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Canzano: Oregon State sets stage for its next act
Beavers pound Florida in Las Vegas Bowl.
Don’t know if you caught it, but a tug-of-war broke out immediately after Oregon State’s 30-3 beat down of Florida on Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Ben Gulbranson and Tristian Gebbia shared the quarterback duties for the Beavers. It was a classy move by the coaching staff. But when it came to the game ball, the two quarterbacks looked like a couple of old friends out to dinner, tugging on the bill, fighting over who should take care of it.
Gebbia tried to hand the ball to Gulbranson.
Gubranson refused it and pushed the ball back into Gebbia’s hands.
“He insisted I keep it,” said Gebbia, “and it meant a lot.”
That little moment said so much about the culture of OSU football. Also, about those two quarterbacks and how much respect they have for each other.
A few thoughts on the game:
• Florida played without starting quarterback Anthony Richardson and 40 or so of his close friends. The 27-point margin of victory was the most dominant Pac-12 win over an SEC opponent since Oregon beat Tennessee 59-14 in 2013.
SEC honks are using the opt-outs as an excuse. I guess. But so what? Oregon State can’t control who shows up to play. The Beavers did exactly what they should have done to an inferior opponent — they flattened them. Give OSU’s players credit for showing up, in force, with purpose.
• OSU defensive stars Jaydon Grant and Jack Colletto have been around OSU for a while. So have a lot of Oregon State fans, who suffered through a 1-11 season in 2017. Coach Gary Anderson quit. Grant and friends didn’t. Neither did OSU fans who saw Jonathan Smith show up and ignite a slow, beautiful rebuild that resulted in a 10-3 record this season.
Give the coach — and his players — credit. I suspect it’s why Grant channeled his inner-Michael Jordan in posing with the bowl-game trophy and a cigar on Saturday.
• Let’s not pretend Florida wasn’t playing for something on Saturday. The Tampa Bay Times wrote before kickoff: “This season has been somewhere between a disappointment and a failure, regardless of how it ends. But UF has a chance at avoiding ignominy. A loss would secure a second straight losing season. The last time that happened was 1978-79 — a drought that began before coach Billy Napier was born.”
The bowl game may not have been important to some star players, but it was vital to the trajectory of Napier’s program. He’s trying to build and recruit. It probably explains why he elected to kick a field goal on fourth down in the final minute and avoid the complete embarrassment of a shutout.
I shook my head at the field goal. But only because it’s not what I’d have done. But I’m not Napier. Florida (6-7) posted a second-straight losing season and is playing in the same conference as Alabama and Georgia. He now faces having to go out and recruit after being blown off the field by Oregon State.
He must have figured 30-3 is easier to sell than 30-0.
• OSU freshman running back Damien Martinez tweeted after the game, “I’m home and happy where I am.” He announced he’s not leaving Corvallis. There has been some speculation that Martinez, who is from Texas, would be targeted by the NIL collectives in the SEC. It appears Oregon State got more than one win on Saturday.
• How good will Oregon State be next season? A friend of mine, John Papadakis, played linebacker at USC in the 1970s. He’s a keen observer of college football and was voted “Most Inspirational Player” on the 1971 Trojans team. He’s reached out to me a few times in the last couple of years to tell me how impressed he is with Jonathan Smith’s coaching style and game management.
I trust his judgment.
Offered Papadakis on Saturday: “Jon Smith cooks up the game like a reduction sauce. And he kills by strangulation.”
Papadakis is now predicting that the Beavers will win the Pac-12 Conference championship next season. I think a lot of that depends on what happens with the quarterback position, but the praise is worth noting.
That scene between Gebbia and Gulbranson was telling, wasn’t it?
Gebbia got to play in the bowl game, completing 5 of 6 passes. Like Grant and Colletto, he’s been around. He’s endured a season-ending injury and a pile of losses. It was nice to see Gebbia have a meaningful moment in the spotlight.
Gulbranson, a redshirt freshman, was thrown into duty this season. He went 7-1 as a starter and made plays when he needed to make them. His only loss was a three-point defeat at Washington.
I still think OSU needs to get into the transfer portal and see what’s there. I’d like to see Gulbranson pushed. But he deserves credit for being the quarterback of record when his team played its best football. Until someone beats him out, he’s the starting quarterback.
Gulbranson won the Las Vegas Bowl MVP.
He got my vote.
Gebbia tried to give the kid the game ball, too. It was an interesting post-game scene. But that’s just not how it works at Oregon State. Gulbranson pushed the ball back into the hands of Gebbia.
Culture always finds a way, doesn’t it?
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