Oregon State received 12 kickoffs in Saturday’s season opener at Ohio State.
The Beavers returned just three — for 49 yards.
The Buckeyes were officially credited with six touchbacks. Three times, Champ Flemings made a return and three more times the Beavers fair caught the ball inside the 5-yard line.
So the Beavers started at the 25 nine times and at the 17, 20 and 21 when Flemings returned the ball.
The NCAA implemented a new rule this season that teams could fair catch any kick inside the 25 and it would result in a touchback — which places the ball at the 25.
Oregon State’s Trevon Bradford did that twice, although on the opening kickoff he did so near the goal line and it was officially ruled a touchback.
Coach Jonathan Smith said the plan early was to fair catch the kicks to get an idea of the Buckeyes' kickoff coverage.
“The kid was kicking it like 4.5 hang time, so they were already at the 20-yard line when I caught the ball. So he just thought from a schematic standpoint that it would be smarter for us to fair catch it,” Bradford said.
Bradford said if he gets the right kick, he can go ahead and return it.
“We have certain returns that we run so we know where the ball is supposed to hit at,” he said. “Say the ball is kicked all the way to the sideline, I probably won’t return it just because from a timing standpoint it wouldn’t be the best decision.”
Flemings ran three kicks back in the second half but never made it to the 25.
Smith said the Beavers will continue to take a look at that part of the game plan.
"I see us doing similar stuff as we move forward, some fair catching and some bringing it out," he said.
Bradford admits he isn’t a huge fan of the rule.
Smith, however, sees how it can add safety to the game.
“I just like the way college football is headed in always trying to improve the game, keep the game as safe as possible and that’s one avenue they’re investigating to keep it as safe as possible,” he said.
Just like for the players, the Ohio State game was the first for the new coaching staff.
The group seemed to work well together on game day.
“Our communication was really good between the box and the sideline and getting any types of adjustments we wanted to make, so those were good,” defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar said. “But we’ll get better at that as a staff as the year goes on as well as we get used to each other and the kind of feedback we can give each other to help each other out.”
Added defensive backs coach Greg Burns: “I didn’t necessarily see any issues. I thought we were good with our communications with each other, we had enough time to talk about things over the headset, so I thought we were pretty good.”
Facing an offense like Ohio State's that likes to use a fast tempo was a positive in showing the Beavers what they can expect against many teams this season, including this week’s opponent — Southern Utah.
Making checks and adjustments, and getting set before the ball is snapped isn’t always easy when the offense likes to go fast.
“We’re getting ready to play another team that is fast-paced so we’ve gotten some experience under our belt,” Burns said. “And I would expect this game we would be ready to go even better, before the ball is snapped.”