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Sun Bowl Snap Counts: On to 2024

Syndication: South Bend Tribune GABY VELASQUEZ/ EL PASO TIMES / USA TODAY NETWORK

There isn’t much good to say about the 2023 Sun Bowl other than it’s over. Oregon State fielded a team that leaned heavily on reserves, particularly on offense. That offense mustered under 200 yards and gained more than one first down on just one of their 10 drives. The defense featured new starting linebackers and a re-vamped secondary that allowed 468 total yards and the Notre Dame offense to hold the ball for just shy of 40 minutes. Nonetheless, there were some Beaver highlights to look back on as we turn the page to a new era of Beaver football in 2024.


Offense

As evidenced by Notre Dame’s time of possession, the offense had just 47 total snaps, well below their season average of 65. This was combined with a season low 16 rushing attempts. A holding penalty on the 2nd drive and a sack on 1st down of the 3rd drive put the Beavers in clear passing situations early while the game was still in doubt, but it is still shocking to see such a pass-heavy attack while missing your top 2 quarterbacks and 2 of your 3 top receiving targets.

Quarterback: Ben Gulbranson (46)

Gulbranson put together the performance you would expect of him. He was 10-of-15, 126 yards and 1 TD from a clean pocket and hit short timing routes effectively when they were there. Unfortunately for him and OSU, Notre Dame was able to consistently get pressure, and Gulbranson was 6-of-12 for 54 yards, 1 INT, and 3 sacks in those situations.

The redshirt sophomore did have an outstanding touchdown pass to Jimmy Valsin III in the 4th quarter to get the Beavers on the board. Gulbranson put the ball where only Valsin could make a play, and Valsin did just that.

Running Back: Deshaun Fenwick (22), Isaiah Newell (18), Jake Richle (2)

As mentioned, the rushing attack was non-existant for the most part. Fenwick only had 3 carries in the first half and didn't touch the ball on the last 3 drives of the half when Oregon State was still within at least 2 scores. That’s not to say he was effective on those carries, Fenwick gained almost half of his 15 yards on one 7-yard run and that was it. Things went from bad to worse in the 3rd quarter when Fenwick went down with an injury when it looked like Notre Dame’s Adon Shuler hit him low after Fenwick had been wrapped up.

Wide Receiver: Jimmy Vaslin III (32), Jesiah Irish (29), Trent Walker (23), Silas Bolden (13), Rweha Munyagi Jr. (12), Jeremiah Noga (10), Montrel Hatten Jr. (2)

In the early part of the game, it was clear that getting Silas Bolden the ball in space was the Beavers’ gameplan. Bolden picked up 3 of the Beavers’ 10 total first downs on his first 3 touches of the game before aggravating a hamstring injury that had bothered him during practice in the leadup to the game. That effectively put an end to Oregon State’s offense until Notre Dame put their reserves in during the 4th quarter.

Bolden has since entered the transfer portal and will play elsewhere in 2024. Credit goes to him for attempting to play through an injury in a bowl game where many of his fellow transfer-bound teammates stayed away from the field entirely.

Tight End: Jermaine Terry II (31), Riley Sharp (25), Bryce Caufield (10), Gabe Milbourn (1)

Gulbranson did his best to incorporate the tight ends into the passing game, targeting Terry, Sharp, and Caufield a combined 7 times. Sharp and Caufield hauled in passes of 17 and 15 yards respectively.

Offensive Line: Tanner Miller (47), Jake Levengood (47), Grant Starck (47), Jacob Strand (47), Tyler Morano (47), Nathan Elu (2), Tyler Voltin (1)

Oregon State’s makeshift offensive line was unsurprisingly leaky. Thier 14 pressures allowed ties their season high, and as mentioned earlier Gulbranson and the passing game were particularly ineffective under pressure.

On the flip side, the offensive line was responsible for two flashy plays on the lone touchdown drive of the game. After setting up for a QB sneak on 4th and 1, Jake Levengood snapped the ball through Gulbranson’s legs to Jesiah Irish, who hit Caufield for that 15-yard reception to keep the drive alive. It was a fun play at a particularly tough time in the game.

Things got more fun after Vaslin’s touchdown catch, when the Beavers sent in 6’4” 372-pound Tyler Voltin to run a halfback dive on the two-point conversion. The redshirt sophomore was able to push the ball in for what was almost certainly the heaviest formation Oregon State has ever put on the field.

Defense

The Beaver defense was not helped by the offensive struggles in this game. Notre Dame started 3 of their 9 drives inside Oregon State territory and came away with two touchdowns and a safety one play after turning it over on downs at the OSU 1 yard line (the Irish then scored another TD on the subsequent drive). Oregon State did not make things any better with 17 missed tackles and were gashed in the run game to the tune of 4.9 yards per carry on 48 attempts.

Defensive Line: Joe Golden (53), James Rawls (51), Semisi Saluni (22), Takari Hickle (7), Quincy Wright (7)

While OSU’s makeshift offensive line struggled, Notre Dame’s imposed their will on the Oregon State defense. They were consistently getting movement at the line of scrimmage from the start, and by the end of the game were opening up wide lanes for their running backs to take advantage of.

On the bright side, Joe Golden, Semisi Saluni, and Sione Lolohea were able to follow the example of fellow defensive lineman Isaac Hodgins as fullbacks on Voltin’s two-point conversion attempt. The three lined up alongside each other as fullbacks on the play, which meant every player on the field that play for the Beavers was 250 pounds or more.

Edge Rusher: Andrew Chatfield Jr. (55), Sione Lolohea (44), John McCartan (41), Cory Stover (26), Nikko Taylor (1)

McCartan led the Beavers with 2 pressures (including a sack), a total which says most of what you need to know about the Oregon State pass rush. Lolohea was 2nd on the team with 4 stops and was one of the few effective run defenders on the defense. Overall, it was a disappointing day for a Beaver defensive front that was mostly intact going into the game.

Linebacker: Isaiah Chisom (53), John Miller (46), Melvin Jordan IV (35)

Both Jordan and Chisom came up with big plays on third down to keep the game within striking distance. Jordan blitzed up the middle on 3rd down to pick up one of two Beaver sacks, while Chistom did the same in the 3rd quarter to blow up a run play and force a field goal that kept the Beavers from going down 21-0. The missed tackles were not the responsibility of the linebackers, Jordan and Miller each at one apiece, and Chisom had none.

Cornerback: Jaden Robinson (67), Noble Thomas (54), Andre Jordan Jr. (41)

Those missed tackles were instead found in the secondary. A unit that was already down one starter with Jermod McCoy (transfer portal) found themselves further short-staffed by the absence of Ryan Cooper Jr. (injury) and Josiah Johnson (undisclosed). That left the Beavers with only 3 corners that had played more than 22 snaps this year.

Thomas and Jordan each had 4 missed tackles which turned good runs into great runs for the Irish. Thomas was also picked on mightily in the passing game, allowing catches all 5 times he was targeted for 74 yards and a TD.

Safety: Jack Kane (67), Kitan Oladapo (61), Wynston Rusell (6)

Kitan Oladapo looked to be doing everything he could to instill some swagger into the Beaver defense early and was seen jawing at Notre Dame players after a number of plays in the first half. He was the highest graded OSU defender per PFF with a 75.6 overall grade and led the team with 11 tackles.