Ten plays into the game, Oregon State found themselves facing a 4th and Goal at the UO 1-yardline. Little did we know at that point that the game would be decided largely by the five fourth down conversion attempts in the game.
Oregon State was 1-of-2 on those opportunities. Oregon was 3-for-3.
The Beavers would be faced with a 4th and 15 opportunity late in the game and went for it-- an decision that many people are questioning in the aftermath of the game. The reality of the situation was that the Beavers were down four points at the time, and wanted to take the lead outright. Kicking a field goal would have put the Beavers within one-- but it would have also given the Ducks possession of the ball with about six minutes left. Either way-- the Beavers had to score, so Mike Riley was looking to get it out of the way early and put the pressure on the home team.
Two of Oregon's crucial fourth down conversions came on their final possession of the game in which they did chew up six minutes of clock after OSU didn't convert on the aforementioned 4th and 15. Both times the Beavers had the Ducks bottled up in awkward field position where kicking a field goal wasn't entirely feasible, and rolling the dice on fourth down obviously seemed more appealing to Coach Kelly. The way the Oregon offense was rolling, the Ducks were hard to stop-- and the three conversions were crucial in allowing them to seal the victory.
Earlier in the week, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said that "What got you to this point will help you win the game."
He was right. The Beavers stayed true to themselves and did what they've done for most of the season-- both good and bad.
Penalties were an issue. Some were caused by the environment, some were questionable calls, some were completely preventable.
But beyond that, settling for field goals in the red zone was also an underlying theme throughout the contest, as it has been for large parts of the season. That was nothing we hadn't seen from OSU earlier in the year-- and it just required the offense to work twice as hard and get twice as many opportunities to match Oregon's point total. The Ducks coughed up the football, and the opportunities were there for Oregon State, the Beavs just couldn't punch it in. But with that said, great job to Justin Kahut for being clutch on field goals.
On the positive side, Sean Canfield played a great game, as expected. 24 of 36 passing, 306 yards, 2 touchdowns-- there's not much else you can ask for from a senior quarterback playing in his first Civil War. He didn't seem to be bothered by the atmosphere, he stayed poised, and made some great throws. There were a couple balls that were dropped, a couple balls that were off the mark, but overall-- great performance.
As for Quizz-- valiant effort as well. He had a rough night, running for 64 yards on 16 carries, but I still have to believe that his presence in the backfield opened up opportunities for Sean Canfield in the passing game. Quizz had 7 receptions for 73 yards himself.
James will probably remember the deep ball that he nearly got under, and the 4th and 15 ball that was just out of his reach, but he had a solid game as well. Ten catches for 134 yards and a touchdown plus 29 rushing yards off of 5 fly sweeps is no easy task.
Jeremiah Masoli again proved that he is hard to handle: 200 yards in the air, and 40 more on the ground. LaMichael James rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns... and Mr. Blount made his reappearance and rushed for 51 yards and a score. Jeff Maehl had the long 72 yard touchdown reception and finished with 138 total yards receiving.
Oregon State's performance tonight was consistent with how they've been playing all year. It definitely wasn't a letdown, but it definitely wasn't something miraculous either. It was a hard-fought football game that the Beavers unfortunately came out on the wrong side of.
Winning games of this caliber is what Oregon State needs to do to get to the next level. They've now had two chances in consecutive years to take that leap, but haven't been able to do it. They can't afford to wait much longer before they take that next step. Which means there are going to be big expectations on this squad next year.
This may be the first of many Civil Wars that decide the Pac-10 Champion. The Beavers can't afford to take another one on the chin.
This game is definitely a tough pill to swallow.