Beavers say they're back
CORVALLIS — Reflections as Oregon State prepares for its 1:15 p.m. Saturday date with Cal Poly at Reser Stadium ...
• The OSU players say they have recovered from any hangover from last Saturday's 31-28 loss at Hawaii. Tuesday's practice, they say, was proof.
"That game hurts. It's supposed to hurt," senior quarterback Jake Luton said. "We played with a lot of passion, a lot of emotion, and guys were upset about losing. We let it hurt for the trip back (to Oregon), got back out here today and put it behind us. Today was one of the best days of practice we've had all year. We did some really good things, and that's a good sign."
"That's probably the most disappointed and down I've seen our locker room after a game," senior tight end Noah Togiai said. "There was a lot of frustration. But we've gotten past that the last two days. Everybody is ready to work now. Everybody wants to get better.
"We're not going to base our season off the last two games. Everybody is ready to roll."
• From an offensive standpoint, OSU's loss was a tale of two halves.
First half: 16 first downs, 177 yards rushing, 105 yards passing, 282 yards total offense, 28 points.
Second half: eight first downs, 86 yards rushing, 64 yards passing, 150 yards total offense, zero points.
It didn't have to be that way. On three of the Beavers' four possessions in the third quarter, penalties derailed scoring opportunities.
The first possession was quelled when Isaiah Hodgins was called for offensive pass interference while catching a 50-yard pass on a play that would have put the Beavers deep in Hawaii territory.
Next series, they moved to the Rainbow Warriors' 38-yard line, but a holding penalty on center Nous Keobounnam halted momentum. Late in the quarter, Hamilcar Rashed recovered a fumble on the Hawaii 36. On fourth-and-4 at the Warriors' 30, Luton connected with Kolby Taylor for a first down, but it was nullified by a false start by tackle Brandon Kipper.
"All those series, we could have moved into the red zone and gotten some points," OSU offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. "You see how close we were to being able to push through and being able to finish that game.
"We just can't have those mistakes. We have to execute at a higher level. We can't have the penalties. It ended up killing us. Across the board, we were undisciplined with our penalties, and we were unable to execute some of our core concepts that we've been repping since the day we got here, which was very frustrating. We told the guys, we've got to go back to work and clean up the details."
• Luton's individual performance mirrored the team's.
First half: 7 for 13 for 105 yards passing, one touchdown.
Second half: 8 for 19 for 64 yards passing, no touchdowns.
"I felt I did a good job running the offense," Luton said after watching the game video. "I knew what I was supposed to do. But there were a couple of (second-half) throws that I don't miss, ever, and I missed them.
"That sucks. It puts a bad taste in your mouth, but that's football. I'm not going to be perfect. All we can do is keep on working, and that's what were going to do."
"He got hit a little bit in the second half, and he started pressing a little bit," Lindgren said. "Those first three drives, we were moving it, and he was doing some things, and then the penalties forced us back. He was pressing those last couple of drives and got away from taking what the defense gave him and going through his base progressions. I look for him to bounce back this week."
Hodgins has caught 16 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon State's two games. The rest of the wide receiving corps has 17 receptions for 115 yards and two TDs. Is Luton too locked in on his No. 1 receiver?
"A little bit of that," Lindgren said. "There's some good in that, too. He relies on 'Hodge.' Those guys have some great timing. But at the same time, when (opposing defenses) take (Hodgins) away — or if 'Hodge' is No. 3 in the progression and Jake is passing by No. 1 or 2 to go to him — he has to trust what the defense is giving him and make the right play."
The Beavers would like to get more production out of 5-9, 195-pound sophomore Tyjon Lindsey, the transfer from Nebraska who has nine catches for 50 yards and a TD this season. The 2019 debut of senior Trevon Bradford, who has missed the first two games due to a foot injury, would help. Bradford — who caught 56 passes for 649 yards and six scores a year ago — took part in some drills Tuesday and may be nearing a return to active duty.
• Luton, incidentally, is not losing his job after one bad half. Sophomore Tristan Gebbia remains the backup.
"He did some good things in that game," Smith said. "There are some plays he'd like back. That's going to happen. You're not always going to play your best. I feel we have two guys we can score some points with, but we're not ready to all of a sudden say Luton's not the guy."
• Luton was also the victim of some dropped passes by his receivers. The 6-4, 245-pound Togiai, who has five catches for 34 yards in the two games, has multiple drops in both games.
"He has to catch the ball," Smith said. "We threw him a ball over the middle and he drops it. The next play we go to him, he drops the ball. When he gets his number called, he needs to catch that.
"I love Noah — his work ethic, his leadership on this team. We'd like to get some things going to him, but he has to catch it do it."
• After gaining 87 yards on 16 carries in the opener against Oklahoma State, sophomore running back Jermar Jefferson broke loose for 183 yards and a TD on 31 totes against Hawaii.
Backup Artavis Pierce also had an outstanding day, rushing seven times for 79 yards and touchdowns covering 37 and 25 yards.
Third-stringer B.J. Baylor had no rushing attempts.
"We wanted to get Jermar into more of a rhythm," Lindgren said. "It was good. We got him rolling. When he got tired or we had some schemes we like with Artavis, we feel really confident using him. We'd like to continue to find ways to get BJ on the field, but we don't want to take away from the rhythm of Jermar or 'AP.'"
• Smith explained why he chose to use a fake punt play with the score tied 28-28, the Beavers at fourth-and-6 at their 34 and the game clock under five minutes. Daniel Rodriguez's pass sailed over Andre Bodden's head. The Warriors took possession and wound up kicking the game-winning field goal with 2:17 remaining.
"We'd had that play in for a couple of weeks and were executing it really well," OSU's second-year head coach said. "We got the look we wanted -- the corner covering (Bodden) is thinking he's going to run down on punt. He's open, and 'D-Rod' missed him.
"We wanted to err on the side of aggression. I felt confident the way our defense was playing. We got the ball with two minutes and three timeouts left to go do some things. There's risk-reward in this game. We thought we caught them off guard. We did. We didn't execute the play."
It would have taken a near-perfect throw by Rodriguez — who had one pass in his college career — to connect with Bodden, who was double-covered. The risk at that point in the game, at that spot in the field, was greater than the potential reward for the Beavers, who paid the price.
The Beavers still had time for a game-saving drive, and passes of six, 10 and 15 yards got them to the Hawaii 34 with 1:42 to go. They then threw three straight incompletions, and Jordan Choukair's 52-yard field-goal attempt, which had distance, was wide left.
After getting to the 34, and with three timeouts remaining, the Beavers might have gone back to Jefferson for a run or two against a Hawaii defense loosened up by the three straight pass completions. At worst, they'd have gotten a few yards closer for Choukair.
• Oregon State's offensive line will have a different look for Saturday's Cal Poly game — especially in the first half, with senior guard Gus Lavaka serving a suspension for his postgame involvement with a Hawaii player.
Onesimus Clarke, a 6-4, 310-pound sophomore from Waianae, Hawaii, will make his first career start.
"He hasn't played much, but he's been ready to go," offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said. "Since I've gotten here (last season), he has really improved. He has changed his body. He has changed his work ethic. I'm expecting him to go out there and us not miss a beat."
Junior Nathan Eldridge, who made his first start for OSU at center against Hawaii, lasted six snaps before turning an ankle. He'll miss Saturday's game but probably will be back for the next game, at home Sept. 28 in the Pac-12 opener against Stanford. Nous Keobounnam, who started against Oklahoma State and went most of the way against Hawaii, will start against the Mustangs.
"I don't want to call Nous an overachiever, because he has worked hard for everything he's gotten," Michalczik said of Keobounnam, a 6-2, 285-pound junior from Centennial who walked on two years ago under then-coach Gary Andersen.
"We have a bunch of guys who walked on this year, and we tell them, 'We're going to give you every opportunity and we'll treat you exactly the same (as scholarship players),'" Michalczik said. "I don't care if I'm starting five walk-ons, I just want the best guys out there.
"There's so much development that happens with kids on the O-line. You get them when they're 17 (as signees in high school), and they're generally not playing until they're 20. Some of the kids are still growing and developing. I track them year after year and rate them — not only the ones I coached, but the ones who went other places — which were successful and which fade out."
Is it hard to project which high school linemen will make it at the college level?
"Sometimes it is," Michalczik said. "Some guys are obvious to you. I look at it as, what are the odds that this guy becomes a great player? Sometimes the odds are a little longer; sometimes shorter. The bigger part is the mental part — the competitiveness, those intangibles that let some kids rise up."
• Kipper missed part of the Hawaii game with a leg injury, but Michalczik said he will be ready to play against Cal Poly. In his stead for a while against the Warriors was Jake Levengood, a 6-4, 285-pound redshirt freshman.
"He did a good job jumping in there and playing for 'Kip,'" Michalczik said. "I feel bad in some ways. He has played every position on the line this fall. I haven't let him get comfortable in any spot. He works hard and has a great future."
Another player who has caught Michalczik's eye is true freshman Joshua Gray, a 6-4, 285-pound grayshirt who backs up Blake Brandel at left tackle.
"Josh is easily a second-team guy now," Michalczik said. "He was 240 pounds in high school. We looked at him and said, 'He's undersized, but he could be pretty good.' He came here and put on 45 pounds in one year in the weight room.
"He has worked his butt off. If we lost somebody, he'd have to go, but we're trying to keep it to four games so he can redshirt and have four years (of eligibility) left."
• The veterans on the O-line are Lavaka and 6-7, 305-pound senior tackle Brandel, both named co-captains before the season.
"That's a huge honor for me," said Brandel, a Central Catholic grad who will make his 39th consecutive start against Cal Poly. "Being selected by my teammates makes it that much more special. It's a really good feeling. I would never have thought growing up I'd be a captain of the Oregon State football team."
"Blake has played pretty well," Michalczik said. "He has improved from last year. He has improved from the first week of camp. He improved in practice today. He is a great young man, focused and very intelligent. He's not a vocal leader, but he's a leader."
• Lavaka drew his suspension for an incident immediately after the last play of the Hawaii game. As the Warriors' Alesana Sunia began to celebrate the victory, Lavaka shoved him to the turf with an elbow. Sunia pushed Lavaka from behind, and he retaliated with three punches before Brandel stepped in and pulled him away from the confrontation.
"It was a dumb move," Michalczik said. "That's not who we are. That's not who Gus is, either. But he made a bad decision, and it's going to cost him."
Lavaka apologized Tuesday for his actions and said he has reached out to Sunia to try to make amends.
"Gus knew right away he shouldn't have done that," Brandel said. "Of all people, Gus is the last guy you would expect to do that. He's embarrassed and feels sorry about it.
"It's an emotional game. You have to play with that emotional edge, but you have to know when to reel it back. That doesn't represent Oregon State football. He's serving his punishment for it this weekend."
• Smith also suspended sophomore cornerback Kaleb Hayes for a fourth-quarter incident involving teammate Avery Roberts. On his first play of the game, Hayes received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty along with a Hawaii player. Hayes heatedly objected to the call, and as an assistant coach guided him off the field, Roberts came over to help cool him down. Hayes threw a punch at the linebacker.
Such an action "is well short of our standard," Smith said. "We ask these guys to play with some emotion, but you have to be able to control that. That's not what we're looking to have in a game. It's not going to help us win, the way he responded to his own teammate."
NOTES: Luton was asked if it's possible the Beavers will take the FCS-level Mustangs lightly on Saturday. "No," the OSU QB said. "We can't. We're 0-2. We just lost a tough game. There's no room to take anyone lightly. We're not undefeated. We're not Alabama. We need to treat every game seriously. We'll be ready for them." ... The Beavers are dealing with a large number of injuries on defense, especially at outside linebacker, with sophomore Addison Gumbs (ACL, right knee) out for the season, senior Andrzej Hughes-Murray (foot) likely lost for the entire campaign and sophomore Matthew Tago (knee) out at least for the Cal Poly game. Senior Hamilcar Rashed and sophomore John McCartan will be the starters at that position, and the first reserve will be sophomore Isaac Garcia, who was a factor in the second half against Hawaii. Next in line is Riley Sharp, a 6-5, 235-pound redshirt freshman from Salt Lake City who has served a two-year church mission. The Beavers remain deep at inside linebacker, with starters Roberts and Shemar Smith and backups Jack Collette, Omar Speights and Doug Taumoelau. ... At safety, senior Jalen Moore, who missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, is expected to return. David Morris and Jeffrey Manning, who both sat out the Hawaii game with foot injuries, are not likely to play against Cal Poly.
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