Oregon State defeated Boise State 34-17 in the 2022 season debut Saturday night in Reser Stadium. Here are seven takeaways from the Beavers’ performance:
1. The 2022 season outlook suddenly gets an upgrade
Prior to Saturday night, there were a wide variety of predictions regarding Oregon State’s upcoming 2022 season. Not many had the Beavers with a losing record, but much better than last year’s 7-6 record? It took a leap of faith. Vegas, after all, started OSU’s win total line at 5½, then later bumped it to 6 and 6½.
On Sunday, hours after the Beavers’ thumping of Boise State, we know better. A lower tier bowl game now seems like a minimum, an almost disappointing accomplishment. If OSU gets its running game going, the Beavers are going to be in every game this season, and win most of them. That’s what a playmaking defense does for a program. Without knowing what injuries might be ahead, 9-3 or 10-2 seems achievable.
2. Chance Nolan has improved
Two things stood out for Nolan. One, he got acquainted early and often with his stud tight end Luke Musgrave. That was established on the opening play, when Nolan hit Musgrave on a delay route. In the end, Musgrave led the Beavers with six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Then on the third play, Nolan gave us a look at what he’s been working on: the deep ball. Earlier in the week, I asked Nolan specifically about his offseason deep ball work. He said rather than throw it to the receiver, he’s been working on getting more air under the football and leading the receiver, allowing them to run to the ball. Nolan couldn’t have thrown a better ball, a perfectly lofted pass to Tre’Shaun Harrison. Who dropped what would have been a 53-yard touchdown pass.
No matter. It was a sign of Nolan’s progress. He didn’t back off, throwing several deep balls throughout the first half that broke Boise State’s defense. Nolan was hardly perfect; his second half was average, and on one throw, cringeworthy, when a ball he meant to throw away was intercepted at the sideline. Nolan’s explanation? “I chili-dipped it.”
3. Defense makes a statement
Let’s focus on the first half here, as we’ll get to the second half later. Have you seen a better performance by a Smith defense? Hard to imagine. Boise State’s offense isn’t the best the Beavers will face this year, but the Broncos did have four-year starting quarterback, a former 1,000-yard running back, most of its offensive line returning and a deep group of receivers. By halftime, the Broncos were reeling, following a scoreless, 116-yard, four-turnover first half. The Beavers’ defensive front dominated Boise State’s offensive line. Receivers couldn’t get separation, and OSU’s secondary won several 50-50 balls. Kyrei Fisher-Morris, taking over Avery Roberts’ role at inside linebacker, made plays. The Beavers were particularly lethal when Boise State had the ball inside its 10. There were five such plays during the first half. Four of the five plays resulted in lost yardage, and a fumble recovery.
4. About that second half
At the risk of looking like a homer – and trust me, there are at least a couple people at OSU who believe I’m against their camp – I’d push back on those making too much of the Beavers’ second half performance. Yes, Boise State outscored Oregon State 17-10 after halftime. Yes, it got mildly dicey at times, though there was never a sense the Broncos were threatening to make a game of it.
What I saw: a team that hasn’t had much experience with a 24-0 halftime lead against a good opponent. The offensive approach was hesitant. My impression is they weren’t quite sure whether to step on the gas or run out the clock. The result was blah and uninspiring. It’s fixable, for sure.
As for the defense, they were facing a backup quarterback whom they clearly hadn’t prepared to see. Who thinks the fourth-year starting quarterback is going to get yanked midway through the second quarter? But Hank Bachmeier was so awful, Broncos coach Andy Avalos felt he had no choice but to turn to Taylen Green. The 6-foot-6 freshman has an entirely different playing style than Bachmeier. He’s run first, and man, is he fast and hard to bring down. Had OSU spent considerable time prepping for Green, they likely would have planned to contain his runs and make him throw. Through the air, Green was ordinary. But he didn’t have to pass, because the run lanes were there. Again, lesson learned. I wouldn’t make too much of it.
5. Smith/Lindgren teams protect the ball. They didn’t
The not-so-good from the game was the offense’s sloppiness. Smith and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren have built a program on ball security. During Smith/Lindgren’s first four years in Corvallis, the Beavers have been among the Pac-12′s top half in fewest turnovers each season, leading the conference in 2019. The 2022 season got off to careless start, as OSU’s offense had three turnovers, and might have had two more if not for replay. Nolan’s third-quarter interception was inexcusable. Oregon State’s running back position is deep. I suspect the message will be made clear this week: if you want an opportunity, you’d better hold on to the football.
6. Best comment of the night
As usual, Jack Colletto had an impact on Oregon State’s win. The inside linebacker recovered a fumble that led to a second-quarter field goal. Offensively, Colletto converted an early first down as a Wildcat quarterback, then later, from the fullback position, ran 41 yards for a touchdown.
“Shoot, how good is football?” Colletto said.
7. In its temporary state, Reser Stadium was fine
Call it short term pain for long term gain, this $161 million remodel of Reser Stadium. Saturday’s debut of the 2022 home slate, where the west side is undergoing renovation, wasn’t perfect, but overall, the stadium’s atmosphere felt alive. Despite missing an entire side of the stadium, Reser was loud, and the new $5 million video board was a welcome addition. The students showed up, even though classes don’t begin until the end of September. Lighting is an issue, as the west side temporaries are wonky. Suspect there will be some tinkering in weeks to come. There were a few setbacks, such as long concession lines and complaints about music. But that’s going to happen whether the stadium is in one piece or not. Overall, home games at Oregon State will work in 2022.
–Nick Daschel reporting from Corvallis