Beaver Defense shines in annual spring game

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Offensive holder Josh Green (left; #37) steadies the ball for kicker Atticus Sappington (#36) on April 22 at Reser Stadium. An annual spring game is held as a sendoff for Beaver Football spring practices with defense taking this year’s victory.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Writer

The Beaver defense won the day against the offense as the Oregon State Football team held their annual spring game on Saturday morning in front of fans inside of Reser Stadium to wrap up their spring practices. 

Approximately around 5,000 fans filled the seats in the lower bowl seating of the east side of Reser Stadium. Saturday’s attendance is the largest for a spring game in head coach Jonathan Smith’s tenure at Oregon State and there were numerous reasons for the high attendance including the excitement for the team after finishing the 2022 season with a 10-3 record, for the third time in program history, and the additions of new players from the 2023 recruiting class and the transfer portal. 

Beaver fans finally caught their first glimpses of the new quarterback additions to the team including Clemson transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and freshman quarterback Aidan Chiles in Oregon State Uniforms. Fans welcomed Uiagalelei to Reser Stadium with a roar of applause when he entered the game.

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The spring game was structured differently than it was last season with more of a game-like atmosphere in front of fans. The game pitted offense and defense against each other with the defense starting with 14 points to start the game and the offense started with zero points. 

Both sides of the ball had a different scoring system to score points for their team, The offense had a standard football scoring system. However, the defense had a different scoring system, which included scoring their points off turnovers and 4th down stops. 

“We put some thought into it, these guys wanted to compete and create a little atmosphere with the crowd there,” head coach Jonathan Smith said on the structure of the spring game. “Not trying to do a complete game like three hours or something, but I thought it played out pretty well; We got a lot of work done.”  

Early in the spring game, the defense picked up right where they left off last season as the offense struggled early to move the ball down the field. Defensive back Joe Swen made the first big play of the game for the defense and intercepted Uiagalelei to give the defense an early score in the 1st quarter. 

Despite the rough start, Uiagalelei found his rhythm and on his next drive led the offense down the field to score their first points of the game, as running back Jam Griffin scored a 1-yd rushing touchdown. Chiles showcased his play-making ability by escaping from a tackle and connecting on a deep pass to wide receiver Silas Bolden for a touchdown. 

“He’s [Chiles] gifted man,” Smith said on Chiles’ touchdown pass. “He’s made a couple of big-time throws, it’s almost like you kind of expect it.” 

On the receiving end of Chiles’ touchdown, Bolden made the biggest play for the offense as he made a spectacular 22-yard diving catch in the back of the endzone. 

“It was a little double move, I saw Aidan roll out, he threw it and I saw the ball in the air, I had to make a play,” Bolden said on his touchdown. “I was thinking, while the ball was in the air, catch the ball and make a big play to celebrate with my teammates. I wanted to make a big play for the crowd to get into it.” 

During the next couple of drives the defense forced the offense to kick field goals keeping them out of the end zone. However, even with the defense having a lot to be excited about during the game, the excitement caused a bit of a blunder in the game as Swen, after securing his second interception, excitedly threw the ball up in the air before the referee blew the whistle to end the play on the field. 

Since there was no initial whistle by the referee, the ball was ruled a live ball, which caused a scrum in the endzone. Wide receiver John Dunmore Jr. eventually came up with the ball, jumping on it for a touchdown to give the offense another score. 

“Obviously this guy is not thinking too much throwing the ball up and it made it interesting at the end,” Smith said of Swen’s mental error during the spring game.  

Despite the blunder by Swen, the Beaver defense got the better of the offense during the game. The strong showing by the defense is maybe an indication of what’s ahead for the team ahead of the 2023 season. 

Although there were plenty of prominent starters not playing on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball during the spring game, Smith added that he was happy with the overall progress that he’s seen from the team so far including how the depth at certain positions groups like the defensive line and defensive backs have played in spring practices. 

As expected, no decision has been made on who will be the starting quarterback for the Beavers ahead of the 2023 football season.  Smith thought that each quarterback showed some “good stuff” but added that this was a tough situation to properly evaluate them with rotating different players in on offense throughout the game. 

The quarterback battle will head into August and into fall camp with a starter likely being named before the start of the season, but Smith mentioned that the focus for Uiagalelei, Chiles, and quarterback Ben Gulbranson was about learning the scheme and focusing on the small details throughout spring practices. 

“We knew there was going to be a learning curve, especially with the two new guys. Throughout the spring, they made huge strides,” Smith said. “Now they’ve got to go tighten up details throughout the summer so that they can let it rip and compete in fall camp.”

Before that competition can happen, Beaver football officially heads into the offseason and the players are largely on their own for three months before the start of fall training camp in August, where Smith and the coaching staff will figure out the position battles before the season opener. 

The next time Beaver fans will see their team play will be the 2023 season opener on Sept. 3 on the road against San Jose State, kick off time is still to be determined. 

 

Standout Players from the Spring Game: 

Quarterback Aidan Chiles 

Defensive back Joe Swen 

Defensive lineman Isaac Hodgins 

Linebacker Oluwaseyu Omotosho 

Wide Receiver Silas Bolden 

Defensive lineman Takari Hickle

Running back Jam Griffin

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