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Bowl fit is just the beginning for hungry Oregon State Beavers facing 'big November' after crushing Colorado

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Oregon State winning a Pac-12 game by the largest margin in a decade is probably a sign of progress, and not a post-game field storm by students, but instead a general understanding: well done, what’s next?

Oregon State’s 42-9 bombardment of Colorado at Reser Stadium on Saturday was a complete defeat, as suggested by the Beavers spread to 23 point. This was unlikely, as there weren’t many cases like this during the five-year tenure of coach Jonathan Smith.

As Smith has done since he took over in 2018, there are many steps a program must take when it tries to build from scratch. This was another small step forward: beating a matched team without giving them any hope from the start.

Only a few years ago, the Beavers, who often played the role of the underdog, seemed comfortable in the role of the bully. OSU rushed a season-high 270 yards. The last time the Beaver defense held a conference that rivaled single-digit numbers was in 2012. Oregon State (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) forced Colorado to make four turnovers, including a six-point pick from Alex Austin.

It was 21-3 in the first half and 35-3 in three minutes of the second half. Oregon State’s bench emptied in the fourth quarter.

“You’re favored in a game like this, it’s easy to let it come to mind,” said Jaydon Grant. “I think we did a really good job with our preparation and we really respected our opponent through preparation.”

What impressed Smith during the week was that the players approached Colorado like it was a big game week. He didn’t see the team pull back one bit during practice, just because the Buffalos, who are now 1-6, have a résumé going on with many one-sided losses.

“I’m not too surprised that we came out and played well,” Smith said.

It’s likewise a sign of progress that the State of Oregon has become fit for the bowl, and that it’s hardly a topic of conversation. The Beavers played a bowling game last year for the first time since 2013. This year, OSU cleared eligibility for bowling with four games remaining. The Beavers have bigger things on their minds, like staying in the Pac-12 championship game race and a bowl game with brighter lights than a year ago.

Achieving bowl status is crucial for Grant, who has been on the program for seven years and knows what it’s like to live at the bottom. It’s not lost on him that the newcomers of the team see it a little differently.

“It’s nice that these new guys in the program are exactly what they’ve been waiting for,” Grant said. “They hope to go to bowling matches at the beginning of the season. They don’t have to wait for your last two games to see if you’re eligible.”

Beating Damien Martinez, who ran for a career-high 178 yards and three touchdowns, the freshman quickly emerges a star. Martinez has rushed for 517 yards this season and has come 372 in the last three games.

Oregon State has successfully run a three-man comeback rotation this season, but Martinez’s time may be now. Smith won’t be committing to moving Martinez into a comeback role after Saturday’s game, but said that’s something the staff will discuss after watching the gameplay video.

“He’s special. The guy has a good flair for being a real freshman. Tonight he had his fair share and showed up,” Smith said.

Oregon State’s defense, the most reliable part of their team this season, has performed well. The Buffaloes had a 290-yard offense but came in 129 in the fourth quarter, where the game had been decided for a long time. Four different players got a takeaway, with interventions from Grant and Austin and comebacks from Rejzohn Wright and Isaac Hodgins.

Next up is a good-bye week, a chance to recover and prepare for the November run, which includes games against Washington and Oregon. Goodbye, Smith said, comes at a good time to rest, to study, and to prepare for what he calls “a great November.”

As one of the team’s five captains, Grant expects little celebration after Saturday night. November is when the Beavers have a chance to become one of the best teams in program history.

“It took a lot of work to get to a point where he could play ball that well. You can’t step back and stay indifferent,” said Grant. You have to be on top of things.”

— Nick Daschel reported from Corvallis. | @nickdaschel