OSU deserves a lot of applause

What we learned from UO vs. OSU non-Civil War Game

What a win for Oregon State, beating the Ducks 41-38 with a last-minute touchdown splurge. 

What a loss for Oregon, getting outscored 22-7 in the fourth quarter of a game Las Vegas thought it would win by two touchdowns.

It’s the Covid-19 season for everything, so many people will just think it’ll mean less. It’s 2020, blah. But, there is so much more than just a blah win/loss from the former Civil War game played in Corvallis Friday.

It really is a great win for the Beavers, as is any win over Oregon in any sport, but especially in this season where they could easily be 4-0. At 2-2, they’ve got bowl potential, and the Beavs haven’t been to a bowl since 2013. OSU just needs to beat Utah or Stanford in the next two weeks, and it’s bowl worthy. Call it the Covid Bowl, whatever, it’s still a bowl.

It’s something of a usual loss for the Ducks, who are still lined up to play in the Pac-12 Championship game with wins over Cal and Washington in the next two weeks. The Ducks lose a key game virtually every year, including to ASU two weeks before the conference title game last year, so a loss during the regular season isn’t a big surprise. Maybe it’s helpful for fans of this season to move past the College Football Playoffs.

Here’s the fallout as I see it from Friday’s game.

1. Jonathan Smith is absolutely the right coach for Oregon State

Smith signed on for five years in 2017, but then got an extension in January through 2026, so that puts him in Corvallis for a while. For a program that hadn’t done much since the Mike Riley years, he’s got the Beavers moving in the right direction, which might be the conference championship game in coming years. It’s great to see a team playing above itself, and that’s what OSU seemed to do for much of the game Friday.  Junior Tristan Gebbia guided the offense played well enough to win, and the defense kept the game in line for a win by doing just enough to contain the Ducks, especially in the fourth quarter. A key interception in the fog definitely helped that cause.

2. Jermar Jefferson is headed to the NFL

Jefferson, another junior, has three runs longer than 70 yards in the last two games, and finished with 229 Friday. The 82-yard sprint on his first carry was probably the biggest play of the game in that it matched Oregon’s long touchdown drive that opened the contest. As big a stat as the 229 yards is, though, is the number of carries he got in the game - 29. What college team gives its feature back 29 carries these days? The team had plenty of opportunities for other guys to run as it finished with 44. Six of them were by Gebbia, who got a pair of key first downs on fourth-downs. Jefferson is only 5-10, but he showed off great instincts to get through a line, and has increased his season total of yards to 675 in four games and 91 carries, which is almost the total he had last year (685) on 142 carries, a year after he ran for 1,380 yards. His running brings back the visions of another OSU great - Ken Simonton, who was just 5-7 but finished with 5,044 yards in four seasons.

3. Oregon can’t run the ball or won’t run the ball

Can anyone remember the last great Oregon running back? Someone who was a feature back game after game? Oregon has had plenty of backs get to the NFL and two who finished with more than 5,000 career yards - Royce Freeman (2014-17), and LaMichael James (09-11). But, those were bygone days. The Ducks throw too much for that to happen now, which is always going to be a problem for them handling the clock when they need. Friday’s game finished with a respectable 186 yards on 34 carries, but Oregon simply would not run the ball three successive times for a first down. In the fog that hit Friday, it was baffling to see so many long passes downfield considering the receivers often didn’t see to know where the ball was. To be a College Football Playoff team, and winner, Oregon needs to be able to run the ball better.

4. Mario Cristobal deserves an Al Pacino/Jack Nickolson/Kevin Costner/Sam Elliott-level pep talk

Oregon does not seem very inspired on the field. The Ducks are good, yes, and they can score and make a tackle or two, yes. But when the game gets serious and there’s a play that needs to be made, it’s just kinda part of the flow and if it happens, it does, and if it doesn’t, well, then it doesn’t. 

I see four movies the Ducks coaches and players should view and get some meaning out of: Scarface, A Few Good Men, Bull Durham, and the Big Lebowski. 

At some point, the defense needs to be able to stop any opponent on any play - if the team is College Football Playoff worthy. That seems to be the thing for every UO season - get to the Big 4. But, Oregon just finds a way to be just-enough better than most teams, and then, damn that one play almost-good-enough for the key loss. And, the offense is so tricky, and indecisive. When the fog hit, the plays should have been closer to the vest as in short passes and lots of runs, but there were still plenty of longer passes, including one that turned into an interception in the fourth quarter.

Cristobal is in his third years as Oregon coach and has turned the program into one of the prime destinations for recruits in the nation. So why isn’t Oregon as good as Clemson? There’s something missing and Cristobal is the guy to overcome what that is. Or, he isn’t.

5. The Pac-12 just isn’t that good, so stop whining

When the CFP rankings came out and the Ducks were at 15, it seemed like a bit of a snub from the folks putting them together. But, it seems pretty much spot on, so fans should just refocus on the conference title. Oregon is still lined up for that. The bigger issue is next season and getting all the younger players that seasoning they need for a run at something really big, which includes a game at Ohio State. The 2021 season also includes a game against the FCS Stony Brook Seawolves which is on par with Clemson in that the Tigers always play a FCS team, too. 

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