Saturday night’s Homecoming debacle was eerily familiar to many of Oregon State’s football games a season ago.
The Beavers never appeared to be competitive in a 52-7 Pac-12 drubbing at the hands of Utah that for the most part didn’t feel like it was even that close.
The Utes (5-1, 2-1) bolted to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter and never allowed the Beavers (2-4, 1-2) to get into a rhythm on either side of the ball.
It was a shocking performance from a team that has shown improvement throughout the course of the season and was riding high after a 48-31 win at UCLA the previous week.
“I knew we were going to have to be sharp in all phases against this team,” coach Jonathan Smith said. “Look, we were trying to catch the momentum early with I thought offensively the holding penalties (hurt) us. We wanted to challenge them defensively and they got some one-on-ones and they made the plays and obviously we just couldn’t create anything to get some momentum going.”
The Utes, who moved up to two spots to No. 13 after the win, dominated the lines of scrimmage. Utah limited Oregon State to a season-low 217 total yards with only 48 on the ground and an average of only 2.2 per attempt.
On the offensive side, the Utes rolled up 503 yards with 256 on the ground and 247 though the air.
“Honestly we’ve just got to move on,” linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. said. “You all keep talking about the win last week and stuff like that but we didn’t show out today. It’s as simple as that. We didn’t tackle the best that we can. We practiced hard but it’s what we do in the game that matters. We didn’t prove ourselves today and we’ve got to do better.”
Smith and the players who were asked Saturday night about the week of practice agreed with Rashed, and that they were as focused as ever after the road win over UCLA.
“I thought we had our best week of practice, I don’t think that’s what it was at all,” said quarterback Jake Luton, who was held to a season-low 131 yards passing. He completed 17 of 34 passes, was held without a touchdown and tossed his first interception of the season, which was returned 64 yards for a touchdown. “I think we worked hard all week and didn’t get comfortable or anything like that.”
Added left tackle Blake Brandel, who made his 42nd straight start: “I don’t think we were slacking, I don’t think there was a lack of focus or effort, I don’t think anyone relaxed. I mean we were a 2-3 team after that so there was nothing to be happy about. I thought we had a good week of practice, it was just not a good game.”
Smith said Saturday’s loss was a reminder that the Beavers need to be at their best each game or this is the type of outcome that could take place, especially against one of the best teams in the conference.
“We’re working to build something here and we put a ton of work into it and I think we’ve made some progress but it’s not always going to continue on a steady line,” Smith said. “It’s going to have some ups and downs. I feel like we’ve taken two steps forward and then tonight we took two steps backward.”
Having been through this type of situation often last year, Smith was confident Saturday night that the team would respond positively and return to practice Sunday with the right mindset.
“Were focused on the psyche of our players all the time but I do think they will go back to work. That’s all I know because that’s all they’ve been doing,” Smith said. “Look, it’s disappointing and they’re down, just like all of us are, but I expect us to battle back. We’re at the halfway point of the season, we’ve got a bunch of football still left and I think these guys will be excited."
Luton said that’s all the Beavers can do.
“That’s the way we’re going to be the rest of the year,” he said. “We’re not going to give up, we’re going to play through all four quarters. We’re going to play these six games on the regular season schedule with as much fight as we can with our heart. That’s it.”