Canzano: Oregon State sheds a myth, wins again
Beavers beat Washington State 24-10.
I got to thinking after Oregon State’s 24-10 win over Washington State on Saturday night — the Beavers don’t just think outside the box, they play that way, too.
Oregon State didn’t get pristine quarterback play. It wasn’t statistically dominant, either. I stayed up into the wee hours, poring over tape of the latest Beavers victory, and I was reminded of something Henry David Thoreau once wrote.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Look — at quarterback Ben Gulbranson’s modest 141 passing yards. Look — at no OSU player with more than 63 receiving yards. Look — at an interception, a missed field goal and five punts. But see — that Oregon State won the game anyway.
The Beavers enjoy an old-fashioned struggle against their limitations more than most. And I’m here for it because there’s something gratifying about witnessing a collection of young players abandon convention, pull close together, and figure out how to be the best version of themselves. The rest of us could learn something from Oregon State this season.
It’s really easy to look at the Beavers and come away thinking and talking about their deficiencies. But once you take note of all the little things OSU does right, you lose sight of what it lacks.
Oregon State had zero dropped passes on Saturday. It committed only two penalties. The defense sacked Washington State’s quarterback six times, broke up 10 passes and had seven QB hurries.
We could sit around all day and wonder how the Beavers won the game, but isn’t the answer hitting us all over the head?
Oregon State outplayed WSU.
The Beavers pounded Washington State physically and held the Cougars to 10 harmless points. By the end on Saturday night, there was little doubt which of the two teams was better.
Gulbranson could be more efficient, sure. But so could we all. And yes, OSU needs a blue-chip receiver, but so do a lot of teams. Look at the deficiencies? OK. Sure. Go ahead, stare at them until your eyes water. But when I observe Oregon State in action, what I see is a team that refuses to quit and, because of that, is now in position to win 7-10 regular-season games.
The Beavers are 5-2.
Next Saturday they play Colorado at home. After that, OSU is at Washington on a Friday night. Then, it’s home vs. Cal (Nov. 12) and at Arizona State (Nov. 19). The regular-season finale is the annual rivalry game at home vs. Oregon on Nov. 26.
At the beginning of the season, bookmakers set Oregon State’s season-win total somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 games. I hope you took the “over” because the Beavers are on the cusp of a payout with five games to play.
College football is a quarterback-centric game. If you have a great passer — especially a dual-threat option — you can give an opposing defense a long day. Gulbranson’s passer rating on Saturday: 104.8.
It was only the sixth-best mark among the nine starting Pac-12 quarterbacks on Saturday. Guess what? Two who rated in front of OSU’s starter went home losers. Arizona’s Jayden de Laura was one of them. He had the highest rating (211.2) of any Pac-12 starting quarterback, but lost at Washington because the Wildcats’ defense gave up 49 points.
Gulbranson managed the game and made enough plays to keep the defense honest. Freshman running back Damien Martinez turned in a massive 50-yard run, the second-straight week he’s reeled off a rush of 40-plus yards. And OSU’s defense played as if Washington State’s offense cut off the team bus in traffic on the way to the stadium.
A week earlier, Oregon State stunned Stanford in the closing seconds. In the subsequent days, I heard people declare that the Beavers got “lucky” and won.
That’s a myth. Luck had nothing to do with Martinez’s 43-yard scoring run against Stanford, or Silas Bolden’s incredible scoring catch, or Tre’Shaun Harrison’s game-winning TD. Those were good football plays made by good football players.
“The point of the game is to win,” OSU coach Jonathan Smith said. “And we did.”
Thoreau would have loved these Beavers. They’re transcendentalists who are defensive-minded, opportunistic, and experienced.
Jaydon Grant, a seventh-year senior, anchors the secondary. Offensive lineman Brandon Kipper now has 39 career starts at OSU. And Jack Colletto is the most interesting two-way football player since Heisman finalist Gordie Lockbaum.
Smith knew what he was getting into when he took the job in Corvallis. He suited up at OSU, after all. He grasps the task. Maybe you like Smith’s guts on fourth down or his even-keeled demeanor after a big win. But what I like most about Smith is how motivated he is to shed the folksy “Little Engine That Could” identity that submarined Oregon State’s program over the years.
“I think I can… I think I can…”
The Beavers know they can — and they did again on Saturday night.
(VIEW: PHOTO GALLERY: Washington State at Oregon State.)
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My thoughts on the game (and this is from reading since Pac-12 Network is not carried by Hulu / ESPN+, but Big 10 (BTN) and SEC are, is that Gulbranson will only get better. He is a freshman, but already is protecting the ball better than Nolan, and that matters! For a team with limited offensive talent (the Beavers), ball protection is the name of the game. I am sure the coaches are helping with play calling to cover inexperience. I have noted in the past that Coach Smith needs a better Portal Game to build this team up so that it earns the attention of 4 and 5 star high school recruits in the future. But no one can deny that without the benefit of the portal Smith has built the best defense this team has had since the Erickson teams, including the wise decision promoting Coach Bray to DC. So, the crib notes on this OSU football team is they reflect the grit of their head coach and out perform their limited skills. Smith has fixed their early season penalty and pass dropping problems (coaching!!) Coach Smith has created a winning culture in Corvallis, as we knew he would, and we LOVE it.
Loved viewing the game. I would say this is the most complete game OSU has played, because it never felt like we were out of control (there was a bit vs. Boise State we were). I personally would like to see Ben start going for the rest of the season. Also keep in mind we have a 4 star QB recruit coming next year (knock on wood), which will make the QB camp interesting. I've posted takeaways on the CFB reddit and noted this time, I couldn't think of any negatives except maybe finishing more often. Also, I don't know who else was at Reser, but I was in the student section at about the 30 yard line terrace side, and there is a mic there for the crowd noise that gets replayed on the other speakers. I did not notice this anywhere else. As for rushing afterwards, we gave them the requested 60 seconds, but the reason why we rushed is because this was the last losing streak that's alive (streak is defined as 3 or more in this context). Now we hold winning streaks or have lost the last one to every P12 team. If we win next week, I expect the students to rush again due to the being bowl eligible in October rarity celebration. Also because Corvegas.