Oregon State Beavers fall short in first game of the 2020 season

Oregon State quarterback, Tristan Gebbia, scans the field for an opportunity to throw on November 7th at Reser Stadium against Washington State.

Ben Pahl, Sports Contributor

The Oregon State Beavers could not overcome a slow start on Saturday, Nov. 7, as they fell 38-28 to the Washington State Cougars in their opening game of the 2020 season. 

The opening-week loss to the Cougars was a familiar misstep for the Beavers, who have not won their first game of a season since 2015. And now, in a 2020 season condensed to seven games from the usual 12, Oregon State will only have a handful more weeks to right the ship and fix the issues that hurt them against Washington State. 

Among those issues was a slow start on the offensive side of the ball. After both teams struggled early to move the ball, leading to four straight punts from both teams, Washington State became the first group to find the endzone on a six-play drive capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass from true freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura.

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While Oregon State did manage to find the endzone in the second quarter, those would be the only points the team could muster in the first half, and the Cougars took a 14-7 lead into the halftime break. Once the third quarter began, Washington State came out firing, and built heavily on their seven-point advantage.

The Beavers found themselves playing catch-up in the second half, falling behind 28-7 early in the third quarter after the Cougars’ first two possessions of the second half ended with touchdowns.  The Oregon State offense responded by finding the endzone on three straight drives starting late in the third quarter, but it was not enough to dig themselves out of a 21-point deficit with the Cougars offense continuing to play well.

After a sluggish first half, Washington State’s offense came alive under de Laura, who impressed in his college debut. De Laura threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns and caused the Beaver defense problems all night with his elusiveness and ability to scramble in the pocket, which Head Coach Jonathan Smith was quick to point out after the game.

“He [de Laura] did extend the play a number of times, he’s a pretty good athlete,” Smith said. “He broke contain a few times and we couldn’t get home.”

In addition to the strong quarterback play of De Laura, the Beavers also struggled to slow down the Washington State run game.  With the Cougars usual starting running back Max Borghi out, Washington State’s backup Deon McIntosh had his way with 147 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. As a team, the Cougars rushed for 229 yards.

“It’s a contribution of everybody, not entirely on the D-line itself,” Smith said. “We missed some tackles at the linebacker level.  There were some calls where we’re only rushing three guys, you’re not gonna get home immediately.  There’s a large contribution from a lot of people to this loss.”  

After the Beavers cut the lead to 31-28 late in the fourth quarter, Washington State sealed the deal with a 44-yard rushing touchdown from junior wide receiver Travell Harris on the Cougars’ penultimate drive of the game. With their final possession consisting of kneel-downs with the game in hand, the Harris touchdown was essentially the final play of what was a frustrating night for the Oregon State defense. 

Voicing those frustrations after the game was Oregon State’s junior safety Jaydon Grant, who ended the game with an interception, but was not satisfied with the performance as a whole. 

“Just being out there isn’t good enough,” Grant said. “We didn’t meet the standard that we set for ourselves, or that our coaches expect us to play to.  It’s not about how we prepare, it’s not about the game plan.  It’s about the eleven guys on the field going out and executing, and today we just didn’t execute.”  

The Beavers will look to bounce back on Saturday, Nov. 14 against the Washington Huskies in Seattle, Washington, a game that could be critical in setting the tone for the remainder of the year.  It will be the first game of Washington’s season, after their opener against the California Golden Bears on Saturday was canceled due to a Golden Bears player testing positive for COVID-19.  Kickoff between the Beavers and the Huskies is scheduled for 8 p.m.