Beavers miss it by ‘that much’
CORVALLIS — Unlike the predicted “Storm of the Century,” Oregon State delivered an inspired defensive performance Saturday afternoon in the rain and wind at Reser Stadium.
The Beavers delivered a second-half offensive performance that almost plucked victory from the unexpectedly sunny skies of the fourth quarter. They outgained No. 21 Utah (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) 242-88 in the second half of their 19-14 loss.
OSU’s defense prevented the Utes, Pac-12 South contenders, from blowing the game open in the first half, when they had a a 229-55 yardage advantage and reached OSU territory on five of six drives.
What the Beavers didn’t get for all their effort was a win.
While the storm arrived before kickoff, it was more dud than deciding factor. Yes, there were wet Beaver Believers in the stands and on the sidelines — there were soaked Utes, too — but the nasty weather only evened the playing field in the passing game.
Neither team could throw with any effectiveness until the fourth quarter, and it was Marcus McMaryion, OSU’s third-string quarterback, who led the game in passing with 76 yards.
OSU (2-4, 1-2) lost more than a game to Utah. The Beavers potentially lost four of their most important offensive players for at least a week, if not longer.
Junior quarterback Darrel Garretson went down with a left ankle injury; backup QB Connor Blount left with a knee injury — both injuries coming in the fourth quarter with OSU down 12-7.
Running backs Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce both left the game with injuries. Nall aggravated a lingering foot injury; Pierce received a stinger, but should be available.
“It hurts to see one of your brothers go down with an injury, so it hurts,” said OSU receiver Victor Bolden, who had a team-high 61 yards rushing.
So OSU enters Washington week — a road game at Husky Stadium against the fifth-ranked Huskies — potentially missing their top two quarterbacks and top running back and with questions about its special teams, especially in the kicking game with Garrett Owens.
“We played really good on defense the whole football game,” OSU coach Gary Andersen said. “They really bowed up in the first half. The offense wasn’t good enough and special teams were a debacle. We had to be really good in all three phases to win the game.”
Owens twice had opportunities to kick field goals for OSU. His 51-yarder in the third quarter smacked the North end zone wall wide left, and his 27-yard attempt in the fourth quarter also went wide left. OSU also gave up a two-point safety on a bad snap on fourth down in the first quarter.
Utah turned a tipped interception into its first touchdown, then got a field goal after the safety.
Andersen felt there may have been more to Owens’ misses than just the kicker; he cited a bad snap on one attempt as well.
Still, needing the ball back quickly down five points, Owens’ onside kick attempt went just four yards and bounced out of bounds.
Those are not the ingredients to promote the Beavers as being ready to face the Huskies, who may have their best team since sharing the national championship with Miami in 1991.
Oregon State defeated California a week ago in overtime, relying on Nall and a running game that produced almost 500 yards on the ground.
It would help the Beavers’ running game if something went right in the passing game. At the moment, not much is.
Oregon State’s best passing plays involved pass interference in the end zone, a fumble recovered by Bolden for a first down, and Hunter Jarmin’s 14-yard TD catch. Three quarterbacks combined to complete 9 of 30 passes.
“We had drops, we had throws that we’d like to have back,” Andersen said. “It wasn’t perfect in their throw game, either. The wind was a gigantic factor. It was difficult either into it or with it, but our passing game as a whole is a real struggle right now. It needs to get better.”
As a whole the Beavers need to get better. They don’t need to hold onto moral victories.
They know they can stand toe-to-toe with the Utes — who along with Colorado may be the class of the South — but to get where Andersen wants OSU to go, they can’t be happy with toe-to-toe.
They can’t miss on opportunities, though this season is likely to see more near misses than makes as Andersen’s rebuild takes hold.
On this day, with the Storm of the Century missing its epic-ness, the Beavers also missed their opportunity to take another tangible step forward.