Here’s My Two Cents: Finishing the 2023 Beaver football season the ‘Oregon State Way’

Oregon State and Notre Dame go head to head before the snap in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl game in El Paso, TX on Dec 29, 2023.
Oregon State and Notre Dame go head to head before the snap in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl game in El Paso, TX on Dec 29, 2023.
Morgan Barnaby

The Fighting Irish exacted their long-awaited revenge against Oregon State finally winning their first game against the Beavers in the all-time series between both schools.

Notre Dame set the tone early in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl and never let the foot off the gas after scoring their first touchdown of the game.

However, regardless of the outcome of the box score in the game and what fans witnessed on the field with missing tackles, key players missing in the game, and the offense struggling to score until the fourth quarter.

The most important moment perhaps was this would be the final milestone for many seniors on the team such as safety Kitan Oladapo.

Oladapo entered the post-game press conference room somber along with quarterback Ben Gulbranson and interim head coach Kefense Hynson. Emotions were all high processing the outcome of the game as they made their way to the microphone.

Oladapo, who is expected to declare for the NFL draft, was asked why he decided to stay when he easily could have decided to sit out of the bowl game and focus on life after Oregon State.

His answer? 

“I love my teammates and coaches,” Oladapo said.

Oladapo wanted to go out the right way with his fellow seniors which include wide receivers Jesiah Irish and Rweha Munyagi Jr., offensive lineman Jake Levengood, and linebacker John McCartan. All of them came in together in former head coach Jonathan Smith’s recruiting class in 2018.

“We wanted to finish this thing the right way and I think that’s the Oregon State way,” Oladapo said. “Guys were out there hurting, but you got to still keep fighting and sometimes in life things don’t go your way, but you got to respond.”

Respond the Beavers did this year throughout all the adversity this team had faced from unprecedented conference realignment to the abrupt departure of Smith leaving for Michigan State University. The Beavers kept fighting to the very end despite the things that didn’t go in favor of them and finished the season.

“We wanted to finish the season that we started,” Hynson said of the adversity that the Beavers had faced all season.

Hynson added that he was proud of his team, which all of Beaver Nation should be with everything that has happened throughout the 2023 season which was filled with highs and lows.

The team easily could have decided to not compete against a top 20 opponent in Notre Dame, but decided to leave it all out on the field like Oladapo and his teammates did.

Hynson mentioned that his star safety was on “one leg” at one point in the game and asked him if he wanted to continue playing and the response was that of a competitor, who wanted to be there for his team to finish the season.

“Coach I want to finish this thing,” Hynson said on what Oladapo told him on the sideline.

The “Oregon State way” as Oladapo coined is finishing out things to the very end regardless of the obstacles that come throughout a season. Oladapo and this senior class exemplify that and more having helped build the program up to where it is now and being part of a program making it to three consecutive bowl games, where winning a bowl game is part of the standard at OSU.

Football, however, is a game and it can be difficult, but with the challenges that Hynson and the staff faced preparing for this bowl game, they did the best that they could with the hand that they were dealt.

The team played their hearts out and following the one-sided loss offered no excuses for their performance and the adversity they faced. Rather owned the performance and were proud for being able to end this season, although not in the way that they hoped for, but ending in a way that many Beaver fans should be proud of headed into next season.

While “you play to win the game” the cliché goes along with the other feel-good moments from Pop Warner football as Hynson mentioned. Finishing out a tough year where the team could easily have folded and packed it for next season isn’t something to scoff at.

While the season ended with a loss, the Beavers still finished the season strong despite all the adversity with a winning record of 8-5. If that doesn’t show the resilience of a program, I don’t know what does.

As the 2023 chapter of Oregon State Football closes, Beaver Nation can open another chapter headed into the new year.

A new era is underway in Corvallis, the Bray era of Oregon State football begins in 2024. I’m excited for that new era of Beaver football to begin and I know you all are too.

Ryan Harlan reported from El Paso, TX

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