Saturday’s 77-31 season-opening loss at No. 5 Ohio State was not the way the Oregon State football team wanted to begin the Jonathan Smith coaching era.
While they kept their own offensively at times, the Beavers were no match defensively against the talented and potent Buckeyes.
“Obviously, falling short isn’t fun," said redshirt sophomore quarterback Conor Blount. "But when you go out there and put 31 points on a defense like that, I think it says that there’s a bright future here.”
Blount was forced into action on the Beavers’ second drive after Jake Luton was hit hard on the opening drive. Luton, who was named the starter on Monday after battling Blount and Jack Colletto throughout camp, did not return and reportedly was in concussion protocol.
Blount missed his first pass attempt but connected on the next two, including a 49-yarder to Trevon Bradford to even the game at 7-all.
He finished the half 12 for 19 for 169 yards and two touchdowns while being sacked five times for 43 lost yards. He did not play in the second half as Colletto took over.
“This is what I prepared for coming into camp,” said Blount, who redshirted last season and focused on the mental aspect of the position by watching a lot of film.
“I obviously wanted to be the starter but things didn’t pan out that way. But every week I’m going to prepare like I’m the starter and I know when I go out there I can do things. So, yeah, I had confidence and when you put guys around me like this, it makes my job pretty easy.”
The Beavers finished with 392 yards of total offense and showed the ability to make big plays. Blount tossed touchdown passes of 49 and seven yards to Bradford, who finished with six catches for 104 yards.
Junior running back Artavis Pierce set a career high by rushing for 168 yards on 11 carries, including touchdown runs of 80 and 78 yards.
“I feel like the O-line put me in the right position and I just executed,” Pierce said. “If we keep clicking like that, we’re going to be a great team.”
While there were a number of explosive plays, Oregon State did struggle sustaining drives. Taking away the three long touchdowns, the Beavers gained 185 yards on 60 plays.
“I feel like we left a lot of points on the board,” Bradford said. “We had the two turnovers (leading to 14 Ohio State points). We just have to keep sustaining drives and we will be a lot better. There’s some things we have to fix on both sides of the ball, obviously. We’ll look at the tape and see what we need to do.”
While the offense showed signs of life, the defense had its hands full against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State scored touchdowns on 10 of its 13 possessions; one ended on a punt, one via a Shawn Wilson interception near the goal line and another after a kneel-down to end the first half.
The Buckeyes amassed 721 yards of total offense with 375 coming on the ground and 346 through the air. Dwayne Haskins was 22-for-30 passing for 313 yards and five touchdowns. Ten different receivers had at least one catch.
Mike Weber (20-186) and J.K. Dobbins (15-74) combined for 260 rushing yards with Weber scoring three times.
"Defensively, we had a lot of opportunities and if we would have executed better, if we would have been just a little bit more locked in, I think that we could have took some points off the board, we could have got some third-down stops,” junior linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray said. “I think that would have been a big thing in this game.”
Hughes-Murray, who had four tackles, said there’s a lot the Beavers can learn from Saturday’s game tape.
“That’s what we’re excited to do,” he said. “We just want to keep getting better overall as a team and I think this is a big stepping stone to show that we went out there and fought hard with them guys. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you say, we went out there and we gave it our all.
“At the end of the day this is a big thing we can improve on and we just have to keep getting better from here.”