The 2020 football season has been anything but normal and it has certainly been rough for the Oregon State Beavers.
Week after week the Beaver have found themselves in a position to win a close game.
They had a chance against Washington if not for back-to-back botched spots by the officiating crew.
They had a chance against Utah on the final drive of the game but failed to convert on a fourth down.
On Saturday they had another chance to win the game on the final drive like they did the week before, but once again the Beavers came up short.
The Beavers took over with 1:48 left in the game, down 27-24, and it was time to drive. Quarterback Chance Nolan took the ball and helped the Beavers march right down the field.
With 23 seconds left in the game the Beavers were within field goal range and still had time to tie, but their fortunes changed in an instant.
"We had a screen called and they ran a man scheme," said Nolan about the Beaver final offensive play. "We tried to pump our fake screen to the left and come back and hit our back. They covered it well. I saw the void and I tried to hit it and go get a first down so we could stop the clock."
As Nolan fought for more yards a Stanford defender was able to dislodge the ball and force a fumble.
It was like a movie as the Beavers watched in slow-motion as Stanford recovered the ball and their chance at victory and a winning season slipped away.
After the game head coach Jonathan Smith mentioned the fumble for a breif moment but made sure to point out how important his quarterback was to the Beavers having a chance in the first place.
"Unfortunately we have the one turnover of the game. I will say Chance played with great effort, played well. He made some big-time throws, completed some drives for us."
The performance before the fumble was great for Nolan. He was 17-30 on the night for 221 yard and three touchdowns. It was a dramtic jump from the week before where he struggled in his first start against Utah and looked lost at times.
Last week he looked like the stage was just too big for him. This week, he looked like he was made for the spotlight.
"I think he made a huge jump," said Coach Smith. "You could just feel his comfort level out there. He's moving his feet making some plays with running. Was accurate on some deep ball to stretch the field. I thought he played really, really well."
Nolan noticed the difference, too. The game came to him more naturally against Stanford allowing him to really show Beaver Nation the weapons in his arsenal. Even so, Nolan knows there is room to improve.
"I think the whole game and the speed of the game was slowing down for me a lot... there's a lot of improvement, I feel, on my part from game one but there's still so much I can clean up and be better at for sure going forward."
The fumble hurt. It will haunt Nolan for a long time, but just remember that his improved performance and ability to learn on the fly had Oregon State in a position to win at the end.
He fell short in Utah, he dropped the ball on Saturday, but if he continues to improve like he showed against the Cardinal then the Beavers have a good chance to end the season on a high-note next weekend.
Who and where the Beavers will play next Saturday is unknown, but the conference is expected to announce the matchups Sunday morning.