HONOLULU — Oregon State players swarmed to the center of the turf at Aloha Stadium and danced in a swirling mass.
The Beavers were celebrating a Hawaii Bowl title after defeating Boise State, 38-23, on Tuesday.
They were celebrating the end of a winning season for the seniors who had played their last game.
“Just going out with a winning record is obviously better than going out with a losing record,” senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds said. “To top all that, it is to get the team next year on a good starting spot. I think doing that and being my last game and seeing how the guys fought is definitely a great feeling and hopefully they can ride this momentum into next year.”
It’s been a long season for the Beavers, one filled with some highs but definitely too many lows in the second half of the schedule.
The Beavers fell into the mire of a losing streak, which hit its apex with an embarrassing home blowout loss to Washington.
A down-to-the-wire loss at Oregon was tough, but left some hope for the bowl game.
The Beavers got their bid and then made the most of it, breaking out to a 31-6 halftime lead and holding on for the win.
“That means a lot for the program,” junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. “To string along that many Ls is definitely a burden for you and you just want that feeling of a win again. To be blessed with the opportunity to be able to play again in a bowl game, once we heard that, we knew we had to come out here and work hard and get this W for the program and bring a trophy home for the trophy room. That’s what it’s all about, is doing it for the younger guys and doing it for the recruits that are coming in.”
The win is big for the current group of players because they can look forward to next season with more optimism.
Playing in Hawaii and getting a win was big for the Oregon State program. The Beavers do a lot of recruiting on the islands and the game provided extra exposure.
Coach Mike Riley said the Beavers were pleased to land a bid to any bowl, but this one was a bonus.
“Boy, were we pleasantly surprised with a trip to play in Hawaii and play a good team like Boise,” Riley said. “I thought it was one of the good looking matchups out there, actually, after you get through the BCS games.
“Then the fact that we have a great history here. We’ve had a lot of players we’ve coached from here. We have current players we coach from here and we’ve got commitments from here right now for future teams and we will recruit here as long as we’re at Oregon State. I love the football here, it is well coached, there is a lot of passion to it and there’s talent and those kids bring a sense of family into our program that we particularly like. It’s a big deal for us to play here.”
Sixteen seniors were able to finish their careers with a bowl win. One of those was Reynolds, who received MVP honors for scoring two touchdowns and making 10 tackles.
“Rashaad has had a great career ... He’s been outstanding. His development, his maturity, his play,” Riley said. “He is, I think, a big-time player and a big-time guy and really was fun to coach.”
Other starters moving on will be defensive tackle Mana Rosa, guards Grant Enger and Josh Andrews, left tackle Michael Philipp and slot back Kevin Cummings.
Cooks and Scott Crichton, both juniors, could decide to leave early for the NFL.
For now, Cooks was enjoying a bowl title.
“We worked so hard this offseason, I feel like we didn’t have no other choice but to win this game,” Cooks said. “We knew the feeling we had last year coming off (the Alamo Bowl) with a loss, it took about a year to make that up. We didn’t want that feeling again. So this is definitely special for this program and the players and the coaches.”