Jefferson carries Beavers, and QBs make plays in OSU win
Jermar Jefferson had a costly fumble in last year's Civil War game, in which Oregon beat Oregon State to prevent the Beavers from becoming bowl eligible.
Admittedly, Jefferson didn't dwell on the turnover, which allowed the Ducks to a score an insurance touchdown to go ahead 24-10, which would be the final score.
"I don't let stuff stick to me and stick to my head," the OSU junior running back said. "I got over it in a day or two. I knew I had to come back and work hard in the offseason to get ready for this season."
But, yes, Jefferson felt some redemption in his performance Friday, which goes down in Oregon State-Oregon lore — remember, it's not the "Civil War" game anymore — as he rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries in Oregon State's thrilling 41-38 win over Oregon at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.
It's the most yards rushing ever by an individual in the Oregon State-Oregon game.
And, the Beavers (2-2) needed every one of the yards — oh, and the one yard gained for a touchdown by backup QB Chance Nolan on his first play for the Beavers with 33 seconds left, after Nolan replaced injured Tristan Gebbia for the fourth-down play. That yard was a pretty important one, too.
Jefferson romped for an 82-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. In the previous game against Cal, he had a 75-yard TD on the first play.
"It feels great, but I gotta give a shout-out to the offensive line," said Jefferson, after his fourth game of 100-plus yards that gives him 675 yards with seven TDs in four games.
Just beating the Ducks means a lot. Oregon drilled OSU 55-15 two years ago in Corvallis, before last year's close win.
"I really wanted to redeem myself," he said.
Jefferson said he still feels underrated. "I'm used to it," he said. "I don't feel like I get the recognition."
But, one would think he would be a front-runner for Pac-12 offensive player of the year.
In the biggest sequence of the season, though, Jefferson served as a pusher, trying to help the Oregon State quarterback — Gebbia on the first two tries, Nolan on the last — to get into the end zone.
"It was crazy," he said. "I knew the first quarterback sneak (on second down) he got in for sure. I seen it, but we can't control it." But, a review of the play didn't show the ball crossing the end-zone line conclusively, in Gebbia's hands, to overturn the call.
"We tried again (on third down), it didn't work, and Tristan got hurt. Chance came in and stepped up big-time for us," Jefferson said.
The win validates improvement made by the Beavers, who, ironically, could possibly have a third win, if officials in the Washington game had made correct spots on Jefferson runs near the UW end zone in the second half of the eventual loss. They bounced back to beat Cal last week.
Coach Jonathan Smith keeps saying how proud of players he is and how resilient they are. It showed Friday.
"These guys have been working and believing and they were able to finish the game in the fourth quarter," Smith said. "We got a special running back who makes a difference, and a defense that gets a crucial stop to be able to finish the game on offense.
"This is a special win."
Actually, the defense made two crucial stops. After the Ducks stopped Oregon State with 2:18 left, the Ducks took over — but the Beavers had three timeouts and, conceivably, time to get the ball back. They used two timeouts while forcing a three-and-out by the Ducks.
"That was game-changing," Smith said.
"The offense still had to punch the ball in," defensive back Jaydon Grant said.
"We were ready, man, all we needed from the defense was an opportunity," receiver Kolby Taylor said. "Nobody was panicking."
So, they had one timeout and 1:55 of clock time. Gebbia, who played well and finished 23 of 37 for 263 yards (including a TD pass to Zeriah Beason), hit on five passes — two to Trevon Bradford, two to Taylor and one to Jefferson. An 11-yard Gebbia-to-Taylor hookup gave OSU a first down at the UO 6, setting up the dramatic end. Jefferson ran for four yards on first down, and, after the two Gebbia plunges, Nolan finished off the drama on fourth down.
"It took four downs and we got it done," Smith said.
Then, QB Tyler Shough and the UO offense had 32 seconds to get into field-goal range. But, the Beavers barely budged.
Gebbia appeared to hurt his hamstring. But, Smith indicated that it wasn't a serious injury.
The Beavers considered using short-yardage QB Jack Colletto on the final play, but Nolan, a transfer from Saddleback College in Arizona, had been practicing the QB sneak play in practice, Smith said.
"How about that, Chance Nolan goes in for his first college football play (and scores)," Smith said. "We feel good about the guy. He's continued to work and improve. I think he has a bright future here."
Gebbia "made some big-time plays," the coach added. "The passing game showed up tonight."
But, it was another game in which Jefferson starred. His second TD came in the fourth quarter. After OSU had fallen behind 31-19, Gebbia scored on a 1-yard TD to make it 31-26. Then, after Nahshon Wright intercepted Shough, the Beavers scored again on Jefferson's 2-yard TD run, a score set up by Gebbia's 31-yard hookup with Taylor. The two yards gave him enough for the serires rushing record.
A two-point conversion made it 34-31, before the Ducks marched for go-ahead points.
Said Smith, of Jefferson: "He deserves some recognition. He's a big-time back. A lot of people see it, and say it. He's a guy in our locker room who we appreciate."
Also stepping up, Bradford had eight receptions for 93 yards and Taylor seven catches for 114 yards.
The Beavers finished with 532 yards offense to UO's 468.
Winning the game formerly known as the Civil War, against a rival, means a lot, Smith said.
"It's too bad Beaver Nation couldn't be in Reser Stadium" because of COVID-19 pandemic and government crowd restrictions, the coach said.
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