Colorado threw Oregon State’s Ryan Nall for a 3 yard loss that forced the Beavers’ field goal attempt to force overtime that would have been good from 50 yards out to fall a couple of yards short when Jordan Choukair, who had hit 4 earlier attempts, had to try it from 52 yards.
That was the difference in the Pac-12 battle that saw 5 lead changes, including 4 on the 4 drives prior to the missed field goal that all ended in the end zone, as the Buffs pulled out the 36-33 win that spoiled Oregon State interim head coach Cory Hall’s head coaching debut, and the Beavers’ Homecoming celebration that featured the remaining members of the 1967 Giant Killers team.
Hall, also the Beavers’ cornerbacks coach, took over the team on Monday, after Gary Andersen and the university mutually decided to part ways.
The Beavers took an early lead 6 minutes into the game, when Ryan Nall capped Oregon State’s first drive of the game with a 4 yard touchdown run.
The Buffs answered 2 plays later when Phillip Lindsay broke off a run off left tackle for a 74 yard touchdown sprint, and the game was “on”.
Choukair connected on field goals on Oregon State’s next 4 possessions, as the Beavers opened a 16-7 lead, the largest of the game, and then a 19-14 halftime lead on Choukair’s 31 yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
But the problem in Oregon State’s disastrous first half of the season hasn’t been the first half of games, its come after the teams have come back from the break.
Today, for the first time all season, the Beavers did not lose the 3rd quarter. They didn’t win it, but at least they didn’t lose it, and it meant they took a 26-21 lead into the 4th quarter.
The Buffs took away said lead, after an 88 yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 9 yard touchdown toss from Steven Montez to Bryce Bobo, and then a 2 point conversion pass, also to Bobo, which put Colorado back ahead 29-26.
But Oregon State took it back, going back up 33-29 on Nall’s 4 yard touchdown with 4:22 left, capping an 84 yard drive.
Colorado answered with yet another dramatic late game drive, this one covering 82 yards, and ending with another Montez touchdown toss to Bobo, this one from 13 yards out, for what would turn out to be the game winning points.
But not until after Oregon State proceeded to march to the Colorado 31, when then the Buffs came up with the tackle that dropped Nall for the loss that was just enough to make the field goal attempt to tie the game to be just to long to make.
Colorado got what they desperately needed, their first conference win of the year, which snapped a 3 game losing streak, and improved the Buffs, who are the defending Pac-12 South champions, to 4-3.
Oregon State fans got a competitive game, and didn’t get a 3rd quarter and second half collapse, and a chance to win a game, even though they didn’t, and dropped to 1-6, and 0-4 in conference instead. The Beavers are now the only team without a conference win this season.
The game was a classic battle of star running backs.
Nall had 24 carries for 172 yards, and 28 yards more on a pair of catches, including the one above, giving him an even 200 yards. Too bad those last 3 were lost to drop him back down to that, or who knows what might have happened.
Lindslay had a game high 28 carries, for a game high 185 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
Besides the fact that Colorado came away with a touchdown on each of their scoring opportunities, but forced Oregon State into 5 field goal attempts in their 8 scoring opportunities, the other key differentiation came in the passing game. This despite Montez having a notably sub-par day, missing wide open receivers on multiple occasions, and also having what would have been a long touchdown dropped.
But Montez still connected with Bobo a game high 9 times, for a game high 126 yards, and the 2 4th quarter touchdowns, plus the 2 point conversion pass. Shay Fields added 5 catches, all of them clutch, for 42 yards.
Montez finished with 14 completions on 24 attempts, for 168 yards and the 2 scores, and also caught a pass from Bobo, above, for the touchdown that made it 16-14 late in the 2nd quarter.
Oregon State, playing without Seth Collins, who was a game time scratch due to illness, was led by Timmy Hernandez, who had 7 catches for 65 yards.
Darell Garretson had one of his best efforts as a Beaver, as Offensive Coordinator Kevin McGiven broke out a number of aggressive plays, ranging from a direct snap to Nall to a sweep reverse with Garretson initially lined up at wide receiver, which ended in a 38 yard completion to Jordan Villamin, above.
Oregon State dominated the overall stat sheet, holding an enormous time of possession edge of 11 minutes and 20 seconds, and outgained Colorado by 184 yards.
“There’s no doubt that our team came together after everything that happened on Monday and all the craziness that went down,” Garretson said. “I think when something drastic happens like that, guys tend to come together.”
But though Garretson threw for 289 yards, he only completed 55% of his passes, 20 of 37, and threw the intercepted pass that was the only turnover of the game, a result of getting drilled as he threw the ball, below.
Garretson would stay down after the hit, and had to go to the locker room for treatment afterwards, he did return by the time of Oregon State’s next drive, saving Hall from having to decide to either burn a red-shirt season for Connor Blount, or resort to safety Mason Moran, who was originally recruited as a quarterback.
A win wasn’t going to be likely in Hall’s debut, as regardless of the coaching upheaval, the Beavers were still down multiple DBs, including both their starting corners, as well as starting QB Jake Luton, as well as being missing Collins and losing guard Gus Lavaka in the second half.
But when the Beavers still almost pulled out the win, the post-game conversation immediately centered around why McGiven’s offensive game plan suddenly was aggressive and productive, if as former coach Andersen has said, he wasn’t very involved in the offense. Given that the remainder of the staff will be gone once a new head coach is selected, projected by Athletic Director Scott Barnes to be by early December, just after the end of the regular season, the wondering as to why McGiven didn’t open up playbook earlier.
“What we tried to focus on was just boiling it down to one dynamic and one identity instead of saying we’re just going to do what the situation calls for,” Hall said. “We were going to do what works. We’re going to do what we’re good at.”
With 12 days to prepare for their next game, a Thursday night home contest against Stanford, its likely Hall and the rest of the coaching staff will add a number of additional wrinkles to the Beavers’ bag of tricks. But it was already far more interesting today than it has been for a long time, and the effects were glaring.
Hall’s exuberance on the sideline was also impossible to not notice, and the players definitely noticed.
So to did the approximate 25K fans amongst the announced ticket distribution of 33,785 that actually showed up (many customers and investors are obviously waiting to see what the new staff will look like before returning, despite a beautiful day, and an actual competitive Pac-12 game), and stayed to the end for a change.
In the end, it was yet another loss, but it was an effort worthy of queing the fight song!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)