Beavers emerge triumphant in rivalry week, earn first win over Ducks since 2016

In this file photo from 2019, OSU redshirt sophomore quarterback Tristan Gebbia (#3) throws a pass while under pressure from UO freshman defensive tackle Brandon Dorlus (#97) in Autzen Stadium. This season, Gebbia was able to get his revenge in a 41-38 win over the Oregon Ducks.

Andres De Los Santos, Sports Contributor

The Oregon and Oregon State rivalry is one that’s come with national relevance a number of times, but it’s bound to mean the most to those who were born and raised in the state of Oregon. 

Just ask redshirt junior defensive back Jaydon Grant, who is from West Linn, Oregon. 

“These are the moments that you kind of dream about, you know, as a kid growing up here,” Grant said. “So yeah, it means a lot for me as an in-state kid, because the rivalry is so close to home.”

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Although the Ducks have controlled the rivalry in its recent history, Beaver fans across the country will get the chance to celebrate a turning of the tide. In a year that has been a crazy, confusing and weird time for everyone, Oregon State will remember the highlight that was the equally crazy, confusing and weird night of Nov. 27, 2020. 

After losing to the Ducks for three consecutive years, the Oregon State Beavers got over the hump, defeating the 15th ranked Oregon Ducks by a 41-38 final score. The Beavers had some key individuals who were able to step up to the plate and help the team get their second win of the season. 

Junior running back Jermar Jefferson had another dominant performance, adding a fourth game of over 120 yards to his season with 29 carries, 226 yards and two touchdowns. Jefferson’s longest run was 82 yards, which happened on Oregon State’s first possession after the Ducks had scored on their first drive of the game. 

This is the second straight game where Jefferson scored on the Beavers’ first drive. He managed it last week against the California Golden Bears, rushing for 75 yards on the opening play of the game, and did it again against the Ducks. But it was this 82-yard touchdown that helped put Jefferson in the history books, as he ended the day with the most single-game rushing yards in the rivalry’s 126-year history.

The strong ground game also moved Jefferson into fifth-place on Oregon State’s all-time rushing leaders list with 2,740 yards. But even with all of his newfound individual accolades, he knows that he wouldn’t be able to boast such an accomplishment by himself. 

“It feels great, but I got to give a big shoutout to my O-line,” Jefferson said.  They’ve been working really hard offseason. Both of us. Coach [Jim] Michalczik is a really good coach and coached those guys up really well.” 

Jefferson came into the game looking for the chance to redeem himself from last year’s 24-10 loss, one where he fumbled the football with two minutes left in the fourth quarter with the team down only seven points. Jefferson studied hard for this game, and made sure he did everything right. 

“For the past two years, we lost against Oregon,” Jefferson said. “And last year I really wanted to redeem myself from last year, what happened [with] that fumble. Coming in this year, I studied hard, I was really ready for this game” 

Jefferson was not the only Beaver with a big game, however. Redshirt junior wide receiver Kolby Taylor also helped the Beavers get the edge over the Ducks. He had seven receptions for 114 yards, and came close to scoring a touchdown of his own, but was tackled right at the two-yard line. 

“Can’t get tackled at the two,” Taylor said, smiling. “I just did my job and made the play and set up the scoring drive.” 

Although Taylor did not get to the end zone, he did help the Beavers get close which would then set the team up for a touchdown to give them a 34-31 lead, the team’s first lead of the game. Just that alone, on top of beating your rival, was a great feeling for Taylor. 

“It feels good for sure,” Taylor said. “I’m definitely gonna celebrate this one and this is probably the biggest game of the season, beating your rival. Just a really great feeling.”

On the defensive side, redshirt junior outside linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray had himself a ball game. Hughes-Murray recorded eight total tackles, a team-high 3.5 tackles for loss, and the only sack of the game for Oregon State Those 3.5 tackles for loss would become a career-best for Hughes-Murray, who did not compete last season due to injury. 

Hughes-Murray felt that the defense struggled early on, allowing 24 points just in the first half alone. But at halftime, the defense made some adjustments, and some critical ones too. 

“We just made the adjustments that we needed to,” Hughes-Murray said. “We weren’t fitting things up the right way the first time in the first half. So moving forward into the second [half], we just challenged ourselves to do your job and trust your teammates, and I think this was a great team win all around.” 

It was those adjustments that forced Ducks’ sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough to throw an interception with two minutes left in the game, a moment that got Hughes-Murray and the rest of the Oregon State defense fired up. 

“Were you watching the game on TV?” Hughes-Murray asked, laughing. “I mean I think you can kinda tell, it was pretty crazy. This was a crazy game. College football is a long game, and it was a lot of fun.”

And although the Beavers had plenty of time to score, it was Jaydon Grant, the hometown kid, who had to calm the team down, making sure that everyone realized that the job wasn’t done yet. 

“We were excited, but there’s still a lot of game left to play,” Grant said. “We still had to go punch the ball in, and then, once the offense was within striking distance, it was all about preparing for that last drive. So there’s guys excited, but [the] leaders on the team, I felt, did a good job of keeping the guys level headed and having the players understand that we still have to go out there and execute for one more last drive. And we were able to do that, and come out with a win.” 

Grant, who recorded four tackles and an interception late in the second quarter, said that the defense was able to execute well, and part of it has to do with the coaching staff. 

“It’s all about execution. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again,” Grant said. Our coaches put us in positions to be successful every single game. There hasn’t been a game where our coaches haven’t put us in a position to be successful. It’s from within those 11 guys who are on the field, going out there and executing, and we executed well enough to get the win.” 

That win was one that did not come without its fair share of drama, however. Between a series of penalties, reviews, timeouts and surprise stars, Oregon State’s eventual fate was in question until the final moments of the game.

On first and goal with 49 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Beavers were on the 6-yard line and found themselves down by three. The first play of the drive was a direct handoff to Jefferson, who would rush for four yards and put the Beavers on the two-yard line. Second and goal, redshirt junior quarterback Tristan Gebbia would attempt to sneak the ball in the end zone, but was stopped one yard shy of reaching the end zone. 

Now third and goal, with 40 seconds left on the clock, Gebbia, once again, tried to sneak the ball in the end zone. But once again, the quarterback was ruled short. However, when Gebbia came from underneath the pile, he came out hopping on one leg, and fell to the ground, clutching his left hamstring. 

Gebbia, who finished the game 23 for 37, with 263 yards and one touchdown, was taken out for the team’s next play. But the Beavers knew that they needed to score– and that this was their last chance. With that in mind, Head Coach Jonathan Smith sent out the backup quarterback, redshirt sophomore Chance Nolan. 

It was Nolan who sealed the deal for the Beavers, rushing into the end zone and giving the lead to Oregon State with 33 seconds left to go.  Smith, to say the least, was very impressed with Nolan. 

“And how about that,” Smith said. “Chance Nolan goes in for his first college football play in Division 1, probably the biggest play of the game and he gets it done.”

This win against the Ducks was the first rivalry win for Smith as a head coach. Smith played as a quarterback for Oregon State from 1998-2001, where he was 2-2 against the Ducks, but was 0-2 against Oregon as a head coach. In getting his first coaching win against his rival, Smith had nothing but positive remarks about his team and their performance on the night. 

“Really proud of this football team,” Smith said. “The resilience, the fight for four quarters. it was a great football game, back and forth, both teams making plays and responding and obviously really happy for our guys to come out on top. These guys have been working, believing and they were able to finish the thing in the fourth quarter. They had some great performances really at all phases, but we got a special running back that makes a difference and we got a defense that got the ball with two minutes or so when we get some time outs and they get that crucial stop for us then to be able to to finish the game on offense. So obviously really happy and proud of these guys and this is a special win.”

With the energy from the players, and the significance of the win, Smith could not help but feel a bit upset that no fans are allowed to attend games, as he would’ve like to see Beaver Nation erupt when the final whistle was blown.

“It means a ton, and I actually told the team that after in the locker room,” Smith said. “That it means a lot to a lot of people, not just the guys sitting in that locker room. It’s too bad that Beaver Nation couldn’t have been filled in Reser stadium right now, and to have a win like this. The celebration of what took place, we missed those. And because it means a lot to so many, especially our in-state kids. We got a bunch of guys from this state and for them to be victorious is huge.” 

The Beavers will now try to give their fans yet another thing to cheer for as they look for their third win of the season next week, taking on the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.