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Canzano: Oregon State misses opportunity against Washington
Huskies beat Beavers 24-21.
SEATTLE — It was cold. It was windy. The lights went out, mid-game. But none of those things cost Oregon State the chance to leave Husky Stadium with a win on Friday night.
Final: Washington 24, Oregon State 21.
Give the Huskies and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. credit. UW drove 92 yards on 18 plays for the game-winning field goal. I watched from the press box, high above the scene, wondering how in the world the night got away from OSU.
Thin margins, is how.
Quarterback Ben Gulbranson missed a series of wide-open receivers for would-be TDs. Coach Jonathan Smith missed a couple of early chances to kick field goals. OSU missed the golden opportunity to take a fourth-quarter lead when it killed a promising drive with a series of penalties.
Oregon State doesn’t operate with much in the way of wiggle room. It runs the ball. It plays great defense. But on offense, the Beavers essentially have one arm (the passing one) tied behind their backs. Miss open receivers, fail to get easy points, trip over a blocker on 4th-and-1, commit penalties, and it’s tough to walk off winners. And that’s what happened on Friday night.
The Beavers did a lot right. They blocked a punt. They scored early. The defense was good. In fact, OSU never trailed on Friday until that final UW kick with a few seconds left. Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer said of the Beavers’ failure to capitalize on a couple of first-half drives: “It kept us in the game.”
That resilience — and a late field goal — was enough to win.
Said DeBoer: “Anytime you win, it makes the next one more important.”
When you lose?
Washington plays at Oregon next Saturday. UW has Penix Jr. and some momentum. But the Huskies defense will be faced with stopping Bo Nix and an offense that is averaging 45 points a game in conference play.
No shot to win, right? Except, anyone familiar with this rivalry knows the Oregon-Washington game is never a gimme. If the Huskies really want to matter this Pac-12 season, that game is it. A victory would derail the Ducks.
Meanwhile, Oregon State (6-3) gets Cal at Reser Stadium next Saturday. Then, a road game at Arizona State. It’s possible the Beavers could be 8-3 when they suit up on Nov. 26 at home against Oregon. Or they could be 7-4. Or 6-5. Again, the margins are thin.
That’s life for OSU. I keep hoping to see injured quarterback Chance Nolan return and give the offense a spark. He’s been out for five weeks with a neck injury. I looked for him on the field before Friday’s game. He wasn’t in uniform. In fact, Nolan didn’t make the trip. Keep an eye out for him, though.
Nolan’s possible return ends up an interesting storyline. He had an unfortunate run of interceptions against USC and Utah before injuring his neck in Salt Lake City. Gulbranson is 3-1 as a starter, but a healthy, re-focused Nolan would give OSU another dimension on offense.
The Beavers have three losses this season. Two of them came by a combined six points. Decide for yourself whether losing by a field goal at Washington was more painful than letting USC get away with that three-point win at Reser Stadium. Neither looked much fun in the end.
There’s progress in that, though, isn’t there?
Smith’s program has blossomed in a manner that makes a road loss at Washington feel like a disappointment. Not a moral victory. Just a fact. The Beavers entered the game ranked and hopeful. They must now pull themselves together, regroup, and turn the next 21 days into a three-game mini-season.
Then, the Ducks at home.
Anything feels possible with this team. Also, everything feels dicey. That’s how life is for a team that burns the candle at both ends.
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