'Not the Game One we wanted'
CORVALLIS — Oregon State's defense — replenished with transfers, bolstered by game experience for returning veterans and hopeful that a new season would display growth after a woeful 2018 campaign — didn't pass the eye test Friday night at Reser Stadium.
The statistics were downright ugly, too.
Oklahoma State ran up 30 first downs, 555 yards total offense and 352 yards rushing while drilling the Beavers 52-36 in the season opener for both schools.
A year ago, Oregon State opponents averaged 45.7 points, 536.8 yards total offense and 281.8 yards rushing offense, ranking next to last among the nation's 129 FBS schools in each category.
On Friday night, the Cowboys eclipsed all of those numbers against the new and not seemingly improved Beaver 'D,' scoring points on their first seven possessions.
"Not the Game One we wanted," said coach Jonathan Smith as Oregon State began Year Two of his tenure with half a good performance.
The offense accomplished enough to win, with 26 first downs and 448 yards (281 through the air). It wasn't nearly enough on a night when the Beavers' defense was like a welcome wagon to strangers passing through town for the first time.
Oklahoma State put on an offensive clinic, with quarterback Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace all tripping the light fantastic.
Sanders — a redshirt freshman in his college debut — completed 19 of 24 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and ran for 109 yards on 13 carries. Coach Mike Gundy didn't reveal whether Sanders or grad transfer Dru Brown from Hawaii would start until just before game time and had indicated both would play. But Sanders went all but the final offensive series.
"Once he started playing good, we just rode that wave," Gundy said. "He handled the game really well. He was never flustered. For his first time out, he played pretty well."
So did Hubbard, a 6-1, 205-pound sophomore who sliced through the Oregon State defense for a career-high 221 yards and three TDs in 26 carries.
The Cowboys didn't need to pass often, but Wallace kept the Oregon State defense honest by catching five passes for 92 yards and two scores.
Not even a faulty press-box elevator could slow down the Oklahoma State offense. Several of the team's coaches, including offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson, were stuck in the elevator for several minutes as they tried to return to the coaches' booth after halftime. No problem at all; the Cowboys drove 75 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown with the opening possession of the third quarter while several of their coaches idled in space.
"It was earth to Houston; Houston to earth," Gundy said. "(Receivers coach Kasey) Dunn called the plays on the opening drive, because nobody was up there."
Last season, Oregon State created eight turnovers and registered 15 sacks, both among the lowest in the FBS ranks. The defensive goals Friday night: more turnovers, more sacks and something under 200 yards rushing by the opponent.
The Cowboys had no turnovers. Oregon State got pressure to Sanders at times but sacked him only once.
"And you're not going to win a bunch of games when you give up 350 yards rushing," Smith said.
To be fair, Luton was sacked only once, too, and the Beavers had no giveaways. Luton connected on 23 of 42 passes for 251 yards and three TDs, with his favorite target — junior Isaiah Hodgins — hauling in nine receptions for 170 yards and two scores. Jermar Jefferson had a decent game, carrying 16 times for 87 yards. And the Beavers' offensive line, playing for the first time as a unit, did a solid job.
Oregon State got off to a good start, too, moving 70 yards in six plays with the opening possession, Hodgins scoring on a 29-yard aerial for a 7-0 lead.
The Beavers were still ahead, 10-7, after one quarter, then temporarily stalled with three straight three-and-outs.
"We lost some rhythm there for a while," Smith said.
When the smoke cleared, Oklahoma State had run off 24 straight points for a 31-10 lead. The difference was 45-23 after three quarters, and the Beavers never seriously threatened to win.
Oregon State's defense made some good plays. The Beavers had nine tackles-for-loss, a figure they reached in only one game last season.
"We showed some flashes," senior linebacker Shemar Smith said.
Oklahoma State was 10 for 13, however, on third-down conversions — six of the makes on third-and-6 or longer.
"We were getting them to third down, but to not get them off the field on third down made the difference with us," said Oregon State linebacker Addison Gumbs, the sophomore transfer from Oklahoma.
Said Smith: "Third-down defense just killed us. That makes it really tough."
Smith said the Cowboys' offensive success was a combination of their good play and Oregon State's defensive miscues.
"That's a good offensive team," the Oregon State coach said. "They've been good for years over there. We had opportunities to get off the field, and we didn't do it. They're pretty good, and we need to improve."
Asked for an explanation for Oregon State's poor defensive play, Smith offered that the Beavers hadn't done "live tackling through (training) camp." The Cowboys did little or none of that either, and they tackled "pretty good for a first game," Gundy said.
Gundy seemed reluctant to comment when asked for his evaluation of Oregon State's progress under Smith.
"He's in his second year," said Gundy, who has taken Oklahoma State to bowl games 13 straight years. "From the outside looking in ... it takes a lot of work to be successful here.
"They had a really good plan offensively in the first quarter and a half, which is a sign of a staff that knows what they're doing. Defensively, they had a good plan, too. We were able to expose them at times with their skill players, but their plan was good, the way they came into the game. They were bringing pressure on early downs and trying to confuse Spencer. But it takes time. It's just not going to happen overnight."
Oregon State's performance Friday night "was not good enough," Luton said.
"If we want to win games, we have to play better on both sides of the ball," the senior quarterback said. "We can't have three drives in a row where we stall out."
The defensive side, though, is where strides really need to be made.
"I don't feel like we're too far off from having a good game," Gumbs said. "I still feel we're a good defense. We didn't come out and show it tonight. I still believe in the guys in the locker room. We'll bounce back next week against Hawaii."
NOTES — Oregon State was without its leading tackler of a year ago, senior safety Jalen Moore (hamstring), and its No. 2 receiver, senior Trevon Bradford (foot). ... Safety Shawn Wilson led Oregon State with 12 tackles. ... Backup QB Tristan Gebbia entered on Oregon State's final offensive series and took the Beavers to a touchdown, hitting Kolby Taylor for five yards and the score. Gebbia was 3 for 7 passing for 30 yards. ... True freshmen Jojo Forest (cornerback) and Omar Speights (linebacker) saw extensive duty, making five and four tackles, respectively. ... Oregon State's Daniel Rodriguez punted superbly, averaging 47.8 yards on four punts with four yards on returns. ... The Beavers were 13 for 20 on third-down conversions. ... Oregon State scored in the closing seconds of the first half to draw within 31-16. Smith then chose to go for the two-point conversion; Luton's pass failed. "We were looking where the score was going and trying to find ways to get an extra point or two," Smith said. Presumably, the coach meant the Beavers needed every point they could get with the way the Cowboys were piling up points of their own.
The 6-7, 225-pound Luton scrambled four times for 17 yards, twice going for first downs on third-down plays. "I'm never going to be a dual-threat quarterback, but if (the opponent is) not respecting the quarterback and not containing, that's something we have to be able to do," he said. ... Hodgins talked about keeping a positive attitude in the Oregon State locker room. "We have to make sure we don't have the same issues we had last year — snowballing downhill, and guys hanging their heads after one loss," he said. "We can't dwell on one game. We have to keep pushing and attacking every week." ... Gundy didn't seem to enjoy his visit to the rural outpost of Corvallis: "This is not an easy place to get to to play a game. It's a long ways out here. It was an hour and 35-minute drive from our hotel getting in here." Presumably, Stillwater, Oklahoma, is located much closer to civilization.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Oklahoma State 7 24 14 7 — 52
Oregon State 10 6 7 13 — 36
OREGON STATE — Isaiah Hodgins 29 pass from Jake Luton (Jordon Choukair kick) 13:06
OKLAHOMA STATE — Chuba Hubbard 6 run (Matt Ammendola kick) 9:13
OREGON STATE — Choukair 30 FG 11 3:42
OKLAHOMA STATE — Ammendola 23 FG 13:33
OKLAHOMA STATE — LD Brown 7 run (Ammendola kick) 9:41
OKLAHOMA STATE — Tylon Wallace 36 pass from Spencer Sanders (Ammendola kick) 8:15
OKLAHOMA STATE — Wallace 21 pass from Sanders (Ammendola kick) 2:02
OREGON STATE — Tyjon Lindsey 1 pass from Luton (pass failed) :03
OKLAHOMA STATE — Hubbard 2 run (Ammendola kick) 12:20
OREGON STATE — Hodgins 10 pass from Luton (Choukair kick) 5:10
OKLAHOMA STATE — Hubbard 53 run (Ammendola kick) 7:54
OREGON STATE — Jack Colletto 1 run (pass failed) 13:08
OKLAHOMA STATE — C.J. Moore 11 pass from Sanders (Ammendola kick) 9:39
OREGON STATE — Kolby Taylor 5 pass from Tristan Gebbia (Choukair kick) 1:19
Attendance — 31,681
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.