The ending of the season has to sting, but it shouldn’t sting for long.
Yes, the Beavers did not qualify for a bowl game continuing a six-year bowl drought despite needing just one more victory in the final two games. But, think back to your expectations for the year, did you really expect to be in this position?
OSU was considered one of the worst teams in Division I football by some, but had the ball down just a touchdown with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter in Autzen Stadium needing one more win to be bowl eligible. If you had told any Beavers fan this situation at the beginning of the season, or even after losing at Hawai’i, any rational fan would have been thrilled.
Head coach Jonathan Smith has exceeded every expectation for the program so far. Just two years removed from a 1-11 season (with their lone win being a nailbiter over Portland State), to being one more goalline stop in Pullman and a touchdown tying drive away from going bowling..?
The Beavers’ win total over/under was 2.5, and they nearly doubled that. They earned five wins despite losing very winnable games against Hawai’i, Stanford, and Washington State. This Beavers team could have easily been 8-4.
Smith, and offensive coordinator Brian Lungren, installed an offense that put their best players in positions to succeed. Senior quarterback Jake Luton had easily his best career season being among the nation’s leaders in touchdown to interception ratio, as did senior running back Artavis Pierce and junior wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins. Hodgins even got named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award: An award given to the nation’s most prolific wide receiver.
The defense also showed immense improvement highlighted by Hamilcar Rashed, Jr., who entered the Civil War leading the conference in sacks and tackles-for-loss. The same defense that got lit up by Hawai’i held the Ducks 21st ranked offense to just 10 points heading into the fourth quarter. The same defense balled out against Washington keeping them in the game as long as possible. Those two teams were widely expected to dominate the Pac-12 North, according to the preseason media poll, and the Beavers hung with both of them.
Smith has the players believing in themselves and they’re playing like they belong on the field with whoever they face. Before running onto the field for the Civil War, the Beavers chanted “We all we got! We all we need!” Then they stepped onto a field where the home never lost this season, and gave the 14th ranked team in the country a scare with their backup quarterback, Tristan Gebbia.
That back-up quarterback? He looked good, too. And he’ll be back next season as the presumed starter with an entire offseason under his belt, gaining chemistry with his receivers and becoming more knowledgeable of the playbook.
Hodgins and Rashed, Jr. may also return, hungry to finally play in a bowl game. If they do return, a bowl game should be the expectation going into next season. With Smith’s rehaul of the Beavers’ culture, I think it’d even be likely.
As the team hangs around for more games, they’ll gain the experience needed to close out games. They did just that this season against Arizona State converting a fourth and short to ice the game.
There's a lot to be optimisitc about if you're a Beaver fan.