Last minute loss to Stanford leaves Beavers one final shot to earn third PAC-12 win

OSU Junior, Jermar Jefferson, tries to find a break in the Stanford defense.

Claire Platt, Sports Contributor

Following their close loss against the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, Dec. 12 at Reser Stadium, the Oregon State Beavers found themselves out of reach for a winning regular season.

Now sitting at 2-4 with only one game remaining in the season, the Beavers will not get the chance to end 2020 with a winning record, with the team last hitting that mark in 2013. However, in a game as close as this one, Oregon State nearly found themselves on the other end of the win/loss column.

The 27-24 loss was as evenly contested as the narrow margin of victory would suggest. The Beavers contested the full game, having a 14-6 lead by halftime. But in taking the field again for the second half, looking towards a victory, Stanford had some big plays of their own that would cut Beavers’ lead to three points by the time the teams reached the fourth quarter.

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Oregon State’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Chance Nolan looked to fill Tristan Gebbia’s cleats after the Beavers opening day starter under center was ruled out for the remainder of the 2020 season, and had the strongest performance of his young Beavers’ career. Nolan ended the night passing for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Through Nolan’s dynamic performance, Oregon State was able to hold a lead for a majority of the game, and was able to battle back whenever the Cardinal took control.

And with the Cardinal reclaiming the lead with 1:48 remaining in the fourth quarter following a go-ahead field goal from Stanford’s senior kicker Jet Toner, Oregon State would look to Nolan once again to continue his strong showing and end the game on a winning note.

However, game-sealing disaster struck late for Nolan and the Beavers in the fourth quarter with less than a minute to go. As the quarterback looked to scramble for extra yards, Cardinal senior linebacker Gabe Reid managed to jar the ball from Nolan’s arms, and into the waiting hands of Stanford’s senior linebacker Curtis Robinson. 

With Stanford once again in possession of the ball, this time with a lead, the Cardinal kneeled to run the clock and end the game. Despite a strong individual performance, Nolan expressed frustration at the outcome, now falling to 0-2 as the Beavers’ starting quarterback.

“We’re down. We know that we should have won that game…We know that we’ve been in too many close games throughout the year. We hope to pull those ones out,” Nolan said. “You can say we battled. But as a team, we want to win these games… We were right there.” 

Nolan’s sentiment was shared by his teammates, in particular, junior defensive lineman Isaac Hodgins. Despite the final result being swung by an Oregon State fourth-quarter fumble, Hodgins made sure to stress that games are decided by more than one moment. 

“It never comes down to just one play, there are so many plays throughout the whole game that it could have gone differently, the outcome may have been different,” Hodgins said. “It’s never on just one player or anything like that.” 

Even with the final drive not spinning in their favor, Oregon State still managed their share of positive moments on offense. Junior running back Jermar Jefferson returned to the field for the game, after being held out last week due to COVID-19 protocols, and managed 80 yards on 18 carries. Redshirt junior receiver Tyjon Lindsey played similarly well, ending with two touchdown catches, the highest single-game total of his college career.

The Beavers’ defense had stellar moments as well, holding the Cardinal to six points at the end of the second quarter, Oregon State’s best first-half showing of the 2020 season. Oregon State Head Coach Jonathan Smith was impressed with the effort the Beavers showed on both sides of the ball, but saw areas to close the game out where Oregon State was unable to capitalize.

“[It was] a hard-fought football game, obviously very close and comes down to one or two plays and credit to those guys, they made one or two more plays than we did,” Smith said. “I thought there were opportunities for us really on both sides. Offensively, we had the lead, we had the opportunity to turn it into a two-score lead, and we didn’t do that. [But] just as this team does, we’re going to fight to the end.”

The Beavers will return to Reser Stadium for their final game of the season against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 7 pm.