CORVALLIS – For a team hungry for a home Pac-12 win, on a night when one of its greatest coaches was on hand and several of its outstanding players from the past were there, the Oregon State Beavers missed a golden opportunity to pull off an upset of Stanford.
So many mistakes. All over the place. And it cost OSU a 31-28 loss in which it out-rushed and out-passed the Cardinal.
Mistakes? Well, one of the biggest ones came in the fourth quarter with Oregon State in the midst of a comeback from three touchdowns behind. The Cardinal had to settle for a 46-yard field goal, which Jet Toner made. That would have worked out OK for the Beavers as the game turned out. But OSU was called for a personal foul on the kick, as Hamilcar Rashed Jr. was flagged for jumping on the back of a player in an effort to block the kick.
Stanford elected to take the three points off the board, accept the penalty and then scored two plays later. Three points subtracted, seven points added and a net gain of four points. And, of course, the Cardinal won by three.
But there were plenty of other miscues, too.
The Beavers had seven penalties for 56 yards and it seemed as if they all came at crucial times. They also allowed Stanford to convert several third-and-long attempts, including three on the same drive in the first half.
“Details,” Coach Jonathan Smith said afterwards. “We have to take care of those things.”
If you would have told Smith prior to the game that his team would roll up 64 more net rushing yards than Stanford and outpass them 337-253, I’m pretty sure he’d have believed he was going to win the game.
And the Beavers could have.
Jake Luton hit 27 of his 39 passes for 337 yards and a touchdown and Isaiah Hodgins caught 10 of them for 162 yards, including a beauty in the end zone.
The Beavers scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the last one gave them a 28-28 tie with 1:55 to play and Stanford with no timeouts left.
But what’s the worst possible thing that can happen in that situation?
Correct, a long kickoff return. Connor Wedington returned the ensuing kick 43 yards to midfield and Stanford was in business.
Davis Mills, who had a solid game at quarterback in place of injured starter K.J. Costello, completed an 18-yard pass on first down and then scrambled for 16 yards one play later to set up Toner’s game-winning field goal – a 39-yarder with just a second showing on the clock.
OSU suffered through a miserable first half that saw them looking up at a 21-0 deficit.
“It’s closer but not where we want to be,” Smith said of the final verdict. “It wasn’t enough. Obviously, very disappointing.”
Former Beaver head coach Dennis Erickson, whom Oregon State honored during the game for his induction into the college football Hall of Fame, did his share of turning programs around in his long career, and he is convinced it's going to happen at Oregon State.
“They hired the right guy,” Erickson said before the game. “But people have to understand it takes time.”