Oregon State entered the Pac-12 season opener as a 3 point favorite over Washington State, which was implementing a new offense, the run and shoot, and a revamped defense, for a new coach, and completely new coaching staff, and with a new quarterback. It was the first time the Beavers have been favored over a Power-5 opponent in years.
It was also a major mis-calculation. The Cougars dominated a majority of the game, and held off a Beaver rally to come away with a 38-28 win on a damp and chilly night in empty Reser Stadium.
Oregon State started with back to back 3 play and punt possessions. Washington State then took a 7-0 lead, when true freshman Jayden dE Laura, the first true freshman to ever start at quarterback for the Cougars, connected with Travell Harris for a 29 yard touchdown completion.
The Beavers answered that with another 3 and punt, which ended with a bad snap on the punt, which set the Cougars up in Oregon State territory. Only an interception by Jaydon Grant in the Beaver endzone prevented another Washington State score, but then came a a 5 play and punt effort.
Finally, Oregon State got going, going 93 yards for the game tieing touchdown, on a 7 yard completion to Trevon Bradford. It took 15 plays, and almost half the 2nd quarter, taking 7 minutes and 27 seconds.
Washington State responded with n 8 play, 84 yard touchdown drive of their own, capped by a 3 yard run by Deon McIntosh, who started for the Cougars in place of All-Conference running back Max Borghi, who was a game day afternoon scratch for unspecified reasons.
Oregon State took the opening kickoff for the second half, and again went 3 and punt, handing the ball over after less than a minute.
Shortly thereafter, McIntosh romped through the middle of the Beaver defense for 49 yards, on a 3rd and 10 situation, setting up dE Laura’s 5 yard touchdown dive, and a 21-7 Cougar lead not 3 minutes into the second half.
The 3rd sack of Gebbia of the game led to the 5th 3 and punt OSU possession, and a blocked punt left the Cougars only 38 yards to go for another touchdown.
Which they easily did, as dE Laura connected with Calvin Jackson. A gift penalty for an ineligible receiver down field wiped out the score, but the reprieve only lasted until the next play, a 28 yard touchdown toss to Harris that put Washington State up 28-7.
“They put us in a hole we couldn’t get out of,” Oregon State Head Coach Jonathan Smith said.
The Cougar defense that had been solid all night backed off a bit, and Gebbia completed consecutive good completions to Champ Flemings and Luke Musgrave to put together a 9 play, 85 yard scoring drive, capped by Jamar Jefferson’s first touchdown run of the season, from 1 yard out cut the deficit to 28-14 as the 3rd quarter wound down.
McIntosh continued to make the absence of Borghi, who beat the Beavers with a last second touchdown in last year’s 54-53 win in Pullman, a non issue, and dE Laura’s running and passing put Washington State in position to take a 3 score, 31-14 lead with less than 12 minutes left in the game.
After a disastrous start to the game, Gebbia completed 10 consecutive throws in one stretch, and led Oregon State to a desperately needed scoring drive, capped by Jefferson’s 7 yard second scoring run of the game.
Inexplicably, Coach Smith went for 2 on the conversion, which failed, leaving Oregon State still down 11, 31-20 with only 8 ½ minutes left.
The Beavers did force the first Cougar punt of the 2nd half, but there was only 5 ½ minutes left when Oregon State got the ball back, at their own 10 yard line.
The Cougar defense that had been solid most of the game did their best to Cuog it, and Jefferson’s 15 yard touchdown run that capped a 14 play drive cut the deficit to 31-28, with still 2:39 to go. It was Jefferson’s 11th career touchdown against the Cougars.
But Washington State recovered the on-side kick though, and Harris immediately romped through the middle of the Oregon State defense undefensed for a 44 yard touchdown, and the lead was right back to 10 points, and 2 possessions.
Oregon State got into position to try a 48 yard field goal with 38 seconds left, but Everett Hayes hooked it wide left, and Washington State closed out the 38-28 win for new head coach Nick Rolovich, who also defeated the Beavers last year, as coach of Hawaii.
Jefferson finished with 120 yards, his 11th collegiate career 100 yard game, and the 3 scores, on 21 carries, and added 50 more yards on 5 catches.
McIntosh had a game high 147 yards, and a touchdown, on 18 carries for the Cougars.
Gebbia completed 24 of 31 passes in the 2nd half, for 239 yards, after a 10 of 17 for 90 yard first half, for the Beavers.
dE Laura’s night passing was the opposite, as he started off completing 13 of 24 for 150 yards, but managed only 5 completions, though on only 9 attepts, in the 2nd half, for 77 yards. In part because the Cougars were playing clock ball from the middle of the 3rd quarter on, after having opened a 3 touchdown lead.
dE Laura did run 8 times for 43 yards, and 1 score, while Gebbia was sacked 4 times.
Bradford and Kolby Taylor both had 7 catches for Oregon State, for 78 & 55 yards, respectively.
Harris also had 7 catches, for a game high 107 yards to lead Washington State.
It was the 7th win in a row for the Cougars over the Beavers.
Oregon State was not prepared to play in any phase of the game initially, and the same problem persisted coming out of halftime.
The loss of spring ball, all summer workouts, and a chunk of fall obviously hurt Oregon State, but Washington State faced even more lost time, with more to get done, and was not nearly as adversely affected. It was a serious missed opportunity, in what on paper appeared to be the most winable game on the abbreviated 6 game schedule.
Oregon State will head to Seattle next Saturday night, to take on Washington. The Huskies were unable to play their season opener tonight, after California cancelled the game due to an insufficient number of players, resulting from a positive Covid test, and a number of quarantined players as a result of contact testing.