No. 17 Oregon State dominates Florida to win Las Vegas Bowl
LAS VEGAS - The only uncertainty Saturday was whether No. 17 Oregon State would shut out Florida and end the nation’s longest scoring streak.
Adam Mihalek’s 40-yard field goal with 37 seconds left finally put the Gators on the scoreboard, one of Oregon State’s few disappointments in an otherwise dominant 30-3 Las Vegas Bowl victory.
The Beavers reached 10 victories for the third time program history and the first time in 16 years. They first accomplished the feat in 2000, when coach Jonathan Smith was the team’s quarterback.
Oregon State went 2-10 in 2018, Smith’s first season.
“If you were to look back five years ago and say, `Hey, you guys are going to have a 10-win season, win the Las Vegas bowl and beat an SEC team,’ there’ll be a lot of people laughing at us,” Oregon State linebacker Jack Colletto said. “But yet we ultimately were able to execute and do it. So five years from now, who knows where we can be?”
Oregon State (10-3) won seven of its final eight games, taking control early in the third quarter by going up 17-0. The only real question was whether Florida would keep its NCAA-record scoring streak intact. The Gators last were shut out in 1988, a span of 436 games and 57 games longer than any other team.
Mihalek’s field goal ensured it would keep going.
This was the first start for Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Miller, and it showed. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 180 yards. Miller, an Ohio State transfer, was elevated to the starting lineup when Anthony Richardson declared for the NFL draft and backup Jalen Kitna was arrested on child pornography charges.
The Gators closed their first season under coach Billy Napier with three consecutive losses. This also was their second 6-7 record in a row.
“It’s my job to have the team ready to play,” Napier said. “We were not as ready to play as we needed to be.”
Running back Deshaun Fenwick was ready when called upon, rushing for 107 yards. He took up the load when Pac-12 Conference offensive freshman of the year Damien Martinez went out with an apparent shoulder injury on the Beavers’ second drive.
Martinez had rushed for at least 100 yards in six consecutive games and needed just 30 yards to become the fourth freshman in program history to gain 1,000 for the season. He had 12 yards on three carries before the injury.
The game always figured to be won on the ground in some manner.
Florida was 16th in the nation with 213.7 yards rushing per game, but Oregon State also had the 20th-best rush defense in allowing a 114-yard average. This was the fifth time the Beavers didn’t allow an opponent to rush for 100 yards, holding the Gators to 39.
Oregon State allowed just 219 yards while gaining 353.
“We finished obviously the way we wanted to defensively throughout the night,” Smith said. “You wanted to take away the run game and make it hard for them.”
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In his final Oregon State game, Colletto converted a fake punt into a first down, blocked a punt, rushed another time for 6 yards and made four tackles.
“We’re going to have to replace him with maybe three or four guys,” Smith said of the senior.
Beavers starting quarterback Ben Gulbranson was told before the game that Tristan Gebbia would get at least two series. Gulbranson didn’t let the decision faze him, completing 12 of 19 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. He was named game MVP.
“He’s helped me out so much throughout this journey,” Gulbranson said of Gebbia. “He’s a great guy. He’s our captain of the team, and he’s going to be a hell of a coach. I would love to play for him when he pursues his coaching career.”
Florida committed 11 penalties for 82 yards, including six for false starts. Back-to-back false starts wiped out a potential touchdown drive in the first quarter.
“I don’t know if we’ve had that many in an entire season, much less one game,” Napier said. “We lived in third-and-long today as a result of inefficiency, missed opportunities, penalties. When you live in third-and-long, your percentages of having success are not good.”
Florida: The Gators get tested right away at the start of next season with a trip to Pac-12 Conference champion Utah. Florida beat the Utes at home, 29-26, to open this season. Florida will have a much different roster next season, so that game will be the first opportunity to see where the Gators line up in Napier’s building plan.
Oregon State: The Beavers have what could be a tricky opening game at San Jose State, which is 7-4 and plays in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Tuesday. Oregon State, though, needs to show right away that its success this season is a sign of what’s to come and not just a blip.