There’s no doubt the 52-7 Pac-12 loss to Utah two Saturdays ago was a tough one for the Oregon State football team to swallow.
There were certainly some fans that felt like all the progress the Beavers had been making this season had vanished in the blink of an eye.
Watching the film the following day could not have been easy.
But there was only one thing the players, and coaching staff, could do — own the performance.
That was a topic of discussion last week as the Beavers prepared to hit the road to take on a California team that was coming off a bye.
As bad as the Utah game appeared, there was a genuine sense that the players and coaches believed that performance was the aberration, and if they just cleaned up some of the details and fundamentals, they would be able to bounce back.
That’s exactly what the Beavers did on Saturday as they rallied for a 21-17 win after blowing a 14-0 lead late in the first half.
Coach Jonathan Smith praised the energy and the detail his player put forth during the week of practice and the way they performed on Saturday in a big win.
“I like that we responded from the previous week, I like the fact that we really played well defensively to win the game and just got enough offensively,” Smith said.
The Beavers (3-4, 2-2) certainly had something to prove following the worst loss since the 77-31 thrashing at Ohio State in the season opener last season.
“I think we took it upon ourselves, we got kind of hit in the mouth last week and had to take a look in the mirror so we worked hard all week long and I think we took it personal from that sense,” quarterback Jake Luton said.
Outside linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr., who had three sacks and tipped a ball that was intercepted by Jaydon Grant late in the fourth quarter, said: “I feel like everything is personal. This game has to be personal to you. You have to have heart, you have to be mad every time you get on the field but you’ve caught to be calm.”
The defense allowed just 282 total yards of offense with 142 coming in the third quarter when the Golden Bears scored 14 points.
Cal managed just 107 rushing yards on 43 attempts and the Beavers defense finished with nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
Smith credited the game plan of defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar and his staff, and the players for believing in it.
“We did have the mindset of wanting to come in and attack defensively … and again I go back this week of work, these guys bought into the plan that we were going to go into attack mode and we brought some more pressure than we have been doing,” he said. “And guys executed it.”
Jordan Whittley, who is from the Bay Area, played at Laney College in Oakland and was not recruited by Cal, said the success came from the week of preparation.
“Coach told us to be aggressive, be physical,” he said. “We just stayed to our details, worked our technique and it showed in the game. We watched film, we knew what we needed to do and we did it.”
Like the defense, the offense had a hiccup in the third quarter — the Beavers gained just 20 yards on 11 plays — but rebounded with an 80-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead in the final five minutes.
The message on that drive, Luton said, was simple: “Do your job.”
“Everybody likes to get emotional and yelling and hooping and hollering and that’s not going to win you games, that’s not going to execute for you,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to take a deep breath and just focus on what your job is.”
That approach worked as the Beavers picked up their second straight win on the road and are now 2-1 away from Reser Stadium as they head into a bye this week.
The one loss was at Hawaii, a game the Beavers led 28-14 before falling 31-28.
They will look to make it 3-1 with a trip to Tucson, Arizona, to take on the Arizona Wildcats on Nov. 2.
So why so much success on the road?
“I wish I could figure that out to flip it to our home games but it is what it is,” Smith said. “… I don’t know but the last two road games have been great.”
The losses at home have been to Oklahoma State, Stanford and Utah.
“Yeah we’ve brought it good on the road,” Luton said. “I don’t really know how to answer that question other than that we’re just going to bring it every game.”