Oregon State football: Turnovers, red zone woes doom Beavers in 42-16 loss to Utah
The Oregon State Beavers fell 42-16 to the No. 12 Utah Utes on Saturday, Oct. 1, in Salt Lake City. The Utes jumped out to an early lead before two interceptions and a neck injury chased OSU quarterback Chance Nolan out of the game. Oregon State tried to play catch-up throughout the game, but the Beavers were ultimately ineffective in the game's biggest moments.
Trib's take: Well, that was a reality check for Oregon State. OSU could not get the offense clicking consistently under either of its quarterbacks, while the Beaver defense was equal parts porous and pushover. There were some highlights, most notably Silas Bolden's double-reverse touchdown run in the first half, but it was a forgettable Saturday for the most part.
Ben Gulbranson came in for Nolan and made some good throws, but he also had two key interceptions to go along with the two Nolan threw. There were also some third-and-long situations where the redshirt freshman hit receivers well short of the first-down line. The decision making was questionable at times, but this loss cannot be laid at the feet of any one person.
The OSU defense had plenty of its own issues. The Beavers allowed Utah quarterback Cam Rising to complete 76% of his passes while hitting receivers for three touchdowns on the Oregon State secondary. The Utes also gained over 5.0 yards per carry on the ground, thanks in part to some weak tackling. The Beavers have had a shutdown defense at home this year, but the Beavers are allowing over 33 points per game away from Reser Stadium (including a 68-28 win over Montana State in Portland).
Oregon State has been punched in the mouth two weeks in a row, but it's worth remembering that the Beavers have played two top-12 teams. The Beavers aren't going to finish in the Pac-12's uppermost echelon, but there's still a chance for a successful season — no matter how dire things feel right now.
Big picture: Unlike last week's close loss to USC, there are no moral victories to be dragged from Salt Lake. Following the loss to the Trojans on Sept. 24, the Beavers still had a lot of optimism around the program. Now, things look a bit shakier in Corvallis as Oregon State drops to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play. This current state of affairs is a far cry from the three-game winning streak the team put together to open the season. The most glaring problem the past two weeks, of course, has been at the quarterback position. Nolan has six picks over his past five quarters of play, and while Gulbranson showed flashes of potential, he also threw two interceptions in the end zone to kill promising drives.
Oh, yes!: It wasn't all bad for the Beavers, despite the lopsided score. Oregon State made the trip to Salt Lake City without starting kicker Everett Hayes, which put the onus on sophomore Atticus Sappington to handle the kicking duties at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Sappington, a 2020 graduate of Central Catholic High School in Portland, had never attempted a field goal for the Beavers coming into the day. Against the Utes, he went 3-for-3 on field goals and also made his only extra point kick. It was a welcome bit of accuracy for Oregon State, which has seen Hayes go just 2-for-5 on his field goal tries in 2021. Keep an eye on the kicker situation in Corvallis going forward.
Oh, no!: There were a lot of issues on display for the Beavers on Saturday, but perhaps the biggest of all was the team's ineffective play in the red zone. Oregon State made five offensive trips into the red zone and came away with exactly zero touchdowns. Instead, the Beavers settled for the three field goals from Sappington, while the other two drives ended with Gulbranson interceptions. On the other side of the ball, Utah scored touchdowns on its first three red zone drives before eventually coming up two yards short as the clock expired in the 42-16 win. The Beavers simply could not get it done within the 20-yard line — on offense or defense — and it cost them dearly.
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