Oregon State plays their final home game of the season at noon Saturday, against Arizona State. It will be Dad’s Day, Senior Day, Family Weekend, and Armed Forces Appreciation weekend as well. All good things to reflect on and bring the family that is Beaver Nation together.
And there’s even a chance it will end on a happy note, as the Sun Devils have lost the last 5 times they have ventured to Reser, and haven’t won in the state of Oregon in 12 years, since a 42-24 win over Oregon State in September of 2005. After all, the northwest, especially when the trip comes in November, is a relatively inhospitable place when you are used to the endless summer that in the Arizona desert. And generally, Arizona State isn’t a very good road team, having only 1 road win in each of the last 3 seasons. That’s only slightly better than Oregon State!
Hopefully that will result in more filled seats than empty ones in the stadium, though it will be impressive if the place is more than half full.
The last visit was the last big upset win of the Mike Riley era, all the way back in 2014, when the Beavers upset the then 6th ranked Sun Devils 35-27 on a frigid night, with temperatures in the teens at kickoff and falling like a broken icicle.
It would be the last win of any kind of the Riley era, and the beginning of what would be a very bad stretch for the seniors who will be honored today. The last 4 years are the first run of 4 years without a bowl trip since before the turn of the century. A run of futility and administrative incompetence that most in Beaver Nation thought they had put behind themselves for ever more.
Getting a going away win won’t be easy either, though after blowing an early 2 touchdown lead and losing 44-37 at UCLA last Saturday night, Arizona State is only a touchdown favorite. The Sun Devils will be playing for bowl eligibility before they face the resurgent Arizona Wildcats, who just gashed the Beavers 49-28, next week in the Territorial Cup.
Oregon State has at least played competitively at home since interim Coach Cory Hall took over for Gary Andersen, who departed midseason. And its likely their last best chance to get an FBS win this season, as the Civil War will be a road game, and the Beavers have only even been competitive once on the road since before that freezer game against the Devils a college career ago.
Expect emotions to run high in this one, and its entirely possible Ryan Nall and Thomas Tyner might just do some real damage running the ball. Darell Garretson could go out with some good plays as well, given his career best 4 touchdown pass performance last week in Tucson, albeit after it was to late to pull out the game. Or he might run more, now that with the end of a losing season near, the soon to be departed coaching staff isn’t as concerned about the consequences of a lack of depth (and backup preparation) as they were mid-season.
Last season’s late season resurgence in the last 2 games came after the Beavers threw caution and game plans to the wind as well.
But Arizona State is the more talented team in this matchup, and the Sun Devils are capable of carving up the beleaguered and beat up Beaver defense. Quarterback Manny Wilkins is 5th in the conference in passing, and wide receiver N’Keal Harry is 2nd in the Pac-12 in both catches and receiving yards. That’s a dangerous combination to match up with the Oregon State pass defense, and especially their deep in the depth chart undersized and inexperienced secondary.
However, I can’t envision effort being an issue, and even if Oregon State loses, it shouldn’t be seen as anything negative about the seniors we will be seeing on the field at Reser for the last time. Rather, the end of a bowl-less 4 years (unless they were a redshirt witness to the 2013 Hawaii Bowl (the likes of which none of them thought they would never see again) should serve as a reminder of the need to put more, and better, pieces (and by pieces, we are talking players, coaches, administrators, infrastructure, and more) in place around the Beavers that will be back, putting them in a position to not suffer the same fate.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)