CORVALLIS, Ore. – Let the record show that Oregon State lost another football game Thursday night at Reser Stadium.
No. 20 Stanford (6-2, 5-1 Pac-12) rallied for a 15-14 victory on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left, extending the Beavers’ losing streak to six games.
But the script has been flipped in a season that saw then-OSU head coach Gary Andersen walk away at mid-season with four years remaining on his contract.
In two games under interim head coach Cory Hall, the Beavers lost 36-33 to Colorado, followed by Thursday’s game that was on the verge of ending with an OSU celebration.
“Beaver football is changing. ... this is evidence of it,” Hall said. “Disappointed, yes. But still encouraged and still encouraging all of our players.”
The Beavers (1-7, 0-5) led 14-9 late in the fourth quarter and had the ball with a chance to run out the clock. One more first down may have sealed the win.
Even if OSU punted, the Cardinal had not driven the length of the field for a touchdown the entire game and there was little reason to believe they would.
But tailback Ryan Nall lost a fumble at the OSU 40-yard line with 2:30 left giving Stanford hope.
Keller Chryst completed a 25-yard pass on fourth and 10, and Stanford scored the game-winning touchdown on JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s touchdown catch in the right corner of the end zone.
Still, after losing their first four Pac-12 games by at least 28 points, the Beavers are showing progress, albeit it in defeat
“It’s not like here we go again. It’s the fact that we should have won that game,” said Nall, adding “it’s not the same team that we were four weeks ago.”
That’s a fact.
The Beavers are playing with more emotion under Hall, who always appears fired up on the sidelines. That enthusiasm is contagious.
While the loss officially eliminated OSU from bowl contention, let's be real. This team had virtually no shot of getting to the six-win mark and bowl eligibility.
But the Beavers will factor into who wins the Pac-12 North, and they could end the season with a second consecutive victory over Oregon in the Civil War.
For now, the focus will be on a Nov. 4 matchup at California with an opportunity to end a 16-game road losing streak.
“With coach A leaving, coach Hall’s done a great job,” said tailback Thomas Tyner, whose 18-yard touchdown gave the Beavers a 14-6 lead early in the third quarter. “He motivates us to keep going.”
It was a sterling defensive performance from OSU, which kept Stanford out of the end zone until the final minute.
Stanford missed Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love (ankle injury) and the Cardinal were pedestrian offensively without their national rushing leader. But credit OSU for limiting the Cardinal to 222 total yards and just 81 on the ground.
“He ain’t Stanford,” OSU safety Omar Hicks-Onu said of Love. “We wanted to come out there and stop the rush because that’s what they’re known for and we're known for not having a good rushing defense, and today we stopped ‘em.”
The Beavers, who weren’t exactly offensive juggernauts either with 264 total yards, aren’t quitting on what will be a fourth consecutive losing season.
A crowd of 30,912 was the smallest of the season at Reser Stadium, but fans were vocal until the end. They were ready to storm the field had the outcome been different.
“They’ve still got love for us no matter what,” Nall said. “You don’t see that in a lot of places.”
And the Beavers seem to have a lot of love for their interim coach.
Hall probably won't lose the interim label and emerge as OSU's head coach next season, but he has the Beavers playing inspired football, something that was not happening under Andersen. Hall merits a closer look from OSU athletic director Scott Barnes when the dust settles on the 2017 campaign.
For Beaver fans looking for a silver lining, Thursday’s game did not produce the desired result, but it certainly provided hope for better days ahead.
“The season’s not a wash because anytime you’re able to line up, put a helmet on and compete, that’s always a blessing,” Hall said.
ghorowitz@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/ghorowitz