CORVALLIS — Oregon State showed Cal Poly the difference between teams from the FBS and FCS ranks on a balmy Saturday afternoon at Reser Stadium.
The Beavers (1-2) jumped to a 38-7 halftime lead and coasted to a 45-7 victory over the Big Sky Mustangs (1-2) that demonstrated the gulf between the two levels of Division I football.
"I thought we would struggle to match up with their size and speed offensively," said Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh, the former Portland State coach. "That's exactly what happened. Once they were able to run the ball, that puts even more pressure on what we do coverage-wise, puts us in vulnerable one-on-one situations (in pass defense)."
Oregon State rang up 28 first downs, 258 yards rushing, 291 yards passing and 549 yards total offense. Quarterback Jake Luton, who departed after the first series in the third quarter, completed 17 of 22 passes for 255 yards and four touchdowns.
Running backs Artavis Pierce and B.J. Baylor, subbing for injured starter Jermar Jefferson, combined to carry 19 times for 191 yards and a score.
Isiaah Hodgins caught seven passes for 81 yards and two TDs, and Champ Flemings snared five balls for 142 yards, including scoring plays of 47 and 75 yards, to go with a 66-yard kickoff return.
"They made plays in the passing game," Walsh said. "Two times, we had them covered, but their guys made a play, and our guys didn't."
Hodgins made the first play to which Walsh was referring, somehow catching a Luton pass in the corner of the end zone for 11 yards and a touchdown despite a face-guarding defender making the play like a screen shot in hockey.
Later, Flemings rose and took the ball away from Cal Poly safety Carter Nichols in a jump-ball situation for the 47-yard scoring play.
"The defender went up and tried to pick it off, but I felt I could out-jump him," said the 5-5, 140-pound Flemings. "I was able to track the ball with my eyes and make a good catch."
Fleming's longer scoring play came in the closing seconds of the first half against Cal Poly's "Cover 2" defense, extinguishing any hope of the Mustangs making a game of it in the second half.
"It was a 'hole' shot," Flemings said. "Jake gave me a great ball, hit me in stride and I was able to run it up the sidelines."
OSU coach Jonathan Smith — who as a 5-9 quarterback led the Beavers to a Fiesta Bowl rout of Notre Dame in 2001 — can relate to Flemings' small-guy accomplishments.
"The guy is competitive, he ain't shy, and yeah, he's 5-5," Smith said with a grin.
The issue was decided by halftime. The Beavers scored five touchdowns and a field goal in their six first-half possessions. They piled up 16 first downs, 249 yards passing and 356 yards total offense. Luton tied a school record with four TD passes in a half. Punter Daniel Rodriguez was called on only once in the game, after the first possession of the third quarter.
Cal Poly's triple-option attack produced a touchdown on its first series, with quarterback Jalen Hamler finding Xavier Moore all alone for an 8-yard pass play that capped an 8-yard, 75-yard drive. After that, kicker Colton Theaker missed a pair of first-half field-goal attempts, from 37 and 42 yards. That was as close as the Mustangs would get to paydirt the rest of the day.
"I'm really pleased defensively," Smith said. "That's a tough offense to prepare for. We got our eyes out of whack (in pass coverage) on the first series, then played some pretty solid defense. That's back-to-back weeks we played winning football on defense.
"Offensively, we wanted to get ahead early, put a lot of points on the board and then continue to be efficient. It was a complete game."
Cal Poly rushed for 203 yards, with fullback Duy Tran-Sampson picking up 137 on 29 attempts. The Mustangs attempted only 10 passes, connecting on five for 112 yards. Save for a 53-yard pass play that set up their only touchdown, Oregon State kept the Mustangs contained most of the way.
"Cal Poly had a tough offensive scheme, but the coaches basically gave us the answers at practice," OSU safety Jalen Moore said. "The test was during the game. We aced the test."
Oregon State's rushing game was the difference, Walsh allowed.
"Physically up front, their run game was just too much for us," he said. "Add their physical presence to the mistakes we made, that's going to end up being (nearly) 300 yards rushing.
"We moved the ball well between the 20's, but we were terrible in the red zone. It's disheartening when you get down there and don't even get three points. But I knew we'd have a struggle to stop them. If they could run the football, I knew it was going to be a difficult day for us."
Smith unloaded his bench in the second half, giving backup QB Tristan Gebbia a quarter and a half of playing time. The sophomore completed 4 of 5 passes for 36 yards and scrambled for a 6-yard TD run on his first series.
"Jonathan was good to us," Walsh said. "They could have pushed for more points."
Smith wasn't putting an asterisk by the "W" over an FCS foe.
"We're happy with any win," he said. "I've seen lower-lower programs come in and get wins. We want to win the game, but we want to play quality football all the time, which I think we did from start to finish."
Indeed, Beaver fans recall losses to Cal Poly's Big Sky brethren, Sacramento State (2011) and Eastern Washington (2013). It happens somewhere every year. It didn't come close to happening Saturday at Reser.
"A win is a win, no matter what the score is," OSU's Moore said. "It builds confidence, to know that we all came together as a team."
Oregon State went with far from a full contingent due to a wave of injuries. Besides Jefferson, who sat out the game with a foot injury, the missing included receivers Trevon Bradford (foot) and Tyjon Lindsey (leg), center Nate Eldridge (ankle), defensive tackles Simon Sandberg (knee) and Jordan Whittley (knee), linebacker Matthew Tago (knee) and safeties David Morris (foot) and Jeffrey Manning (foot). That's not counting defensive tackle Jeromy Reichner (knee) and linebackers Addison Gumbs (knee) and Andrzej Hughes-Murray (foot), all likely out for the season.
Were some of those players held out of action just as a precaution?
"Not really," Smith said. "With Whittley, that was not (the case). He had to sit. Tyjon was right on the border. Jermar tweaked his foot, and he just never was right.
"There was no, 'Hey, we're playing these guys (the Mustangs), so let's rest.' Not even kind of."
The missing weren't necessary for Oregon State to win Saturday. Not even kind of.
NOTES — Oregon State got no new injuries against Cal Poly and should regain the services of at least a few of those who missed Saturday's game in the next game at home against Stanford on Sept. 28. ... OSU's defensive front got good push, registering three sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss. Sophomore linebacker John McCartan led the way with 12 total tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a sack. Linebacker Hamilcar Rashed had seven total tackles, three tackles-for-loss and a pair of sacks. ... OSU quarterbacks Luton and Gebbia weren't sacked. They've been sacked only twice in three games. ... The Beavers committed their first turnover of the season in the fourth quarter when Gebbia's pass bounced off the helmet of offensive guard Onesimus Clarke and was intercepted. ... Clarke started the first half in place of Gus Lavaka, who was suspended for the first half for his part on a postgame altercation at Hawaii. The Beaver offense didn't seem to skip a beat. ... OSU redshirt freshman Jesiah Irish broke a 58-yard punt return to the Cal Poly 2 in the first quarter, but it was negated by penalty.
For the first time in memory, Oregon State played no nickel defense. The Beavers went with their base 3-4 defense, with two cornerbacks and two safeties, the entire way. ... Walsh said the test for the Beavers the rest of the season will come with the success of their running game and "how vulnerable they are up front" on defense. "They need to continue to improve, to be as balanced as they were against us and to make some big plays in the passing game," he said. "We ran the ball well enough to where a Pac-12 team might have its way against them. I do think they're much better than people think." ... Baylor broke a 74-yard run to the Cal Poly 11 in the third quarter. Fourth-string running back Calvin Tyler picked up 59 yards rushing on nine attempts. ... Pierce, who rushed for 90 yards on 12 carries, was asked if he prepared himself for a larger role in the absence of Jefferson. "I always prepare myself the same way," Pierce said. "When my number's called, it's on me."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Cal Poly 7 0 0 0 — 7
Oregon State 21 17 7 0 — 45
OSU — Isaiah Hodgins 8 pass from Jake Luton (Jordan Choukair kick), 11:26
CP — Xavier Moore 8 pass from Jalen Hamler (Colton Theaker kick), 8:02
OSU — Hodgins 11 pass from Luton (Choukair kick), 5:39
OSU — B.J. Baylor 6 run (Choukair kick), :48
OSU — Choukair 26 FG, 13:02
OSU — Champ Flemings 47 pass from Luton (Choukair kick), 3:48
OSU — Flemings 75 pass from Luton (Choukair kick), :21
OSU — Tristan Gebbia 5 run (Choukair kick), 6:59
Attendance — 33,585
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