Oregon State continued to show some offensive improvement, and that unit competed for a significant part of the game in Friday night’s season opener against Oklahoma State. But when it mattered, and all night defensively, the Beavers couldn’t Cowboy up, and the Cowboys rode out of Reser with a 52-36 win that kept them unbeaten in season openers against the Pac-12.
Oregon State opened the game with an impressive scoring drive, going up 7-0 less than 2 minutes into the game. After Oklahoma State answered, the Beavers took a 10-7 lead after the first quarter, and also had an impressive drive right before halftime that produced points (though not as many as it should have), and demonstrated the only way they were going to stop the Cowboys, leaving them with just 3 seconds to work with before the break.
Isaiah Hodgins, above, had a game high 9 catches, for a game high 170 yards, a game high 18.9 yards per touch, and 2 touchdowns, and an Oregon State long 49 yard reception.
Jake Luton, below, threw for 251 yards, and 3 touchdowns, with no interceptions, and ran for 7 yards, including 2 first downs, and was only sacked once.
But the defense was once again an inept disaster of refinery fire proportions.
Oklahoma State rolled up 555 yards, but for evaluation purposes, that has to be bumped up to an even 600, by adding the 45 yards from 3 pass interference penalties, where a thoroughly confused and badly beaten secondary had to resort to someone making the tactically correct choice to commit pass interference long before the ball arrived in the area to avoid giving up an even bigger gain, if not a score sooner than would eventually eventuate anyway.
Cowboys redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders, playing his first collegiate game, completed 19 of 24 passes, for 203 yards and 3 touchdowns, and without a turnover. Worse, for Beavers’ hopes, he also ran 13 times for 109 yards.
That complimented nicely the night Chuba Hubbard had. The Cowboy running back rolled up 221 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries, including the one in the story lead.
The Oklahoma State offense overall ran for 352 yards, including 189 in the first half. Hubbard was over the 100 yard mark before the break, and the first Cowboy scoring drive was entirely on the ground, a 9 play 70 yard march to answer the upstart start by the other OSU.
This by a pass first, and usually mostly, offense. Cowboy alum and coach Mike Gundy’s offense is and has been consistently one of the best in the country for over a decade, but its historically been a field-stretching variant of the Air Raid, not a ground chewing rushing juggernaut.
“You’re not going to win a bunch of games when you give up 350 yards rushing,” Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith said.
And though Sanders, above, was the Texas High School Player of the Year 2 years ago when he last played a down of football, he still was as inexperienced at the collegiate level as possible.
The Oklahoma State squad that could have, and should have, beaten Oregon State by even more, had Sanders not been focused on finding success on the ground to the point where he missed multiple coverage reads where gashing passing plays were available.
Biletnikoff finalist receiver Tylan Wallace, above, still managed 92 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 5 catches.
The Cowboys also called off the cattle dogs well before the Beavers’ final scoring drive, with Tristan Gebbia at the controls, that cut the deficit to a still larger than the 2 touchdown spread final score.
And while the defense continued what has been a now half-decade long pattern of contending for worst in college football status, the offense wasn’t without fault in the loss that extended Oregon State’s home losing streak to FBS opponents to 11 games.
While Luton looked sharp, and some of his incompletions were actually good, and intentional, throwaways to avoid a loss or the risk of an interception, he still completed only 23 of 42 passes.
More concerning was the fact that the Cowboys batted down 6 passes at or near the line of scrimmage. This was one thing that wasn’t expected.
There were also some questionable play calls, including the indefensible decisions to go for 2 point conversions twice, which predictably kept the margin that would have to be overcome larger than necessary. It was eerily Mike Riley-esque. But getting away from the run when it had been effective, and then trying to get back to it by calling runs on long-yardage downs wasn’t good play calling either. It seemed to be randomly grasping for straws in the wind that the Oklahoma State offense had created.
As a result, Jemar Jefferson, above, and Artavis Pierce combined for just 140 yards on 24 carries. And the Beavers’ only rushing score came on a Jake Colleto end zone package play.
Bad stats are always, well, bad, but even they don’t tell the complete story of the problem.
In football when it matters, after taking the initial lead in the game, Oklahoma State responded with a 31-3 run over the next 26 minutes, including 4 consecutive second quarter scores.
That was a torching of an out-manned defense, but the problem was compounded when Oregon State went 3 and out on their first 3 drives of the second quarter.
The Cowboys also answered the Beavers’ successful 2 minute scoring drive right before the half with a third quarter opening 10 play, 75 yard drive that was capped by the first of Hubbard’s 2 3rd quarter scoring runs, and extended their lead to 38-16.
And that was accomplished without any play-calling from the coaches above, as a malfunction of the antique elevator on the old side of Reser trapped the Oklahoma State coaches headed upstairs following halftime for 15 minutes.
Headed to pass-happy Hawaii next week, the prospect for another game where Coach Smith’s offense will self-admittedly have to be better, and nearly perfect, to keep up with the Rainbow Warriors, who won their opener last weekend, beating Arizona 45-38 despite committing 6 turnovers.
After an off-season of JC recruiting, and ballyhoo about how defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar’s worst in FBS side of the squad would be much improved, the truth of the matter is the Beaver defense is still smallish, slow, and troublingly, frequently poorly deployed. And they again didn’t create any turnovers, and were unable to disrupt the Oklahoma State offense, recording only 1 sack.
Getting safety David Morris knocked out of the game before halftime didn’t help either.
The result was Heisman talk swirling around Sanders, after just 1 game.
And while the debacle did come against an accomplished offense, its important to keep in mind that it wasn’t an elite Oklahoma State team; the Cowboys were picked in the preseason to contend with Baylor and TCU for 4th through 6th in the 10 member Big XII.
The black eyes for the Oregon State program weren’t confined to the field of play either.
The distributed ticket total was only 31,681, about 2/3 of capacity of Reser Stadium. But that number was buoyed by a few thousand Cowboys who made the trip, and out numbered remaining Beaver fans come the 4th quarter, and thousands of free tickets, given to any student or former season ticket holder that wanted one.
Most who did acquire a ticket did show up, though many were late arriving for another ill-conceived Friday night game, and baled out early from a game that didn’t end until 11:20 PM.
At least they won’t miss much if they can’t get a Facebook stream of next week’s game from Hawaii, which will start after 9 PM PDT, to not “buffer out”.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)