Beavers avoid Sun Bowl shutout, fall 40-8

Oregon State defenders wrap up a Notre Dame player in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl on Dec. 29, 2023. The Beavers fell 40-8.
Oregon State defenders wrap up a Notre Dame player in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl on Dec. 29, 2023. The Beavers fell 40-8.
Morgan Barnaby

Oregon State Interim head coach Kefense Hynson was presented with the first loss of his coaching career which came at the hands of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 40-8 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas on Dec 29 to a sold-out crowd of 48,223 fans.

“Obviously, not the result we wanted, but hats off to Notre Dame, they are a really really good football team,” Hynson said after the game. 

The game didn’t start how Hynson would have liked, nor Beaver fans after being forced to punt right off the bat, they allowed a 96-yard drive by Notre Dame for the first score of the game, 7-0.

The Beavers didn’t have much offense to show in the first quarter, gaining only 38 yards in the quarter compared to the Fighting Irish’s 147.

The Beavers got their first third down stop to start the second quarter, but Notre Dame took a play call from the Philadelphia Eagles, running a QB sneak up the middle to convert the 4th down attempt.

The 4th down didn’t matter though, as three plays later linebacker Melvin Jordan IV found quarterback Steve Angeli alone in the pocket, bringing him down for a loss of 14. The sack forced a 50-yard field goal attempt that kicker Spencer Shrader missed wide left to keep it a one-possession game.

The ensuing drive for the Beavers saw them starting with their best field possession so far, yet was quickly diminished after Notre Dame defensive lineman Javontae Jean-Baptiste poked the ball free from OSU quarterback Ben Gulbranson forcing the Beavers to scramble to jump on top of it. 

The loss of yardage was too much to get back as they ended up punting the ball back to the Fighting Irish two plays later.

Late in the second quarter, still trailing 7-0, the Beavers decided to pull out a fake punt on a fourth and six, yet was immediately blown up as Jesiah Irish got taken down by a plethora of Fighting Irish players, losing five on the play and giving the ball back to Notre Dame, already in Beaver territory.

“You live and learn,” Hynson said. “I don’t know when a good time is to fake a punt, I thought that was the right thing to do. It didn’t work, so it sucks, it’s the worst play call in the history of football, I own that, but if it would’ve worked it would’ve been a pretty cool call.”

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman also commented on the fake punt, saying they were ready for it.

“Coach Biagi called a spy, expecting something up. We saw some discussions on the sideline, so we ended up calling a spy which was a great call so that our guys weren’t out of control at that moment,” Freeman said.

Following the fake punt, the Irish marched downfield and capped off a short field drive with a Jadarian Price touchdown just a minute later to propel the Fighting Irish well into the driver’s seat of the game, now leading 14-0.

With 27 seconds remaining in the half, Gulbranson completed a 34-yard pass to Jesiah Irish which put them in field goal range and was the first time the Beavers were in opponent territory. Unfortunately, the ensuing play saw a holding call move the ball back 10 yards, eliminating the option of a field goal. This meant a shot to the endzone that resulted in a Benjamin Morrison interception that ended that half.

With the half ending 14-0, this marks the first time this season that the Oregon State Beavers failed to put any points on the board, and already down two scores, salt was poured on the wound as starting receiver Silas Bolden would be ruled out for the remainder of the game with a hamstring injury.

The first drive of the second half resulted in three for the Irish, as a 33-yard catch from Jordan Faison moved them into Shrader’s range to kick a 44-yarder. The Irish extended their growing lead by 17-0.

With the Beavers unable to move the ball, they give the ball back to the Fighting Irish, who capitalize once again. Taking only eight plays, they got the ball back into the endzone with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Faison.

Faison had a career game, finishing off with 115 yards on five catches, one of those being for a touchdown. With the game he had, he was voted Sun Bowl MVP even with the game Angeli had behind center. 

“I mean I had no idea, I was just going through the plays, right foot, left foot like coach says,” Faison said. “You got to bet on yourself and keep working, no matter what happens.”

The Beavers were able to hold Notre Dame on a 4th and goal from the one-yard line, yet Notre Dame came back and tackled running back Isaiah Newell before he got out of the endzone, resulting in a safety and Notre Dame now leading 26-0.

With a safety, this results in Notre Dame getting the ball back off a free kick. After Price took off for a 54-yard gain, Angeli found Jeremiyah Love for a short dump-off pass, and missed tackles by the Oregon State defense led to Angeli’s third touchdown of the game with the score now being 33-0.

After a fourth down conversion where Oregon State lined up in a wildcat formation, Irish threw for a gain of 15 to pick up the first down and keep the drive alive. The following play, Gulbranson tossed a ball 33 yards into the endzone, where Jimmy Valsin III hauled it in. 

Big man Tyler Voltin, an offensive lineman, got a direct snap on the 2-point conversion attempt and scored the first points of his career, ridding the Beavers of a shutout, and making the score 33-8.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to play,” Gulbranson said after the game. “We went out there and we ran plays and I felt like we executed them well. We just had a difficult time getting things in rhythm and rolling.”

After an unsuccessful onside kick attempt to try and get the ball back, Notre Dame took the ball down the short field for a Chase Ketterer touchdown extending the lead 40-8 which would ultimately be the final score.

Being held to under 10 points for a second straight game, Hynson praised the top status of the Fighting Irish’s defense.

“I credit their defense, I think they got a really good team,” Hynson said. “They were one of the top 10 defenses in the country, so it’s not like this is just an anomaly. We knew going into the game that we needed to really work to get some points, but hats off to them.”

Hynson ended his availability in tears with emotions running throughout him, especially with this being the last game for seniors. 

“I love these dudes, I came in with Kitan (Oladapo), he was our first class, so I’m super proud of these dudes.”

Kitan Oladapo led the team with 11 tackles, including one for a loss. Him being a senior and having an opportunity to potentially make it to the next level, he could have opted out, but elected to play instead.

“We wanted to go out with each other, we wanted to finish this thing the right way, I think that’s the Oregon State way,” Oladapo said. “At the end of the day, guys were out there hurting, but still got to keep fighting and sometimes in life things don’t go your way, but the greats always respond.”

Notre Dame earned their first victory against OSU in three meetings and thus caps off the 2023 football season for the Beavers.

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