CORVALLIS – Former Oregon State football coach Gary Andersen may have quit on his team last week, but there was no quit in the Beavers against Colorado.
Oh, the Beavers lost their fifth straight game, but there was something different about Saturday’s 36-33 loss to Colorado before a crowd of 33,785 at Reser Stadium.
Under the leadership of interim head coach Cory Hall, the Beavers played with more emotion than in recent weeks.
OSU (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12) led most of the game, amassed 569 total yards to 385 for the Buffaloes, and ran the ball effectively behind bruising tailback Ryan Nall (172 yards rushing, three touchdowns).
“If you look at the stats, the score is no indicator of what really happened,” said Hall, who was appointed interim head coach Monday by athletic director Scott Barnes after Andersen’s stunning decision Monday to part ways with the program midway through his third season.
It was an exciting game that included five lead changes in the second half.
OSU went in front 33-29 on Nall’s 4-yard touchdown run with 4:33 left, but the defense was unable to make a critical stand with the game on the line. Bryce Bobo’s 13-yard touchdown reception from Steven Montez with 1:34 remaining proved to be the game-winning score.
OSU’s Jordan Choukair’s 52-yard field goal attempt to force overtime with 10 seconds left was short.
If players had any thoughts about Andersen, they weren’t making them public in the postgame media gathering.
“No, not today. Not at all,” senior linebacker Manase Hungalu said when asked if there was any talk about Andersen before the game.
Andersen left Beaver Nation with a 7-23 overall record, which included a 3-18 mark against Pac-12 opponents. He was 0-14 in road games.
Andersen and the university agreed to mutually part ways, and the veteran coach left about $12 million on the table.
Hall, who was promoted from cornerbacks coach, instilled emotion in his team in what could be viewed as an audition for the vacant head coaching position.
“There was definitely a lot of energy, that’s what coach Hall brings to the table,” said senor quarterback Darell Garretson, who passed for 289 yards and an interception.
“You can tell by the way he coached, how passionate he is about the game. It rubs off on a lot of people. It makes it fun to go out there and play.”
For the first time this season, OSU was competitive for the entire game against an FBS team. The Beavers, whose only win came in Week 2 against lower-division opponent Portland State, were in position to beat Colorado (4-3, 1-3).
Quality teams figure out a way to win, and the reality is OSU is a long way from that level.
And it should be noted that after playing ranked teams in their previous three games – Washington State, Washington and USC – the Beavers figured to be more competitive against Colorado, which had lost its previous three games.
But credit OSU for playing its best game of the season, albeit it in another defeat.
“For those boys this is a fresh start,” Hall said.
That fresh start was about going back to basics. OSU won its final two games of the 2016 campaign against Arizona and Oregon with a strong running game, and that was on display Saturday. The Beavers rushed for 280 yards.
OSU scored on all five of its first-half possessions, but too often settled for field goals. That was the difference in the game, along with the Beavers’ defense failing to preserve a late lead.
For Hall, the goal was to “inflict pain.”
“That’s why you say run the ball. You’ve gotten soften (the defense) up,” Hall said. “It’s football. Football hurts. We wanna be aggressive and physical.”
With No. 23 Stanford next up on the schedule Oct. 26 at Reser Stadium, the losses may continue for a while. The Beavers play three of their final four games on the road, and they’ll almost certainly be underdogs in all five of their remaining games.
But with Andersen’s departure in the rear-view mirror, the Beavers are in position to be free of distractions and enjoy the game again.
“There’s no doubt that our team came together with everything that happened Monday, all the craziness that went down,” Garretson said. “When something drastic happens like that, guys tend to come together.”