By T.J. Mathewson
Contributor, 750 The Game
Against Washington State, it was the worst half of football the Beavers had played in nearly two seasons.
Against California, it was the worst tackling performance of the year, only to be bailed out by a near-perfect offensive showing.
Against Arizona…. you can find a way to combine the two.
Just because the framework of a Pac-12 after-dark upset was in place, a 7:30 PM kickoff on the road in Tucson with a crummy ESPN production on-site, doesn’t mean it had to happen, and yet here the Beavers and their fans are sitting in the disappointment of yet another shaky road performance.
There’s a reason coaches like Jonathan Smith preach a week-to-week approach when handling their season because that needs to balance out others, like myself and others interested in storylines, looking at what December could’ve looked like if the Beavers took care of business in Tucson. Two of the biggest regular-season games ever played in this program, followed by a chance at a Pac-12 Championship in the final season of existence and a CFP berth. Chance to stick it to the ten programs that left you out to dry and grab a spot that only two other Pac-12 teams have ever done.
Much of that is still on the table, but with the latter eliminated with a second loss, the shine has rubbed off a little, and the margin for error is completely gone.
Nothing shown on the field Saturday gave the feeling that it was just a bad matchup or that Arizona had a talent advantage in one crucial area. Oregon State gained more yards through the air and on the ground, averaged more yards per play, and won the turnover battle. You look at that and say how do you lose that game??
Partially, yes, it was because of that botched fake field goal at the end of the half. Those three points were the difference in the game, and Jonathan Smith took the blame after the game. Just as bad though, was the lack of clock awareness before that play, where the Beavers let an extra 15 seconds run off the clock instead of getting an extra shot or two at the end zone. Or, the two missed touchdown opportunities, one a wheel route to Damien Martinez right before the field goal fake, the other a missed deep shot to Anthony Gould 90 seconds earlier. All of these things, just like the botched FG, were enormous plays that if converted, wouldn’t even have let the FG team onto the field.
DJ Uiagalelei didn’t have his best fastball Saturday night. Through a mix of play calling and hesitancy, the junior held onto the ball too long at times and was missing open receivers. He looked more like the DJ against WSU and Utah than against Cal and UCLA, and it threw off the rhythm of an offense that had been so good in the previous weeks.
“I definitely left some plays out there,” Uiagalelei said. “At the end of the day, we need to play better. I need to play better. Definitely didn’t have my best stuff tonight. The receivers were open, I gotta make the reads and make the throws.”
“All conference games, they come down to these itty bitty plays, the margin for error is just like this,” Uiagalelei says as he pinches his right thumb and index finger together to show the media. “So if you’re not on point, you’re going to lose.”
Punt team coverage, the two 4th-quarter drives that came up empty with a chance to put the game away, Silas Bolden and Aidan Chiles fumbling to throw drives off-script. Those itty bitty plays add up.
The Beavers will move on. They will be a multi-score favorite at a struggling Colorado team and will move on to the next game after that, and the next game after that. Just as they’ve preached all season, and will continue to do so as long as Jonathan Smith is in charge.
It’s disappointing, though, to think of the week that was, and the season that could’ve been.