Oregon State is back from Reno, after coming so close to breaking their now 21 game road losing streak, and about to embark on Pac-12 play. The loss was disappointing, but the passing game was encouraging.
That was particularly surprising, given that Trevon Bradford, who had a big, 2 touchdown game in the opener at Ohio State, and got off to a fast start in the home opener against Southern Utah (until he suffered a shoulder injury catching another touchdown pass), didn’t even get to go on the trip to Nevada as a result of his shoulder injury.
But it was apparent on Oregon State’s first drive of the game that the Beaver passing game was going to have a big day, on a level not seen since NFLers Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks were still on campus.
Isaiah Hodgins and Timmy Hernandez were a physical mismatch of major proportions that no one Nevada could put against them could deal with. Any success the Wolf Pack was going to have against the big Beaver receivers was going to have to come from scheme, not matchups. To their credit, they did quickly switch up their coverage schemes, and Conor Blount didn’t read that on the second drive, so the result was an interception when Blount threw into bracket coverage.
But once Jake Luton took over, the passing game really took off.
Hodgins earned The Halloween Spice Drops Award of Awesomeness for his 14 catch, 200 yard, 2 touchdown effort. The 14 catches tied the Oregon State single game reception record, previously attained only by Mike Haas and Cooks.
Hernandez also had a double digit night, and career high, with 11 catches, for 116 yards. That earned The Juju Fruit Award of Diligent Improvement for the senior, who has demonstrated tremendous diligence, and a lot of perseverance (which was discussed last week as being closely related) in reaching this milestone.
It was the first time in a decade that the Beavers have had 2 receivers with double digit receptions in the same game, since Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales did it against Stanford in 2008. (Ironically, that spectacular 1-2 reception punch came in a narrow loss as well.)
It’s also a notable accomplishment that propelled the Oregon State offense to the top of the Pac-12 in total offense. Even if it turns out to only be a brief stay, it does come a quarter of the way through the season, and would have seemed an outlandish thing to even think about as recently as a month ago, given that with most of the same players, the Beavers were the worst offense in the conference (by a wide margin) last season.
The Oregon State Athletic Department collected their second Good N’ Plenty Award of Shame or Actions that Diminish Your Sport of Choice award of the year though. Once again, going cheap on the travel budget produced a bad look. As happens all too often, they once again left Benny behind. But they also left Bradford behind as well. During the conference campaign, except for the rivalry games, there is a limit on the number of people and players the team can officially travel, which in this day and age of charters and unlimited spending, makes no sense.
But for non-conference contests, there is no such restriction. That’s not necessarily a reason to take everyone on the roster, but to not include one of the best players on the team deprives the team of his insight, and inhibits his development and diminishes his experience. When a serious physical problem is involved, one where travel would be painfully difficult at best, it makes sense. But a “was almost able to play” late in the week condition doesn’t fit that definition.
More importantly, it’s a bad look that sends a bad message to potential recruits, who notice such things. It also is not helpful for retention, and that’s been a big problem of late.
Things OSU could do differently, and better, become differentiating factors for both recruits and players who have a wide array of options. And as we currently are seeing, being woefully short on warm bodies, never mind difference makers, is a difference maker in a bad way.
Oregon State HAS to start not only actually trying to win all of its games, especially road trips, but thinking about how their actions will look. Actions trump all the fan-boy spin they can spiel.
Now, lets see if the Beavers can continue their in Corvallis dominance of Arizona, where they have beaten the ‘Cats twice in a row, and 7 of the last 9 times they have met going back to 1999, including their 42-17 win in 2016.