CORVALLIS – The centerpiece of Homecoming 2021 football in Oregon State had enough to evoke memories for OSU alumni of all eras.
If you were on campus from the 1970s to the 1990s, there was the Beavers’ first eight minutes against Utah, when a load of blunders recalled some of the worst moments in a 28-game losing streak.
Saturday’s second half at Reser Stadium seemed familiar to those in the Rose Bowl and Giant Killer seasons of the 1950s and 1960s, or 1999 to 2013, when OSU rose to 11 bowls in 15 seasons. And that was enough for the Beavers to beat the Utes, 42-34, in a match between the North Division co-leader of the Pac-12 against the leader of the South Division.
âIt was kind of a two-halves story,â OSU head coach Jonathan Smith said. âI just thought these guys played four quarters. We talk about it a lot. Its not always easy. It wasn’t a perfect football game, especially this first half.
Considering the way things started for the Beavers, this was an unlikely outcome.
âI was like, ‘Okay, how did we come out like this?’â Said Smith. “I was thinking about the schedule we had during the week off, and we insisted on that, as well as the speed of play and the quality in all three phases.”
Offensive, defensive and special teams all contributed to the Beavers’ 14-0 delay midway through the first quarter.
The defense gave up a long shot on the first possession, kept alive by a pass interference penalty on the third down; an ill-advised kick-off return with a penalty allowed OSU to begin their first practice on their own 10-yard line. The Oregon State’s first series lost 9 yards and resulted in a fumble that the Beavers were lucky enough to recover on their 1.
A weak snap on the resulting punt resulted in a short field for Utah, which led for another touchdown. The score came on a game where Utah tight end Brent Kuithe had much of the 97331 zip code to himself due to blown coverage and it was 14-0 with 7:19 to go in the first quarter.
âSo that’s what I was thinking, it was ‘How did we get to the point where we start this way?’â Said Smith. âI was thinking about the schedule we had (during the week off). And believe me, we’ll be rehashing that as staff tomorrow.
âLook, none of these games are going to be a perfect football game, but starting like that wasn’t good. But I give credit: it’s not always easy to answer after a start like this.
Oregon State scored in their next two possessions, sandwiched around a Utah basket, to be 17-14. Momentum picked up for the Beavers when they retained a fourth and a goal from their 2, Julian Alton coaching Kuithe to 1.
With a lead chance for the lead, OSU quarterback Chance Nolan rushed to the left and, carrying the ball away from his body, groped; the ball was initially ruled out of bounds, but upon examination, Junior Tafuna of Utah had it locked just inside the sideline at OSU 19.
It took three games for Utah to score, putting the Beavers back in a two-run hole at 24-14 at halftime.
“We came in and kind of regrouped at half time, and then I think the first possession in the second half was a huge momentum factor, so we could get the score and then be in range, then the defense comes up with a huge save and a punt block for a touchdown, âSmith said.
The clearance block that gave OSU their first lead came midway through the third quarter when Luke Musgrave and Riley Sharp both got their hands on Cameron Peasley’s kick, then Musgrave found the ball bouncing and the returned 27 yards for a touchdown that put OSU up 28-24.
âWe were training all week,â said Musgrave. âCoach (Jake) Cookus kind of planned this game plan and we knew it had the potential to work, and it worked and we ended up hitting a touchdown.
âOnce I felt the ball hit my hand, I knew it had to be somewhere. So I went to get it, I found it, and I was able to return it.
Musgrave, a tight end, didn’t expect to score his first college touchdown this way.
“No,” he said. “But that’s how it turned out and I couldn’t be happier.”
With the win, Oregon State is one win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.
âIt’s pretty cool,â Trevon Bradford said. “What are we, 5-2 now?” We feel good, but you just have to take one game at a time. We still have business to settle.
BLOCKED, OR MAY NOT BE: Oregon State blocked a pair of Utah punters but ultimately only got one. After the runner-up, returned by Omar Speights to Ute’s 11-yard line, OSU was penalized for illegal equipment because he had two players wearing No.8 shirts on the field.
One was Bradford, the turner. The other was defensive back Elijah Jones; he was in the field for the punt return unit in place of Jaydon Grant, who was sent off for aiming in the second half, and Alton Julian, who was injured in the first half. OSU coaches failed to perform the duplication when Jones was pushed into the unit, resulting in the penalty.
The Utes were without long snapper Keegan Markgraf, who suffered a season-ending injury in last week’s win over Arizona State. Substitute JT Greep wasn’t to blame for the blocks; Smith attributed the successes to the rush program devised by special teams coach Cookus.
TRANSMIT IT: Oregon State’s play appeal still leaned heavily towards running, but Nolan has shown efficiency in his first three games after struggling in his last two. In a win over Washington and a loss to Washington State, Nolan had a combined 18 for 51 for 206 yards without touchdowns and three interceptions.
Against Utah, Nolan was 14 for 19 for 208 yards and two touchdowns without interception. This gave OSU a somewhat balanced attack, with his 260 rushing yards.
âWe just made the plays when the plays came our way,â said Bradford, who had a team-high six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. âThe last two games he (Nolan) delivers the ball very well. We know that when he has the opportunity to throw the ball, he’s going to deliver the ball.
Smith felt that Nolan made some good shots in the first half but left some potential wins on the table, but the second half was another story.
âIt was the luck we knew (in the first four games),â said Smith. âHuge conversions in the third down. We’re supported and he throws the road to (Tre’Shaun Harrison, for 54 yards late in the game), that was a big shot.
OSU handyman linebacker / quarterback Jack Colletto got one of the first-half receptions for a one-yard touchdown. It was his first career catch.
DEFENSE PROVIDES: Oregon State entered the game last in the Pac-12 (48.9%), allowing opponents to convert third downs to first downs. Utah’s 7-for-15 score won’t help that number, but in the second half OSU improved from their 6-for-9 mark in the first half and made some huge saves in the second half. the last part.
The Beavers stopped Utah on a fourth and a goal in the first half, then did even better in the second half. After the Utes scored in the third quarter to lead 31-28, their subsequent possessions resulted in a missed field goal and another stoppage on fourth and base when defensive back Alex Austin interrupted a pass on the goal line,
At that point, OSU was leading 42-31 in a game that looked like the team that could find a save or two would be the winner.
âFold, don’t break,â OSU linebacker Avery Roberts said. âIt’s a good team, they are going to play. Just keep them out of the end zone. Make them keep slamming the ball and eventually things will go our way and they did. “
Roberts – who seems to be used to big games against Utah, including 21 tackles last season – finished with 16 tackles.
âThey’re running the ball,â Roberts said of the Utes. “The teams running the ball, you’re going to have the chance to make a lot of plays.”
CROWD CONTRIBUTION: Last week, Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham gave Salt Lake City media his take on the Reser Stadium tour.
âYou usually have a pretty loud crowd. It’s just an environment that is generally one of the hardest places to play in the Pac-12, âsaid Whittingham. “Other than the fans and the general environment, I don’t have a good answer for you, but it turned out to be a tough place.”
It took a while to get to that point, but Whittingham probably felt the same on Saturday.
The heralded crowd of 30,203 found their voice when the Beavers returned to the game in the first half, then Smith felt they were all set when OSU took their first lead on the return from a punt. Clearance blocked by Musgrave for a touchdown.
âI thought our home crowd made the difference in the second half,â said Smith. âThe noise of the crowd, the energy, we got third tries from our defense in the second half. It all kind of came together.
BONUS POINTS: Oregon State now leads the all-time series with Utah 12-11-1, including a 6-4-1 mark at Corvallis. The victory ended a five-game losing streak against the Utesâ¦ OSU running back BJ Baylor ran for 152 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. It was his fourth straight 100-yard game and he’s now amassed 830 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Baylor’s 68-yard run in the second quarter was the longest of his career … before kick-off there was a moment of silence for Aaron Lowe, a Utah player who was killed in the match. ‘a shooting in Salt Lake City in September. Earlier, OSU officials dropped a bouquet of roses at the 22-yard line next to the Utah sideline to honor Lowe’s No.22 jersey.
Oregon State wide receiver Anthony Gould (15) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the NCAA team’s college football game against Utah on Saturday October 23, 2021 in Corvallis, Oregon ( AP Photo / Amanda Loman)