Reflections from the 124th edition of the Oregon-Oregon State football game, won 41-38 by the Beavers on a foggy Friday night at Reser Stadium in Corvallis:
Oregon State (2-2) was a 13-point underdog and needed a monster game from its best player and Jermar Jefferson delivered, rushing for 226 yards on 29 carries and scoring two touchdowns. One of them was an 82-yard scoring run on OSU’s second offensive play.
Jefferson’s rushing total in the game was the most yards by an Oregon or Oregon State player in the series. He now has 675 yards and seven TDs on the shortened 2020 season, averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
“This win is really big. Rivalry game. I really wanted to redeem myself after last year, what happened on that fumble (in the fourth quarter of a 24-10 loss to the Ducks to the Ducks at Autzen Stadium),” Jefferson said.
“It means everything. I studied hard. I was really ready for this game.”
“That boy is special. He definitely makes our job easier on the outside,” OSU wide receiver Kolby Taylor said of Jefferson, a junior who ranks fifth on the Beavers’ all-time rushing list. “He’s a hard worker and I’m glad he’s our teammate.”
Jefferson’s performance helped Oregon State finish with 269 yards on the ground, compared to 183 for the Ducks (3-1). The Beavers averaged 6.1 yards per carry and the OSU offensive line did a solid job.
The Beavers had more total yards (532-468), more first downs (25-23) and more offensive plays (82-66), and had the ball nearly nine more minutes than the Ducks.
And Oregon State won the turnover battle. The Ducks were intercepted twice and lost a fumble, while the Beavers didn’t commit a turnover.
OSU trailed 31-19 entering the fourth quarter, but outscored Oregon 22-7 over the last 15 minutes. The Beavers put together a 16-play, 92-yard scoring drive to begin their comeback.
“I’m really proud of this football team,” Jonathan Smith said, notching his biggest victory to date as Oregon State’s head coach. “The resilience, the fight for four quarters. They were able to finish the thing in the fourth quarter. This is a special win.”
“I’m ecstatic,” said OSU outside linebacker Andrzeg Hughes-Murray, who had 3.5 tackles for loss in the game. “Oregon is a hell of a team, but we just played our asses off.”
It was only the Beavers’ second win over UO in the last 13 meetings.
There were no fans at the contest because of the coronavirus pandemic. Smith wishes the OSU faithful could’ve witnessed the victory in person.
“It means a ton to a lot of people, not just the guys in the locker room,” he said.
The Beavers got pushed around defensively in the opening 30 minutes, but tightened up in the second half.
The defense got the ball back for the offense in the last 1 1/2 minutes and Oregon State drove 53 yards in 10 plays for the winning touchdown. Chance Nolan, who replaced the injured Tristan Gebbia at quarterback, scored on a 1-yard sneak on fourth down with 33 seconds left.
“We were ready, man,” Taylor said of the last possession. “We’re always asking for the defense to give us an opportunity, and they gave us an opportunity and we were able to capitalize and finish.”
“We got to finish the game. We didn’t finish it,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “We had a couple of chances to close out and we didn’t. Credit to them (Beavers) as well. They deserve it.
“This (loss) is one that needs to sting, needs to hurt and needs to be used as fuel.”
Gebbia had his best game as a Beaver, completing 23 of 37 passes for 263 yards and one TD with no interceptions before injuring his hamstring. Gebbia also had a 1-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
“He made some big time plays today,” Smith said. “Our passing game showed up.”
Taylor made seven receptions for 114 yards, while Trevon Bradford added eight grabs for 93 yards.
The Ducks, the defending Pac-12 champions, have more talent on their roster than the Beavers but were outplayed on this day.
Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough didn’t have his best performance, but was 20 of 31 passing for 285 yards and two TDs. He was intercepted twice.
Travis Dye led the Ducks’ running attack with 93 yards on 12 carries. CJ Verdell ran for 36 yards before leaving the contest with an injury and missed the second half.
Oregon’s hopes of making the College Football Playoff are officially over, but the Ducks still have the Pac-12 title to play for. If COVID stays out of play, they’ll finish the regular season at California and at home versus Washington.
The Ducks still look like the best team in the conference to me.