After a first half that had all the looks of a traditional Civil War blowout, the Beavers furiously fought back before coming up short in their 52-42 loss. Despite what the end results might say for Oregon State, this one felt like a win.
The second half edition of OSU displayed competitive and passionate football, something that Beaver fans have not seen in a long, long time. It also gave a little taste of the future. Ryan Nall absolutely dominated, finishing with 228 yards and a a score.
His performance was highlighted with a 65-yard score, above, with 7:00 remaining in the fourth quarter to pull the score within three at 45-42. That was as close as it ever got to stealing the win for the Beavers. Despite a few key stops, the defense was not able to stop Oregon's vastly superior offense at the end.
They gave up a late touchdown to a wide open Bralon Addison, above, and the offense could not strike back. That left 2:00 on the clock with a 10 point Duck lead, which was enough to seal the victory. Addison ended his night with 130 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. Vernon Adams also showed well for the Ducks, compiling 366 yards and three touchdowns 28-38 passing with no interceptions.
Oregon's offensive prowess was largely a product of OSU's porous defense, while their shortcomings in the second half were mostly thanks to their own poor play calling.
The first half can only be described as a well-tuned Maserati racing against a 2005 Dodge Caravan. The Beavers initially looked ready to rumble with the Ducks on the first drive, taking their first possession for a score. It had the looks of an offensive game plan fans had been begging for- smooth, tricky and quick. In one instance, the ball was directly snapped to Nall, and then eventually tossed to Collins via double reverse before he passed to an open Victor Bolden down the sidelines. It set up an easy three-yard touchdown for Collins, below.
From there, Oregon seized control by clamping down on defense and opening up on offense. They mostly rode the running game to success, scoring 31 unanswered points and taking a 31-7 lead into halftime.
Bralon Addison answered the Beavers' initial lead, above, and though Oregon State blocked an Aidan Schneider field goal, Charles Nelson picked off a pass McMaryion badly overthrew over Bolden, below, which set up the go ahead touchdown by Taj Griffin.
The first 24 points were at least hard-earned, but the final touchdown of the first half, just 1:24 before the break, came on a blown coverage that resulted in Addison's easy score, below.
The OSU offense lost its luster as McMaryion was inexplicably kept in at quarterback for most of the downs, despite being throughly outplayed by Collins.
It was a depressing sight. The Beavers seemed doomed to one final ass-kicking from Oregon in a season full of them; a final slap in the face before they would sadly limp back to Corvallis. But that's when the Beavers came alive.
Seth Collins started the party off right with a flip into the end zone, above (Picture via Twitter), on the Beavers first drive of the second half. Meanwhile, Oregon kept trying to go for home run plays through the air and temporarily abandoned the running game, giving OSU just enough wiggle room to get a groove going. OSU made a goal line stand, which led to a 98 yard scoring drive, capped by Colloins 3rd touchdown, before Oregon answered with Royce Freeman;s 2nd touchdown of the day, below, and the scoreboard read 38-21 going into the final frame.
The Beavers were kept afloat in the fourth quarter by a taunting penalty, and PI on Tyree Robinson trying to defend Jordan Villamin, above, that set up a Marcus McMaryion six yard keeper score, below, to bring it to 38-28.
A key sack on Adams by Kyle Peko, above, in the next Duck possession set up a punt, which Victor Bolden promptly returned for a 77 yard touchdown. It was an electrifying play by Bolden, below, who finally showed off the quicks and jukes that he had teased the fans with at through various points of the season.
Oregon responded by storming down the field and scoring in 2:30, another Addison touchdown, below, the 3rd in the game that came on blown coverages by the Beavers.
This in turn set up the huge Nall touchdown. The Beavers out scored the Ducks 35-22 in the second half. Oregon narrowly saved themselves from the collapse of the century.
It was a beautiful thing to see the Beavers compete. No one (including myself) thought that OSU could possibly keep up with Oregon and major props are in order for head coach Gary Anderson. It was inspiring and refreshing to watch Anderson keep the team fighting despite being in a huge hole in the last game of a lost season. Oregon is without a doubt the more talented team at this point, but the Beavers kept on chugging and almost took this one.
If one thing is clear, it is that this team is SO much better when Seth Collins is on the field. It is clear he has transcendent athleticism, and the staff needs to figure out how to harness it this offseason.
McMaryion was still pretty rough around the edges in his first career start. He was erratic throwing the ball, finishing with 11/21 passing for 154 yards. Still, he was not utterly incompetent like Nick Mitchell was the last couple of weeks.
That is a wrap for Oregon State football this year. Finishing with a 2-10 record and an 0-9 Pac-12 record, the season was one of the most difficult in OSU history. However, the team's performance against the Ducks keeps me from feeling it was all for naught. The young guns now have a year under their belts, and a shiny new recruiting class is on their way. It can only go up from here.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)