CORVALLIS — The Oregon State University fans rushed the field as if their Beavers had upset the Oregon Ducks or USC Trojans.
That wasn’t the case Saturday afternoon in OSU’s Reser Stadium, but the fans and the Beaver team had reason for the 10-minute on-field celebration after the home team upended the No. 13-ranked Wisconsin Badgers, 10-7. It was a much better ending for the Beavers than a year ago when they were thumped, 35-0, in Madison.
Rushing the field didn’t happen a year ago when the Beavers struggled and finished with a 3-9 record.
The Beavers’ two-deep chart (48 players) entering the game featured 24 freshmen and sophomores. They were new to the post-game party, but were thrilled to take it all in.
“To kneel down (on the final play) and then have the fans rush the field, that’s awesome, “ said OSU sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion. “The victory formation is the best play in football. It’s a fun experience when the crowd rushes the field like that.”
Redshirt freshman runningback Storm Woods said the experience was a dream come true.
“You watch it on television, but then to have it happen to you, that’s pretty amazing,” he said.
OSU coach Mike Riley promoted this game to his players as the biggest home opener in OSU’s 116-year football history. His reasoning was that Wisconsin came into the game as the highest-ranked nonconference team to play in Corvallis since the Beavers upset then No. 13-ranked BYU, 24-19, in 1977.
Wisconsin also finished 11-3 overall last year when it was one of the nation’s top rushing teams, had a 33-game regular season nonconference winning streak with 11 of those on the road and had won five of its last six meetings with Pac-12 teams.
There was also the fact the Beavers got dominated on their trip to Wisconsin a year ago.
Oregon State was a definite underdog Saturday, but it responded. The defense held Wisconsin to a net of just 35 yards rushing and had a shutout going until the visitors managed their only score with a touchdown with 1:31 remaining in the game.
“That’s one of the best games ever played in this stadium,” said Riley. “The guys made plays. I’m just real proud of the team and the coaching staff. This is a good game for us. It builds confidence and confidence is such a huge thing.”
Mannion said the team put last year behind it a long time ago.
“We started a new season today and it’s great to see all these things come together like this,” he said.
Woods said some of the older players set the example of preparing for the new season by beginning workouts the week after last season ended.
“We’ve busted our butts and we’ve been grinding, grinding,” he said.
The players and Riley said they were thrilled to celebrate the win, but added they realize one game doesn’t make a season and there’s room for improvement. The Beavers have a bye this week and then travel to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA on Sept. 22.
“We’re not about to feel settled,” Poyer said. “It’s just one win. But we feel we can compete with a lot of Top 25 teams.
“It’s hard, but fun,” he added. “Especially today.”
Mannion admitted it wasn’t perfect, but said it was a good start.
It was a confidence booster, just what both the Beavers and their fans needed.
Craig Reed, a former News-Review sports editor and now the features editor, is an OSU alum. He can be reached at 541-957-4210 or email@example.com