Football shows improvement in spring scrimmage


Jason May

The Oregon State football team lining up to face off against each other at the spring football scrimmage on April 16 at Reser Stadium. The OSU football team uses the scrimmage to get ready for the next season.

Ben Pahl, Sports Contributor

The Oregon State football team held their annual spring scrimmage on Saturday morning in windy, rain-soaked conditions in Reser Stadium.

Appropriately dressed in ponchos, the fans who came down to take in the event would not have the same experience they’ve likely grown accustomed to over the years.  For one thing, the entire west side of Reser is currently missing, giving the game more of a local high-school type of atmosphere.

In addition, the crowd did not get the usual play-by-play updates from a PA announcer, as is the protocol during typical NCAA football games. Instead, pop music blasted through the speakers as quarterbacks barked signals to start their plays. No false starts called by the PAC-12 officiating crew.

All in all, the game appeared to be a success, giving Beaver fans a glimpse of the talent they can expect to see in the upcoming 2022 season.

Despite the fact that this was a spring game between teammates, there was no lack of physicality.  Oregon State freshman running back Damien Martinez and redshirt-junior running back Deshaun Fenwick, who saw the majority of touches, will likely need to spend some time in the ice bath.  Classic, downhill running was met with hard contact as the multitude of defensive units did not give an inch in this first opportunity to play since the LA bowl back in January.

On one particular occasion, a mid-depth route was attempted in a pass from Oregon State redshirt-senior quarterback Tristan Gebbia. Oregon State sophomore receiver John Dunmore ran a slant route and reached to grab a well-thrown ball.  He was met with a booming hit from senior linebacker and utility player Jack Colletto, who briefly stood over Dunmore after the hit.

Early on in the event, the defense certainly had more to cheer about.  With the offense giving a rather vanilla sort of look consisting of handoffs and slant passes, all defensive units seemed to be firing.  As mentioned earlier, running backs Martinez and Fenwick were met with hard contact, often near the line of scrimmage.  Oregon State’s defensive units looked strong and fast up front, energizing the Reser crowd on numerous occasions.

Perhaps the biggest defensive play came off a fumble.  With Oregon State freshman Ben Gulbranson in at quarterback, the pocket quickly collapsed after an effective rush from the front seven.  Oregon State sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Franke got in the backfield and, knowing he couldn’t hit an orange-shirted quarterback, instead decided to strip the third-year freshman.  After scooping up the rock, Franke sprinted about 40 yards before the play was blown dead, preventing Gulbranson from attempting a tackle.

Despite the bright spots from the defensive side of the ball, certain offensive players turned heads as well, particularly Martinez.  The freshman out of Texas displayed his ability with some very promising moves to the hole, and made good use of each of his carries on Friday.

“The kid’s a stud, man,” junior quarterback Chance Nolan said about Martinez.  “He’s a very smooth runner…I think everybody is kind of excited about Damien and what he can potentially bring to the offense.”

Although the offense had a rough time early on, they did turn things around towards the end of the scrimmage.  Another standout on the day was Oregon State junior wide receiver Silas Bolden, who hauled in two 25-yards touchdown passes in set situations, one ball from Gulbranson and the other from Gebbia.  Bolden did not show any lack of energy after the fact, doing a rain-soaked slide in the back of the end zone while the rest of the white-jerseyed team surrounded him in celebration.

Also in the receiving department, Oregon State senior wide receiver Tre’Shaun Harrison made some noise, acquiring numerous targets and making a couple of first down receptions on Friday.

One of the primary questions on the minds of Beaver fans coming into today would be, what is the quarterback situation?  Nolan, Gebbia and Gulbranson all saw approximately equal playing time.  In analyzing their performances, it’s only fair to take into account that quite a few plays were blown dead early due to the scrimmage situation.  In addition, the playbook didn’t consist of a lot of downfield shots, but rather relied on a more basic type of approach.  This being said, all three quarterbacks made impressive plays.  While Nolan was the only one who didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he likely had the most impressive throws on the run, in particular when he slipped one into Dunmore on one occasion for twelve yards.

Emphasizing the competition aspect and knowing there’s plenty of time, Smith is in no hurry to name a starter for this fall.  However, he did offer some comments on the quarterback situation after the scrimmage.

“I do think Chance has earned the right to get the majority of reps during the spring based on what he’s done,” Smith said.  “We’re gonna let it play out a little bit in fall camp.  I don’t know how many weeks or whatnot, but I do feel Chance has improved.”

How will an effective offensive line go about getting more depth?  Will Damien Martinez be a feature back his freshman year?  How about the receiving lineup?  All these questions inevitably remain after the scrimmage.  However, the 2022 Beavers were able to put on a good showing during Friday’s spring game, amidst all these questions that are on fans’ minds.

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