Leaving Berkeley hopeful after loss

Brenden Slaughter, sports reporter

OSU came into Berkeley with their confidence unbroken despite a host of bad things going their way. They hadn’t won a game since September, injuries were piling up, and a bowl game was out of reach for the young OSU squad. 

The OSU squad fought admirably, but didn’t quite have the horses to compete with a Cal team that has much more experience and proven talent.

There were many things that were quite awful, like OSU’s defense giving up a Cal school record 760 total yards of offense. OSU also continued their stretch of momentum killing penalties, as they once again reared their ugly head and killed two promising OSU drives that made it into Cal territory.

Granted OSU lost to Cal 54-24, but for the first time since the San Jose State game, I left a Beaver game optimistic and hopefully for OSU’s future.

The silver-lining here is that OSU never quit in this game. Even when they were down three scores to Cal, the offense never stopped pushing and the defense didn’t let the scoreboard drag them down. 

It was the play of individuals like redshirt freshman Gabe Ovgard, and redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Mitchell, and true freshman Paul Lucas that Beaver fans have reason to be hopeful for the future.

Football is a team game, but these three guys stood out to me as the leaders that head coach Gary Andersen preaches that a winning football team needs to have. They all played with a demeanor that even though they were getting blown out on the scoreboard, they wouldn’t stop giving it their all.

Take Ovgard for example, he is a walk-on from a 1A school in southern Oregon, and was playing the safety position because of shear injury to the scholarship players in front of him. It didn’t matter to him that the Beavers were down in the game, he wanted to go out there and give it his all and make a big play. He did make the most of his opportunities, giving OSU their only take away of the game after he intercepted quarterback Jared Goff.

That is the type of player that Ovgard is, and most importantly, the type of player that Andersen wants to have in his program to have future success.

But most importantly for the Beavers, they finally found their offensive rhythm with the cool calm demeanor of Mitchell.

Mitchell led an OSU offense that finally seemed to click for the first time since the San Jose State game. He had poise in the pocket and looked like he had complete control of the offense for the first time this season.

Mitchell found the open receivers and hit them in stride, proving that he is the best passer on the team. He also took calculated, and smart runs to get first downs and keep the chains moving. Most importantly for Mitchell, he slid into most of his runs, and protected his body, showing the signs that he is growing up as a leader before our eyes.

His stat line wasn’t flashy going 14-of-28 for 168 yards and two touchdowns, but he carried the offense with a leadership mentality that OSU hasn’t had at the position all year. 

It wasn’t all Mitchell, but also the emergence of true freshman Paul Lucas. He looked superb in his first career start at running back after spending majority of the season lined up at receiver. He ran the ball with speed, quickness and brought something to the running back that has been missing since Jacquizz Rodgers – the ability to make the first defender miss. 

Lucas played running back in high school, and looked like he didn’t miss a beat returning to his old position as he carried the ball for 70 yards on 13 carries. 

2015 will be a season to forget for OSU fans, coaches and players when you look at the wins and losses. But it will be one to remember in terms of development and experience that OSU’s young squad will cherish two to three years down the line as they win eight-plus games regularly, and are led by players like Ovgard, Mitchell and Lucas.

“It’s good to see youthful kids accept responsibility and continue to watch these kids grow,” Andersen said. “(They are the players that can) flip it and move in right direction. We just need more of them.”

On Twitter @b_slaught