The talk around Oregon State football’s fall camp was a focus on being better against the run and the confidence that change was coming to make that happen.
That didn’t come to fruition Friday night in the season opener against Oklahoma State at Reser Stadium, sending the Beavers to regroup as they prepare for a road trip to Hawaii.
The Cowboys ran for 352 yards and piled up 555 in all in a 52-36 nonconference win at Reser Stadium.
“I still believe we’re a good defense, even though we didn’t come out and show it tonight,” said outside linebacker Addison Gumbs, a transfer from Oklahoma.
Oregon State allowed five teams to rush for 300 or more yards last season, and four went for more than Oklahoma State had Friday.
Leading the way for the Cowboys was Chuba Hubbard, a running back who had 221 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, an 8.5 per attempt average. Quarterback Spencer Sanders added 109 on the ground on 13 tries and was 19-of-24 passing for 203 yards and three scores.
“That is frustrating,” said inside linebacker Shemar Smith. “We work so hard in fall camp and winter conditioning. We show progress, some flashes in a game but we just have to do it every time we come out.”
Safety Shawn Wilson had a team-best 12 tackles. Fellow defensive back Jaydon Grant recorded the Beavers’ lone sack. Oregon State had nine tackles for loss in all, led by Gumbs’ two.
The Oregon State offense scored six times, but it wasn’t nearly enough for a defense that in 2018 was 128th of 129 FBS teams in rushing defense (281.8), total defense (536.8) and scoring (45.7).
The Cowboys scored on seven of their first eight drives, six ending with touchdowns.
After the Beavers closed within two scores early in the third quarter on Isaiah Hodgins’ second touchdown of the game, the defense had an opportunity to keep the momentum after forcing a third down at the Beavers 31.
But Sanders got out of the pocket for a 4-yard run to the outside, gaining just enough to move the sticks. Four plays later, Hubbard gashed the Beavers for a 53-yard touchdown run and a 45-23 Cowboys advantage, deflating the home team and its crowd.
Oregon State got no closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
“We had some opportunities to get off the field and get some stops and we didn’t do it,” said Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith.
Oklahoma State was 10 of 13 on third-down conversions, including six of seven in the first half.
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Gumbs said the Cowboys effectively used their quick passing game, including screen plays, to gouge the defense.
But he showed confidence that the potential to be better is there.
“I just felt like we didn’t execute tonight,” Gumbs said. “I feel like we’re not too far off from having a good game.”
The Cowboys have a talented trio of Hubbard, wide receiver Tylan Wallace and Sanders, the Texas high school state player of the year in 2017.
They had at least three plays of 10 yards or more in each of their first three possessions. The visitors had consecutive gains of 23, 26 and 20 yards — on two passes and a run — on their third drive, which LD Brown capped with a 5-yard touchdown run to put them up for good.
Hubbard had 137 yards and a score on 17 carries in the first two quarters.
Spencer added 54 yards on the ground plus 10 completions on 13 pass attempts for 149 yards and two touchdowns, both to Wallace.
A first team All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2018, Wallace also had a catch early in the second quarter initially ruled a touchdown but called back after a review determined he was out of bounds before gaining possession. Oklahoma State got a short field goal to tie the game instead.
Wallace’s two scoring grabs came on his team's final two drives of the half.
With a short field after a punt, Oklahoma State had a 38-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty.
But it provided only a momentary hurdle. Sanders found Wallace from 36 yards out three plays later on a third down.
The Cowboys converted another third down to open the third quarter, with Hubbard running wide to the right side from 2 yards out for a touchdown.
Coach Smith said the opponent’s success was a combination of their execution and skill and his team at times not playing well.
“We’ve got to work to get it fixed because you’re not going to win a bunch of games giving up 350 yards rushing,” he said.