With half the coaching staff and a large portion of the starting roster gone, it was not widely expected that Oregon State would be able to pull off a win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. Despite low expectations, Friday afternoon’s 40-8 loss is still going to go down as a major disappointment.
Notre Dame scored on their first drive of the game, marching all the way down the field from their own 4 yard line and capping things off with a Steve Angeli pass to Jayden Thomas. Oregon State’s offense struggled to match that production, with none of their first three drives making it into Notre Dame territory.
Their fourth drive managed to get to midfield, but the Beavers turned the ball over on downs. Notre Dame capitalized, driving down to the goal line before Jadarian Price punched the ball in for the Irish’s second touchdown of the first half.
The half ended even worse for the Beavers. After finally reaching Notre Dame territory after a huge pass from Ben Gulbranson to Jesiah Irish, Gulbranson’s next pass was picked off by Benjamin Morrison. That was the final play of the first half; the Beavers left for the locker room down 14-0.
Notre Dame started the second half with a six minute drive that ended in a field goal. That was followed by another quick Beaver drive that ended in a punt. Notre Dame tacked on another touchdown on their next drive, with another Stevee Angeli pass. The Beavers offense continued to struggle, turning over the ball on downs on their next drive.
The next Beavers drive went even worse. On the previous drive, Notre Dame had gotten down to the OSU one yard line, but went for it on 4th and 2 and turned the ball over on downs. The Beavers took over on their own 1 yard line, and on the first play Isaiah Newell was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Notre Dame took the ball over and quickly scored a touchdown, with a quick drive fueled by a 54 yard Jadarian Price run and another Steve Angeli pass getting the score. With 3 minutes left in the game the Oregon State offense finally found some footing. Gulbranson was electric on this drive, throwing for 66 yards and capping this off with a 33 yard completion to Jimmy Valsin for OSU’s first and only score. The Beavers tacked on the two point conversion, but with six minutes left in the game and down by 25 points, that was at best a moral victory.
The Irish scored another touchdown on their final drive of the game to take a 40-8 lead. With one last chance for last minute heroics for the Beavers departing seniors, Oregon State’s last drive stalled out around midfield, for a 40-8 final score.
Oregon State had a lot of problems in the Sun Bowl. That’s not unexpected with how rapidly this team had to come together over the past few weeks, but it still hurts to see. The running game was perhaps the biggest issue; after a strong season Oregon State’s rushing only generated 2 total yards, though that’s being brought down by some Gulbranson sacks. Deshaun Fenwick only rushed for 15 yards on 6 carries, Isaiah Newell had 0 yards on 3 carries and Jesiah Irish contributed -1 yards on 2 carries.
The Beaver offensive line was just overwhelmed, failing to open up holes and letting defenders into the backfield regularly. This also transferred over into the passing game, as Gulbranson was often rushed; forced to throw the ball way or go for his checkdown option. In his first starting game of the season, Gulbranson was fine, but couldn’t do much with what he had to work with, finishing the game with 180 yards passing, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
The defense performed well for awhile, with a solid first half performance. Unfortunately the Notre Dame offense got too many opportunities, and by the time the second half rolled around the cracks started to show in the OSU defense. Notre Dame had an easier time controlling the pace of the game and finding big plays, allowing them to take control of the game definitively in the third.
One of the worst stretches of Oregon State football is now at an end, and while times have been tough, there are things to look forward to. There’s a new crop of recruits coming in and a new coaching staff coming together. The real start to the Trent Bray era will be next Spring, and we can see what kind of team the Beavers are going to be then. This game, we can forget about.