Oregon saw a number of opportunities in Saturday’s 123rd Civil War game against Oregon State, and the Ducks capitalized on all of them, seizing a 24-10 win over the Beavers as a result.
Key injuries to both the Oregon State offense and defense, assignment problems on defense, questionable play calling on offense, and special teams breakdowns all contributed to the problem, and the opportunities, which Oregon converted into both a 2 touchdown halftime lead, and the 2 touchdown win.
The Beavers got bad news when senior starting quarterback Jake Luton determined in pre-game warmups that an injury to his throwing arm fore-arm initially sustained in last week’s game against Washington State had not responded to treatment enough for him to grip or throw the football effectively.
As a result, red-shirt sophomore Tristan Gebbia, with 10 minutes notice, made his first start since high school in the Civil War, in front of an Autzen Stadium capacity crowd of 56,243, the biggest crowd of the year to watch the Beavers.
Gebbia, above, actually performed remarkably well under those circumstances, and against an Oregon defense that’s in the top quadrant of the conference, completing 26 of 40 passes, for 243 yards, and without any interceptions. Gebbia also scrambled around for 25 yards, and was only sacked once.
But the absence of any down-field passing ability limited the offense, and ultimately rendered a 4th quarter comeback effort ineffective.
Couple that with linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr., who was the best in the country at both sacks and tackles for a loss until suffering a wrist injury, being ineffective for the second consecutive game, and it was remarkable that deep in the 4th quarter, the Beavers were still in a game they had to win to become bowl eligible, down just 17-10 and with the ball.
But an extra effort leap by Jemar Jefferson, above, instead resulted in a fumble, and the short field that the Ducks converted into a 20 yard touchdown run through a vacated middle of the defense by Cyrus Habibi-Likio with only 1:15 left in the game, below, effectively sealed the win.
Oregon State’s errors led directly to at least an 18 point negative impact (from the Beavers’ perspective) on the score differential in the first half.
A communications error resulted in a blown coverage on the first possession of the game, and a wide, wide open Josh Delgado, above, who Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert immediately spotted for a 28 yard completion that set up a Cameron Lewis field goal.
Oregon State responded with a drive that appeared to end in a Jemar Jefferson touchdown run, above. But the score was nullified by a hands to the face mask penalty on Clay Cordasco behind the play, the the Beavers had to settle for a game tieing Everett Hayes field goal, instead of taking a lead.
Some serious lane responsibility errors in coverage on the ensuing kickoff opened a huge lane for Mykael Wright, above, to sprint thru for a 98 yard kickoff return touchdown, and a 10-3 Oregon lead.
“It looked like we had one opportunity to make a tackle, and that’s not enough when you’re running down with 10-11 guys,” Oregon State Coach Jonathan Smith said. “And they’ve got some dangerous returns. We knew that coming in. That was a big difference in this game.”
A 25 yard punt return by Jevon Holland early in the 2nd quarter set the stage for a 2 play Oregon scoring drive. An incorrect coverage call for the personnel in the game, combined with an inability to get pressure on Herbert, resulted in a deep crossing route the Beavers couldn’t cover, and Herbert took advantage of it with a 28 yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson, below.
The special teams problem had set the table, but the Beaver defense self-destructed any chance it had to limit the damage to a field goal.
Gebbia eventually figured out that Isaiah Hodgins, above, was his best weapon, and connected with Oregon State’s leading receiver for a game high 8 catches, and a game high 85 yards. But all of those came in the 2nd half.
And though the Oregon State defense pitched a shutout in the 3rd quarter, so too did the Duck defense, as what has been a recurring problem all season for the Beavers occurred again, and a lack of effective halftime adjustments led to a lack of 3rd quarter offensive productivity.
Gebbia, above, actually out-stated Herbert, who completed 18 of 30 throws, for 174 yards.
Jefferson led the Beavers rushing, with 81 yards on 20 carries, just short of Travis Dye’s game high 91 yards for the Ducks, and scored Oregon State’s only touchdown of the game, above, to make it 17-10 just more than 4 minutes into the 4th quarter.
But with their offense limited to short plays that require long drives to succeed, time ran out sooner than later on the Oregon State season.
The loss, the 2nd in consecutive bowl eligibility qualification games, left the Beavers 5-7 for the year, and wasted a 4-5 conference campaign that netted Oregon State 3rd in the Pac-12 North, and 4th overall in the conference, which would have netted a Sun Bowl berth at worst were they eligible.
Its the 6th year in a row, and 8th in the last 10, that Oregon State has failed to make a bowl game.
Oregon, who had long since clinched the Pac-12 North, bounced back from last week’s loss at Arizona State to finish the regular season 10-2, and 8-1 in the North, and will now head to Santa Clara for Friday evening’s Pac-12 Championship game against Utah (11-1, 8-1), who claimed the Pac-12 South with their 45-15 win over Colorado tonight.
The 3rd consecutive Civil War loss, and 10th in the last 11, brought to a premature end an Oregon State season in Smith’s 2nd year as head coach, that at once significantly exceeded pre-season projections that saw a 3 win season a real possibility, and yet also fell short of even reaching the post-season when 9 wins were within their grasp late in the 4th quarter of contests.
It was an encouraging effort, but also a real gut-punch.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)