1. The Beavers could very easily be 3-1
I have to admit that Saturday's Oregon State football game was a little bizarre. For the first time that anyone could remember, a game at Reser Stadium was delayed because of lightning. It turns out the delay was just 15 minutes but the Band's pregame show and National Anthem performance were scratched. Add to it, the heartbreaking 31-28 loss to the Cardinal was so similar to the 31-28 loss to Hawaii.
In Hawaii, the Beavers scored 28 first half points and then were held scoreless in the second half at Aloha Stadium. In the Stanford game....the Beavers were shutout in the first half and then scored 28 points in the second half. Key mistakes cost the Beavers in both games that were winnable So, after four games the Beavers sit at 1-3, but they very easily be 3-1. That, no doubt, is frustrating for the coaches, players and Beaver Nation.
2. Special teams are not special so far
Special team gaffs really hurt Oregon State against Stanford. After scoring four touchdowns on their last four possessions, the Beavers had tied the game at 28-28. With 1:55 to go in the contest, overtime was on the horizon. But, Connor Washington fielded a short kick and returned it to midfield. Oregon State's containment broke down and gave Stanford excellent field position. After the game, Coach Jonathan Smith told me:
I gotta watch the tape but it looked like we lost containment and obviously it was a huge factor in the game. We were 0 for 2 on Field Goal attempts and had one blocked and that was the difference in the game.
Add to it, a personal foul which cancelled a Stanford field goal and led to a trick play touchdown for the Cardinal, the Beavers dug themselves a 28-14 hole that they did dig themselves out of, but, it was another special teams mistake was critical.
Overall, I think the special teams play has been pretty good, but, to break through and win they can't make critical mistakes at key moments in the game.
3. The defense is so much better
The losses are hard to take especially when you play well enough to win. Stats can lie, at times, but, you have to like the way the Oregon State defense is trending.
Stanford had 353 total yards.
They averaged 3.2 yards per rush.
That is half of what the Beavers gave up last season. That is a real improvement.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. was causing Stanford headaches all game long and added eight tackles, two sacks, and two more tackles for loss.
He told me after the game:
It is definitely frustrating to work so hard to get a win and then stuff doesn't go your way. We gotta pay attention to the little things, the little details and all of the coachable moments that we had. We just gotta follow through and get that win, it's as simple as that.
4. Jake Luton had another solid performance
You can't blame Jake Luton for the loss to Stanford. I do believe he didn't play well in the second half against Hawaii, but, this performance against the Cardinal was impressive.
27 of 39 for 337 yards and a touchdown pass to Isaiah Hodgins. Luton loves that connection. Hodgins was outstanding with 10 receptions for 162 yards and that tremendous one-handed catch.
Jonathan Smith was pleased with Luton's performance which also included 9 for 13 on third down conversions. Smith praised Luton in his conversation with me after the game:
I thought he battled and that was what I really appreciated. In the first half it wasn't tremendous offensively. Protection was a little shaky. He comes back and keeps on going. He saw the field real well all night long. He made some big time throws in the second half to get us back in it.
Learning how to win. That is a big challenge for the Beavers. Improving on the little things that aren't quite in line yet. Playing a solid four quarters. You have to admit they are playing mistake free football. No interceptions and no fumbles once again, despite a wet football at times against Stanford.
The Beavers head to the Rose Bowl and face a UCLA Bruins team that is scuffling after a 20-17 loss to Arizona. The Bruins sit at 1-4. It's another game the Beavers have a chance to win. Let's see if the little things will be addressed and they can get that breakthrough win they want and need.