The Oregon State Beavers are living an unfortunate reality. A reality that really just feels more like Déjà vu. It's a new season, but it's the same old story.
The Beavers hoped that 2020 would prove to be the year that all the pieces fell into place and that the rebuild under Jonathan Smith proved its worth. Instead, the Beavers started 2020 by stumbling out of the gate against the Cougars.
Now, this was not the Cougars we have come to know over the years. Mike Leach is gone, and so too is the air-raid offense. The Cougars came to Corvallis missing their best offensive player, starting a freshman quarterback, and with a coach making his debut in the Pac-12.
But the Cougars didn't look like a team in their first game under a new regime. No, they looked like a team that was starting year three of their rebuild and retool, while the Beavers looked like the rebuild had just begun.
After the game, Coach Smith talked about how disappointing it was to go out there and lose. "You wanna come out and win games, and we didn't do that tonight," said Smith. "It took us a while to get any kind of rhythm going offensively in the first half... and even at the start of the second half."
The Beavers offense struggled from the jump. They punted on their first four possessions of the game, as well as their first two of the second half.
It wasn't until midway through the third quarter that the offense started to roll. But there are four quarters in a game and you can't afford to take half of them off.
The thing is, they showed glimpses of how good they can be.
Jermar Jefferson is arguably one of the best running backs in the country. On the night he rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns.
Wide receivers Kolby Taylor, Zeriah Beason, and Trevon Bradford proved they could be effective weapons, and tight end Luke Musgrave showed he was more than capable of filling in for the recently departed Noah Togiai.
Even quarterback Tristan Gebbia showed flashes, making some key passes in the final quarter to give Oregon State a chance.
The unfortunate part is Oregon State should be past this. They should be past thinking about the future and seeing glimpses. They should be seeing years of work pay off in wins on the field.
Right now, it's just not happening.
Now, this all sounds harsh, but let us be clear - the road this season was never going be easy.
COVID-19 has limited the amount of time at and drastically altered practice. Outside of practice, it also altered the schedule. The Beavers will only play Pac-12 opponents this season. There will be no three-game "pre-season" to warm up. No Portland States taking the trip to Corvallis so the Beavers can tune-up. No Cal Poly to get a dub on the board.
Rather, the Beavers were thrown right into the fire. Right into Pac-12 play. Right into a bump in the road.
This is really less of a season three under Coach Smith and more liked a season 2.5, to be honest. That being said, the road only gets rougher from her for Oregon State. They still have the Huskies, Golden Bears, Ducks, Utes, and Cardinal on the schedule.
If the Beavers offense that we saw in the final 12 minutes against WSU shows up for the rest of the season, the Beavers can win games. If not, and the defense doesn't fix the issues it showed on Saturday, the Beavers are in for another long season... even if it's a short one.