Let’s get this out of the way. The Oregon State football team blew out Nicholls State 77-3 on Saturday.
The final score was of little importance, other than the 16th-ranked Beavers won the nonconference game before a crowd of 32,426 in Reser Stadium.
What they needed was a good showing to end the regular season heading into a bowl game.
The Beavers (9-3) received that from every part of the game, in a contest that resembled a glorified scrimmage. The Colonels (1-10) were one of the worst teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“We had a great week of preparation,” quarterback Sean Mannion said. “We came out and executed extremely well. This might be our closest thing to a complete game from start to finish. We executed the plays well. We had good tempo.”
The seniors won their final home game and stayed on pace for the third 10-win season in program history.
All areas of the team worked out some kinks and refined its game after a poor showing against Oregon in the Civil War a week ago.
Coaches felt it was more important to build confidence this week than it was to have every mistake against the Ducks fixed.
“You don’t want to lose any games, especially the Civil War,” cornerback Jordan Poyer said. “It’s over now and we moved on. We took it to Nicholls State. It’s a positive jump from where we were last week.”
The Beavers dominated the game from start to finish. They scored a touchdown on every possession with the exception of the final series of the game when time ran out.
Drives were steady with limited interruption. OSU didn’t run up the score with a slew of big plays, but still rolled up 683 total yards, 453 passing and 230 rushing.
Mannion and Cody Vaz were both efficient running the offense. They combined to complete 34 of 40 for 421 yards and five touchdowns.
Senior receiver Markus Wheaton broke the OSU career reception record before halftime and enjoyed the rest of the game. He now has 224 and surpassed James Rodgers by two.
The main trio of ball carriers moved the ball with their opportunities and several receivers deep on the depth chart were used. Receiver Brandin Cooks even rested a bruised knee.
“It was good that a lot of the guys scored touchdowns, and a lot of the young guys played,” Wheaton said. “That was way more exciting than anything else.”
OSU’s defense used its base approach and let the players play. They responded by keeping the Colonels out of the end zone and allowed only 174 total yards.
Poyer's interception, his seventh of the season, a Micah Audiss pick and a Jaswha James fumble recovery were the big defensive plays. Nicholls State was forced to punt six times.
Several young defenders gained valuable experience in the second half. They played well against Colonels, who didn’t give up.
“We wanted to not let them score, but stuff happens,” Poyer said.
It was all-around good day that included the special teams. There were no breakdowns and the return teams improved from last week’s issues.
“I felt it was a good game for us,” Wheaton said. “We executed well. It’s exciting to end on this note rather than that last game, and then go into the bowl game.”
The big win sends the Beavers into the next month eager for the highest-ranked bowl game for OSU since the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.
The Beavers will face a potent Big 12 Conference team in either the Alamo of Holiday bowls. They find out which game and the opponent today.
“We wanted to put an exclamation point on this game,” Riley said “We had to solidify the opportunity to go to one of these games. I didn’t want to think about what would have happened if we lost. We are now going to have a great opponent and be in a great city.”
Cliff Kirkpatrick covers the Oregon State football team for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at email@example.com