Oregon State’s depth at running back shined through on Saturday.
In different circumstances, the absence of star back Jermar Jefferson, out with a foot injury, might have been more noticeable.
But Artavis Pierce and B.J. Baylor picked up most of the slack, and the Beavers carried on against an outmanned Cal Poly squad on their way to a 45-7 win at Reser Stadium.
Pierce went for 90 yards, 84 of that in the first quarter, on 12 carries. Baylor added 101 yards and a touchdown on just seven attempts. Calvin Tyler chipped in 59 yards on nine carries in his first attempts in two seasons after missing 2018 with a knee injury. True freshman Ta’Ron Madison got the first two carries of his collegiate career, covering 6 yards.
“We’ve been talking about having some depth at the position and I think it showed today,” said OSU coach Jonathan Smith, who saw his team average 7.8 yards per rushing attempt and finish with 258 yards on the ground.
That average was better than the Beavers (1-2) accomplished against Oklahoma State (4.5) and Hawaii (6.1).
The Mustangs (1-2), an FCS team out of the Big Sky Conference, allowed an average of 197 rushing yards and 299 passing through their first two games against San Diego (52-34 win) and Weber State (41-24 loss).
The length of Jefferson’s absence is uncertain.
Jefferson was named a freshman All-American by numerous outlets after rushing for an OSU true freshman record 1,380 yards in 2018. In two games this season, he had 270 yards and a touchdown.
OSU had little trouble moving the ball through the air, with Jake Luton and Tristan Gebbia passing for a combined 291 yards and four touchdowns. Isaiah Hodgins and Champ Flemings had two scores apiece, all from Luton in the first half.
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Pierce, who had a combined 132 yards and two touchdowns on 15 tries in OSU’s first two games, said it felt good making plays and helping his team.
He knew he would be carrying a heavier load with a teammate unavailable Saturday.
“I always prepare myself the same way every game,” Pierce said. “When my number’s called it’s on me. I felt like I did a great job today, helped the team, got yards.”
The running game played a big part in the first half as the Beavers scored on all six of their possessions on their way to a 38-7 lead.
Pierce ran through big holes early and often as the Mustangs provided little resistance. The running backs produced nine first downs in all in the first half.
Pierce had runs of 10, 18 and 14 yards on the game’s opening drive.
The Beavers gained most of their ground through the air on their second possession, with Baylor running for 3 yards and Pierce for 6.
But Pierce came back with a 25-yarder on the next drive, with an 11-yarder to follow before Baylor found the end zone from 6 yards out.
Pierce had 87 rushing yards at halftime, 84 of which came in the first quarter on nine of his 10 carries before the break. Baylor added 20 yards on five carries.
Pierce carried just twice after halftime. Baylor had a 74-yard run in the third quarter that set up Gebbia’s 5-yard touchdown scamper.