The newly renamed “Rivalry” game between the Beavers and Ducks put itself prominently in history with the greatest of the “Civil Wars”, as Oregon State pulled out the 41-38 win.
The local sunshine pumpers accidentally hooked up the pumps to fog, and the resulting shrouding of Reser was easily the most obscured game since the 2004 Fog Bowl against USC.
But no amount of fog could take away from a battle that had it all; a record setting performance by Jemar Jefferson, an even better start by Oregon, egregious coaching errors, key missed penalties, timing management issues that made spot gate seem trivial, arguably Beaver quarterback Tristan Gebbia’s best game, multiple key injuries, including one to Gebbia at a key juncture, and a game winning score in the final minute of the game. By a player who had never played a Division I down before.
And as a result, the outcome was better for Beavers than the famous but unsuccessful battle with the Trojans.
Along the way were enough notable plays on both sides that will keep columnists and chat boarders occupied for years.
Oregon started fast, with a 37 yard touchdown on a fly sweep by Jalon Redd that featured a hand on the ground move that allowed Redd to regain his balance and bust off the scoring sprint down the left sideline.
Oregon State countered with their patented “have Jemar Jefferson take it to the house the first time he touched the ball” play, this time an 82 yard sprint the other way to tie the game. It was the first of several record setting moments for Jefferson, as it was the longest play in Oregon State history against Oregon.
That would be the Beavers’ only touchdown of the first half though, as the Ducks overall outplayed them.
Oregon answered Jeferson’s jaunt with a 93 yard touchdown drive, capped by Tyler Shough’s scoring dive to go up 14-7.
Oregon State mounted an 83 yard drive that spanned the quarter change, this after Oregon punter Tom Snee had pinned them at their own 1 yard line. Jefferson jumpstarted the drive with a 35 yard run, but the Beavers had to settle for a 34 yard Everett Hayes field goal.
The Ducks opened a 2 score lead on Shough’s 60 yard touchdown throw to Devon Williams when the Beavers got crossed up on their coverage scheme, leaving 1 defender to deal with 2 receivers running checked down the field.
Oregon State again was only able to answer with a field goal, leaving the Beavers still down 21-13.
That looked like it would wind up the halftime score after Jaydon Grant picked off Shough in the fog, but Oregon State Coach Jonathan Smith inexplicably decided to go for it on 4th and 3 on their own 44 yard line. Gebbia’s pass fell incomplete, and it essentially gifted Oregon, who took over on the edge of scoring territory, a free field goal that made it 24-13 at the break.
One of Oregon State’s problems has been a lack of halftime adjustments, but that wasn’t the case this foggy night, as the Beavers capitalized better on opportunities at nearly every opportunity.
Oregon State pulled back into a 1 score differential on Gebbia’s 8 yard touchdown pass to Zeriah Beason, but another tactical error followed, when the decision to go for 2, which failed, would leave the Beavers is a disadvantaged position later in the game.
Oregon’s CJ Verdell left the game early in the 3rd quarter, feeling the effects of an earlier big hit that was reviewed for targeting, and correctly deemed to not be, but was never the less jarring. Travis Dye took over effectively though, and 15 & 26 yard runs keyed a Duck drive that culminated with Shough’s touchdown toss to Hunter Kampmoyer for a 31-19 lead.
Oregon State answered with a 92 yard drive, as balanced running by Jefferson and passing by Gebbia kept Oregon’s defense on their heels. Gebbia capped the drive with a 1 yard plunge, and the Beavers had pulled within 31-26 a minute and half into the 4th quarter.
Nashon Wright picked off Shough 2 plays later, and the short field that resulted resulted in a 2 play scoring drive. Gebbia found Kolby Taylor for 31 yards, down to the 2 yard line, and Jefferson powered in to put the Beavers ahead 34-31, and give Oregon State their first 4th quarter lead against Oregon since their win in 2016, and only their second such last quarter lead in a decade against the Ducks.
15th ranked Oregon was anything but finished though, and used a penalty on Oregon State for a hit out of bounds to spark a 75 yard drive to retake the lead 38-34 with 8 ½ minutes in the game.
Oregon State ate up most of the rest of the 4th quarter driving to the Oregon 15, but because of the extra point not kicked early in the 3rd quarter, kicking a game tieing field goal that might at least force overtime wasn’t an option when 4th down arose, and an incomplete pass left the Beavers still behind, with just over 2 minutes to go.
The Beaver defense rose up and forced a 3 and punt though, giving them another shot at a game winning score. And it was an excellent shot, starting nearly at midfield.
In the course of that drive, Oregon’s star linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux went down.
Jefferson set the Beavers up at the Duck 2 yard line with 40 seconds left, and Gebbia came close to twisting in for the go ahead score on the next play.
A series of reviews and time outs ultimately determined that Gebbia was just short, and there really was nothing to base overturning the call on.
On 3rd down, Gebbia clearly came up inches short, and worse, hobbled half way off the field before going down.
Enter Chance Nolan. Oregon jumped off side on the first try at 4th down, which cost them essentially nothing.
But on the next try, Nolan, the JC transfer backup quarterback taking his first FBS snap, drove straight ahead for the go ahead touchdown.
“How ‘bout that?,” Smith said . “Chance Nolan goes in for his first play, probably the biggest play of the game, and he gets it done.”
With 33 seconds left, the drama was far from over though. Hayes’ extra point was hooked wide left, which would still leave Oregon State vulnerable to losing the game on a field goal, as the lost point early in the half yet again appeared to loom large.
But yet another off-side penalty on Oregon afforded Hayes another opportunity, which he drilled through the mist for a 41-38 lead.
Oregon’s effort to try to rally ended on a 4th down play that would have picked up a first down, but came so late the series of laterals had to happen, and that ultimately ended in a fumble Alex Austin recovered to end the 3 hour, 45 minute instant classic. Some of the cardboard fan cutouts in the otherwise empty Reser Stadium even tried to rush the field after the win in the third, and possibly final home game of the season, pending 7th week scheduling in this abbreviated season.
“Today, we didn’t do enough,” Oregon Head Coach Mario Crystobal said.
Jefferson, above, set a new Oregon State rushing record against Oregon when he hit the 193 yard mark, on his way to a 226 yard total, a new record in the Rivalry series for any player from either team. (Review the list of legendary backs for both the Ducks and Beavers that have played in the 124 year history of the series and the significance of that really gives one an appreciation for it.)
Dye led Oregon, with 93 yards on 12 carries, mostly in relief of Verdell.
Shough completed 20 of 31 passes, for a game high 285 yards, and 2 touchdowns, but he also tossed 2 interceptions.
Gebbia completed 23 of 37 passes, for 263 yards, and a touchdown, and notably, no turnovers. This after completing only 7 of 15 passes in the first half, for only 81 yards.
Bradford had a game high 8 catches, for 93 yards, and Taylor had 7 catches, for a game high 114 yards.
Johnny Johnson III had 5 catches for 50 yards for Oregon, and Williams had a team high 101 yards, on just 4 grabs.
Oregon State linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray had a career-high 3½ tackles for loss, and a s a sack. Avery Roberts had 5 solo tackles and 12 total.
Thibodeaux had 7 tackles and a sack for Oregon, and Isaac Slade-Matautia had a game high 9 solo tackes, and 12 total, for the Ducks.
Gebbia’s injury as reported by Coach Smith to appear to be a hamstring issue. Gebbia was on crutches by the time the victory celebration was underway. HIs status for next week against Utah, and for the rest of the season, for that matter, is unknown, and will be hopefully determined some time next week.
Oregon State was without five players, including starting right guard Nous Keobounnam, due to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
The win improved Oregon State to 2-2, and was just their second over Oregon in the last 13 meetings. The Beavers will take a 2 game winning streak to Salt Lake City next Saturday, Covid testing willing. Utah takess on Washington in Seattle tomorrow in their second game of the season.