatedly, and he finished the game’s leading receiver, with 9 catches for 106 yards, edging out Boise State’s Thomas Sperbeck, below, who led the Broncos with 6 catches for 104 yards, all of which came in the first half.
Other issues that continue to be a problem are penalties and preparation. Oregon State was penalized 7 times today, and twice had to burn timeouts when a special teams unit couldn’t get on the field and get lined up correctly.
A Better Game Experience Come With A Better Opponent
Perfect weather instead of a soggy, rainy day helped, but even with a 2 touchdown loss, and an inept most of the first half, it was still a more enjoyable game and day than last week’s 30 point win, in that it looked, sounded, and felt like big time football, with a first rate opponent from a first rate program with a first rate fan base visiting Reser. Too bad coach Andersen doesn’t want to play the Broncos again; perhaps its really because they are too good.
They were today, despite their own interludes of frustration, and though the Beavers showed early (very early), and then later, that they can, at least for a while, hang with a quality opponent.
But consistency is consistently a problem for this program, on the field and on the sideline, and today’s events were as good an illustration of that as anything that’s happened since the middle of the Alamo Bowl season.
I thought going into the game that we would know a lot more about the Beavers tonight than we did a week ago, and we did learn that Blount can play. But we also learned he may or may not play, and we still don’t know how to predict when the Beavers will play to their potential, and when we will wonder why they aren’t.
The mystery continues next Saturday in Boluder.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)