Beavers Beat: OSU getting used to close games
Oregon State won't have a winning record for the seventh consecutive year, and the Beavers lost for the 11th consecutive time against Stanford last weekend.
But, the Beavers are not the Pac-12 cellar-dwellers of years past. They are competitive, and really close to winning many of their games — and happened to beat Cal and Oregon this year.
Their competitiveness wasn't any more apparent than against the Cardinal, as the Beavers were marching for tying or go-ahead points when QB Chance Nolan fumbled away the ball on a gutsy scramble with 23 seconds left. The Cardinal recovered to seal the 27-24 win at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.
Every game came down to the fourth quarter for the Beavers (2-4). They still have one more game to go, 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Arizona State at Reser Stadium.
"I appreciate (OSU players). Winning is hard. We're working to win games," coach Jonathan Smith said. "We've not won as many as we would have liked. It hurts. I appreciate that these games mean so much to them. It was a somber mood in the locker room."
Stanford rallied from behind, and took the 27-24 lead on Jet Toner's 39-yard field goal with 1:48 left. The Beavers had 1:48 to go 65 yards for the tying points or go-ahead points, and had to do it without Jermar Jefferson, who had injured his ankle.
The march came to an end when Nolan scrambled up the middle, had the ball poked away by Gabe Reid and Stanford's Thomas Robinson recovered the fumble with 23 seconds left. The call was confirmed on review.
"I gotta be better with the ball in that situation. Tuck it up and go down and make that play happen," said Nolan, a transfer from Saddleback College (Mission Viejo, California), who appears to be a quality QB that could challenge Tristan Gebbia to start in 2021.
Nolan went 17 of 30 for 221 yards and three scores, and added 50 yards on eight carries. "The whole game and speed of game was slowing down for me a lot," Nolan said.
Without starting receivers Trevon Bradford and Champ Flemings, the Beavers had three youngsters make plays: Junior Tre'Shaun Harrison, a transfer from Florida State, had five receptions for 91 yards, including a 61-yard reception, and junior Tyjon Lindsey had two TD catches and true freshman Zeriah Beason also had a TD reception.
Jefferson, who missed last week's loss to Utah because of COVID-19 protocol, had 80 yards on 18 carries as the Beavers rushed for 237 yards on 39 carries (6.1 yards/carry). Entering this week, his status was unclear for the ASU game.
The Sun Devils (1-2) and Washington State have played the fewest games in the Pac-12, but, oh, ASU won in dominating fashion last weekend: 70-7 against rival Arizona, after which the Arizona administration canned coach Kevin Sumlin. With quarterback Jayden Daniels, team spirit and coach Herman Edwards, the Sun Devils have been on the rise.
Coming close to winning can wear on a team, but the Beavers project a positive attitude.
"It sucks to say the least," defensive lineman Isaac Hodgins said. "No matter what the record is or what the score was, we have a job of coming back and getting better."
Said Nolan after his second career start in place of injured Gebbia: "We know we should have won that game. We've been in too many close games. A play here or there away from beating those guys. A sour taste in our mouth after losing that."
Through many closes losses in 2020 and '19 (4-6 record in games decided by six points or fewer), the Beavers keep the narrative of unfinished business.
"You gotta be better at the end-game situations, produce and come through," Nolan said.
Said Smith: "I think we are continuing to build and add momentum to what we got going. I'm confident where our group is at, and what we got coming back … I think we can get to a bowl game (in coming years)."
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