Minnesota rowed into Reser Staium Saturday night (the Gophers currently don’t roll, they row), and roared out to a 17-0 lead by early in the 2nd quarter. An unseasonable and unexpected storm suddenly swept in, and temporarily swamped their boat, during which the Beavers put up a pair of scores during the soppy conditions that resulted. But then halftime came, and 2 things happened.
The storm, which had temporarily negated most of the factors that typically differentiate good teams from bad ones, passed. At the same time Minnesota coach PJ Fleck and his staff bailed out their boat, and made adjustments that put more effective pressure on the Oregon State offense and negated most of what they had been able to do, and established control of the line of scrimmage when the Gophers had the ball.
Gary Andersen and his staff made no discernable adjustments.
The result was 4 unanswered Minnesota second half touchdowns, as the Gophers totally dominated the second half, and pulled away to a 48-14 win that was stunningly similar to what happened in Fort Collins in the season opener, when the Rams turned a 4 point game at halftime into a 31 point blowout.
Balanced reporting requires noting the few positive things that did happen during the game, which included good first half performances by Jordan Villamin, Isaiah Hodgins, and the stunning Timmy Hernandez to Tuli Wily-Matagi connection on a 4th down trick play, which ironically did not come off as the staff had drawn it up.
Villamin had 3 catches for 55 yards, including a 30 yarder that was the Beavers’ best play of the game, and a nearly as good 16 yard touchdown catch that capped Oregon State’s only good drive of the night, a 15 play, 85 yard march for the Beavers’ first score of the game, which came just as the storm was hitting, and was kept alive by the trick play where punter Nick Porebski lateraled to Hernandez, who foung Wily-Matagi for the 10 yard catch. Villamin also almost made a circus catch, and drew a pass interference penalty in the process.
Freshman Hodgins had another promising start to the evening, with a game high 7 catches, though that only yielded 48 yards.
Freshman safety David Morris was in on 17 tackles, including 10 solo. The 17 tackles was the most by any Beaver since Lance Mitchell had 18 in the 2010 season opener at TCU. (But just as happened then, when a safety has the opportunity to make that many tackles, much less the need to, something is sorely wrong with the defense in front of them, and a loss is imminent.)
But that’s about the extent of it.
Ryan Nall had only 7 touches, which produced only 31 yards, and one of the 3 lost fumbles Oregon State contributed to Minnesota. Turnovers as always were crucial, and the Beavers’ second score came on a 2 yard run by Trevorris Johnson 1 play after Bright Ugwoegbu recovered a Minnesota fumble caused by the wet ball conditions the downpour caused.
Thomas Tyner, who had only 4 touches in last week’s game against Portland State, and was widely identified as someone the Beavers desperately needed to get more involved in the game plan, did not play. Apparently the Oregon State staff couldn’t keep him healthy through the week’s practices.
Collectively, Oregon State ran for only 80 yards, and managed only 1 first down in the second half.
Quarterback Jake Luton, coming off the best game of his career against Portland State, completed only 16 of 28 passes, just 57%, for only 135 yards. His quarterback rating was 40.2!
Seth Collins, who suffered a broken finger in practice just before the opener against Colorado State, again didn’t play.
Defensively, it was yet another disaster for the fundamentally flawed Beaver scheme.
Minnesota is not a good passing team, and only attempted about a dozen pass plays. Several ended in Oregon State penalties, and only 8 went into the stats.
Yet Gopher quarterback Conor Rhoda completed 7 of them, all differential in effect, including a 67 yard bomb to Tyler Johnson for the game’s first score. Johnson finished with 4 catches, for a game high 127 yards.
The touchdown toss, above, was a simple case of Johnson winning a foot race with Brandon Arnold, who had no help from the otherside, because the defensive play call had fellow safety Jalen Moore further upfield than linebacker Kesi Ah-Hoy. Someone could have jumped out of the Oregon State student section and been better positioned to help Arnold than anyone on the team was.
Moore would subsequently get ejected for an egregiously bad targeting call, and since it came in the second half, will have to sit out the first half of next week’s game at Washington State, further weakening an already woeful, and woefully thin Oregon State defense, which was also depleted when Dwayne Williams suffered a knee injury that, though he walked off the field, put him out for the game, and left his availability in the immediate future as doubtful.
Cornerback Xavier Crawford also left the game with a shoulder injury in the first half.
Minnesota rolled up only 253 rushing yards, but that accounted for 5 scores, and was done on 58 carries, which led to the Gophers holding a time of possession advantage of over 16 1/2 minutes, as the Oregon State defense just could not get off the field, especially after the break, and Fleck & staff’s adjustments that the Beavers had no counter for.
Rodney Smith pounded the Beavers 30 times, for 92 yards and a touchdown, and Shannon Brooks, below, added 91 more yards, and 3 scores.
It didn’t matter if it was a short field drive, like after an Oregon State turnover to make it 27-14, long, sustained drives, including the 9 play, 71 yard march that took over 5 minutes, and Brooks capped with a 2 yard touchdown dive late in the 3rd period that made it 34-14, or the nearly 9 1/2 minute long 15 play 77 yard drive that ate up most of the 4th quarter before Brools capped with a 1 yard scoring plunge, or the 64 yard quarterback keeper, below, that Denny Croft, Minnesota’s other quarterback, took around the right side when the Beaver play call opted to completely abandon defending all real estate outside either side of the tackle box.
Oregon State, 1-2, now embarks on conference play, with a trip to the Palouse, to take on Washington State. The Beavers’ last trip there, Andersen’s first, resulted in a 52-31 blowout loss after the Cougars had opened a 45-17 lead in the first half. Last year, Oregon State blew a 24-6 halftime lead after Cougar coach made the halftime adjustments that produced a 22-0 3rd quarter, on the way to a 2nd consecutive come from behind win at Reser, this one by a 35-31 score. It was similar to the rally Washington State put together last night, despite being without starting quarterback Luke Falk, held out after a hard hit (despite the absence of apparent ill effects), when the Cougars came from 3 touchdowns down to eventually edge Boise State 47-44 in triple overtime.
After that, it will be a visit from Washington, who has blown out Oregon State 4 years in a row, and piled up 63 points on Montana, beating the Grizz, one of the best teams in the Big Sky, 63-7.
The dismal prospects for the beleaguered Beavers, even more than the weather they weren’t prepared for, drove more than half of the crowd away by halftime, despite Oregon State trailing by only 6 points when they gave up. It was an embarrassing end to what should have been a special day in Oregon football, the first ever time when 2 B1G Ten teams both visited the state of Oregon on the same day. That, and PJ Fleck “row the boat” national hype that drew Fox Sports to town, should have produced a near sell-out.
Instead, the inflated announced ticket sales of 34,737 that counts unused season, package, and corporate tickets, and distorts the fact that there were never 30K people in Reser, shrunk to a stadium that was barely 1/4 full at any point in the second half, and had nearly as many Minnesota fans as Beaver by the end.
The optics of the game were even worse than the performance of the unprepared and out-coached team on the field.
“This is absolutely not what I expected in any way, shape or form,” Andersen said. “It’s on me. It’s not on those kids. I’m the one who hired the coaches. It’s all on me.”
Andersen is correct that its not on the kids, and it is on him. And he is right, he did hire the coaches who haven’t demonstrated the ability to prepare a team to play at the FCS level.
But why he didn’t expect what happened, given the numerous other debacles, including both previous outings this season, is inexplicable, and unjustifiable. It was indeed almost exactly what should have been expected.
Buying out Andersen’s contract, which unbelievably is guaranteed through 2021, would cost millions, but the first 2 home games of the season have already cost Oregon State millions in lost ticket, ad, and concessions revenue, and it doesn’t look like things will get better when the competition gets tougher, and the weather gets worse.