Oregon State kicker Jordan Choukair twice missed field goal attempts in the 4th quarter wide left that would have won the game, including one from 34 yards as time ran out, and Nevada escaped with the 37-35 win that extended Oregon State’s road losing streak to 21 games. Both misses were directly affected by a strong wind that blew diagonally threw Mackay Stadium all afternoon and evening, and impacted the kicking game the entire time.
It matters little that there should have been a retry following a running into the kicker penalty, as that oversight was merely the last in a long series by a crew that struggled all day. Another opportunity probably would have sailed wide as well, in keeping with the theme of the game, one that the Beavers did everything necessary to win, and everything possible to lose.
Credit the Wolf Pack, who came ready to play, and built what looked like an insurmountable 30-7 lead 5 minutes into the second quarter, only to run almost out of gas, and watch the Beavers claw back into within 2 points with 11:40 to go.
But it also has to be recognized that inexperience, and not all of it the players, cost the Beavers the game. From coverage errors to disastrous turnovers to drops to questionable personnel decisions, what we saw was what you often see when freshmen and other relatively inexperienced players play, and a first time coach tries to figure it all out. This was generally to be expected, even if not specifically.
And its why a game Oregon State dominated statistically was still a loss.
Jermar Jefferson, last week’s rushing hero in the absence of the injured Artavis Pierce, out probably until the Homecoming game with a sprained elbow, ran for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries.
Despite playing without Trevon Bradford, who suffered a shoulder injury scoring a touchdown, but was considered possible for tonight’s game, at least until he wasn’t brought along on the trip, Oregon State had a dominant edge at receiver.
Isaiah Hodgins had a career high and team record tieing 14 catches, for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. Timmy Hernandez had another 116 yards on 11 catches. Both were physical mismatches for Nevada, and as a result, Oregon State rolled up 459 yards in the air.
The Beavers outgained the Wolfpack 540 yards to 357, had 11 more first downs, and held a time of possession advantage of over 9 1/2 minutes. And still not only didn’t win, much less pull away, they never led.
Nevada marched unchallenged for the game’s opening score on the game’s opening drive, but Oregon State did the same with their first possession to tie the game, a product of the mismatch problems that Hodgins and Hernandez presented.
The Wolf Pack answered by taking the lead, but more importantly, by making adjustments to use bracket coverage, and on their second drive, Beaver quarterback Connor Blount threw an interception that led to a short field score for Nevada.
Blount would also fumble the ball away near midfield early in the second quarter, and Nevada’s Malik Reed scooped it up and rambled 48 yards for the touchdown that made the score 30-7.
It also got Blount benched, as Jake Luton took over, and conducted scoring drives that pulled the Beavers back within 30-21 22 seconds before halftime on Hodgins’ 3 yard touchdown catch.
After a first half that lit up the scoreboard, the third quarter went scoreless. The much maligned Oregon State defensive front wore down the Nevada offensive line, and it effectively throttled both their passing and running game. The Wolf Pack offense was held to 6 three and outs in 8 possessions.
Luton took some serious shots though, and eventually threw an interception as well, when Berdale Robins undercut a slant route just as Luton got drilled in the midsection as he released the ball, staving off a serious Oregon State scoring threat with an interception at the Nevada 8 yard line.
After Choukair’s first missed field goal, Luton still drove Oregon State for the touchdown that pulled the Beavers back within 2 points with still 11:40 to go.
Nevada suddenly came alive though, and Ty Gangi directed a 75 yard touchdown drive that turned out to provide the winning points.
Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith pulled Luton and put Blount back in, and Blount did lead the touchdown scoring drive that made it a 2 point game again, and then got the Beavers in position to win the game with a field goal as time ran out. Why he replaced Luton was unclear though.
Blount threw for 175 yards, completing 12 of 20 passes, while Luton completed 23 of 35 passes, for 284 yards.
The Beavers’ 21st consecutive road loss did demonstrate that they are at least getting closer, as it was a competitive contest, not yet another double digit defeat. And experience should translate to better days ahead for the freshman and other first opportunity players. But for 3 1/2 hours in Reno, Oregon State was again reminded that a lot of inexperience must still be withstood and overcome.
Oregon State returns home next week to take on Arizona.