Oregon State (2-3, 1-1 Pac-12) defeated the UCLA Bruins (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12) by a score of 48-31 in front of 48,532 in the Rose Bowl.
The Beavers never trailed and earned their first conference win of the season. It is Jonathan Smith’s second career conference victory as Oregon State head coach.
Here are some takeaways from the game:
1. A Perfect Start
Oregon State held a 21-0 lead after only 6:01 minutes of play. Luton had two touchdown passes, Pierce ran all over UCLA, the defense stopped the Bruins on fourth down and the Beavers even recovered a dropkick kickoff taking advantage of a UCLA penalty. The Beavers came out as the aggressor and dominated the line of scrimmage while digging a hole for UCLA to climb out of.
2. Running the ball early is key
To get that early lead, the Beavs repeatedly utilized the run game to move the chains. With Jermar Jefferson battling an ankle injury, Artavis Pierce got the start in his place. He entered the contest leading the Pac-12 in yards per carry at 8.4. He will leave Pasadena with that distinction in tact. His 53 yard run in the second quarter will stand out on the stat sheet, but he ran well past the line of scrimmage on the majority of his carries. When the Beavers can run the ball this effectively, it forces the defense to put more men near the line of scrimmage which opens up the passing game.
3. Isaiah Hodgins is a cheatcode
Isaiah Hodgins entered Saturday’s contest leading the Pac-12 in receiving yards, yards per game, and receptions per game. It didn’t take long for him to leave where he left off. Hodgins had two touchdowns in the first half to lead the Beavers to a 27-7 lead following his second score.
If the Beavers need a play, Hodgins will deliver. For his first score, Luton threw a fade in the end zone where Hodgins' size was no match for the defender. In the third quarter, in response to a UCLA kickoff return for a touchdown, Hodgins came down with an acrobatic sideline catch to move the chains. He’d cap off that drive with his third touchdown of the night.
Having a player like Hodgins, who is arguably the best receiver in the Pac-12, allows the Oregon State offense to flourish despite playing at a talent disadvantage, which they do in most conference games. The Beavers had better utilize him constantly while they can because he may be playing on Sundays this time next year.
4. Smith is leading real progress
A week following a heartbreaking loss to the Stanford Cardinal at home, Smith preached that his team was making progress when asked what it takes for a team to learn how to win. The Beavers backed up that claim today.
From the first snap, the Beavers played with tenacity that resulted in dominating the Bruins on the road. The Beavers could have rolled over away from home, and previous teams may have done just that, but this team has worked hard and bought into the process implemented by Smith and his staff.
In just 17 games, Smith has an efficient offense that can score frequently and a defense that has improved massively from the end of the Gary Andersen era. Showings like tonight act as proof that progress is being made and makes Oregon State a more attractive playing destination for potential recruits. If the Beavs can translate progress showed today to landing some more talented recruits, then a bowl game is only a matter of time.