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Following two comfortable wins, the Beavers started slow against Oregon and got a wake-up call going into bowl season.



EUGENE—Oregon State saw its two-game winning streak end in Eugene on Saturday, Nov. 27. The Ducks prevailed by a score of 38-29 in front of a packed house at Autzen Stadium.

Big picture: Following wins over Stanford and Arizona State, Oregon State (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) could not match Oregon's fast start. The Beavers put together some offense near the end of the game, but it was too little, too late. As a result, No. 11 Oregon (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) wins the Pac-12 North division, and OSU returns home to prepare for bowl season.

Storyline: The Beavers had trouble stopping the Oregon offense from the opening drive. OSU allowed touchdowns on five of the Ducks' seven full drives, not counting when Anthony Brown went into victory formation to seal the win. Brown diced up the defense, confusing the Beavers with pre-snap motion, run-pass options and quick crossing routes.

For the Beavers, the defensive showing was a massive step backward following two strong performances from that unit. Under interim defensive coordinator Trent Bray, Oregon State had allowed just 24 points over the past two games going into the Rivalry Series. On Saturday, the Beavers allowed 24 points in the first half.PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon State running back BJ Baylor, middle, reaches across the goal line for a touchdown against Oregon on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Autzen Stadium. Oregon State finishes the season 7-5 and will play in a bowl game.

Though the OSU offense eventually started catching up with Oregon's, a string of missed two-point conversions may have doomed the Beavers. The team looked like it had captured momentum by scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. However, head coach Jonathan Smith decided to go for two. The Beavers snapped the ball to converted quarterback Jack Colletto, but the short-yardage maven pitched the ball — resulting in a fumble that Oregon recovered. The play further energized a stadium that did not need any help from its visitors.

The Beavers suffered failed two-point attempts on each of their next two touchdowns, costing the team three crucial points. Had they played it safe and kicked after each score, Trevon Bradford's fourth-quarter touchdown grab from Chance Nolan could have brought OSU within seven points. Instead, Oregon State trailed by 10 and never truly got back into the game.

"We're coming down here to win the game," said Smith during the postgame press conference, on his decision to go for two trailing by three touchdowns. "If you play the game with the normal strategy, you're going to end up tying and trying to match their score. We were going to go for two to try to win the game. So the logic is, you go for two earlier so you know how that plays out, so then you can have your strategy based off of it after. Not totally second guessing it."

The Beavers now return to Corvallis to regroup and prepare for bowl season — a brand-new experience for this regime. In each of Smith's first three campaigns, the season ended after the final Pac-12 game.

"These guys are going to get a little time off when we hit the road recruiting tomorrow," said Smith, who received a six-year contract extension on Friday. "They've got to finish some school, they've got a couple of weeks of that, so we'll look at this first weekend as a potential time to practice. Then find out exactly where we're going, who we're playing and dive into it after that."

Reaction: This loss may not be the worst thing that could have happened to Oregon State heading into bowl season. Of course, the Beavers wanted to win the Rivalry Series to make this season even more magical. However, the defeat brings OSU back down to earth and gives them plenty of good tape to review ahead of the season finale.

Smith noted that the defense was out of position on many plays, likely a result of Mario Cristobal's dynamic Oregon offense. What became clear at Autzen Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27 was that the Beavers need to recognize and react better to complex play designs.

Of course, the slow start for the Beaver offense did not help. In the past two games, Oregon State outscored its opponents 31-0 in the first half. Against Oregon, OSU trailed 24-3 at the break.PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon State quarterback Chance Nolan looks up field against Oregon on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Autzen Stadium. The Beavers looked to Nolan after their run game was stuffed all game.

The Beavs' vaunted offensive line did not get its usual push, rendering the rushing attack toothless for much of the game. That said, the Oregon defensive line features Kayvon Thibodeaux, the likely No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL Draft.

The Beavers looked much more competent on offense in the second half, but the defense simply could not get the necessary stops — and once the first two-point conversion failed, the Beavers' comeback attempt was essentially dead on arrival.

If there is a silver lining here, it is that Oregon State's next opponent will not be quite as good as Oregon.

As it stands, the likely landing spot for the Beavers is the Los Angeles Bowl on Dec. 18. That matchup would likely feature a Mountain West team such as Fresno State, Air Force or Wyoming. Other options include a date with BYU in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 18 or facing a middle-of-the-pack ACC team in either the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 or the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

No, the Beavers did not get a Rivalry Series win. However, Oregon State can still provide one last bit of magic with a win in its first bowl game since 2013.


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