The Oregon State Football squad sits alone in second place in the PAC-12 North, following their second conference road win of the season in Berkeley, Calif. on Oct. 19, 2019 against the California Bears. This time one year ago, the Beavers were sitting at 1-6 and coming off a 49-7 loss from the same opponent.
The past two seasons, the Beavers have finished with records of 1-11 and 2-10. Halfway through the 2017 season, former head coach Gary Anderson resigned. The coaching changed allowed for the program’s hire of Washington offensive coordinator and former Oregon State quarterback from 1998-’01, Jonathan Smith.
The phrase “rebuilding year” has been commonly referred to about the program for the past couple of seasons. With Smith in only his second season in the head coaching position, preseason talks had the team projected to finish at the bottom of the conference yet again. The team has exceeded expectations though with development on both offense and defense.
“I see changes on both sides of the ball, and I feel like we are more coachable, as far as the strides we are making,” Jaydon Grant said. Grant is a redshirt sophomore defensive back and had a pivotal interception in the fourth quarter versus California to help seal the victory.
Grant is part of the Beavers defense that is one of the turning points this season. The defense last season failed to hold a conference opponent to fewer than 500 yards a game in 2018, giving up 45.7 points per game.
“The team was in a rebuilding situation that was going to require tremendous moves on both sides of the ball,” Brenden Slaughter,a managing editor at Rivals.com, said. “Overall, what stands out to me is the level that every player is bought into what coach Smith is doing.”
With the team buying in, several players have had the opportunity to step up as leaders on the field. Isaiah Hodgins is one member of the offense who is not only standing out for the Beavers, but getting national recognition. In the offseason, Hodgins was named to the Fred Biletnikoff award watch list, an award given each year to the most outstanding receiver in the nation, and remains high on the list
Hodgins leads the PAC-12 in three stats including receiving touchdowns with 10 for the season, with 8 receptions per game and 745 total receiving yards for the season. Hodgins is also tied for first in the nation in receiving touchdowns, tied for second in receptions per game and eighth in receiving yards.
While Hodgins is thriving on the offensive side, Hamilcar Rashed Jr. is turning heads of his own on the defensive side. Leading the PAC-12 in tackles for loss and sacks. Rashed Jr. is also second nationally in tackles for loss and third nationally in sacks. This includes tipping a ball which resulted in the interception by Grant last week against California.
“We’re definitely more familiar with everything in the program this year,” Grant said. “We’re a more tight knit group, and disciplined compared to last year.”
Multiple injuries were concerns to start the season, including preseason defensive captain and key senior linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray. While on the offensive side of the ball, 2018 PAC-12 Honorable Mention senior wide receiver Trevon Bradford has missed this season with a foot injury. Bradford is a medical redshirt and hoping to play in the last four games if healthy.
With injuries, there are new roles for teammates to step into. So far, young players such as true freshman cornerback Jojo Forrest and tight end Luke Musgrave have begun significant playing time, along with redshirt freshman receiver Jesiah Irish.
Understanding your position on the football field, doing your job, and trusting the process have become recurring themes in sports as a whole. Alabama football head coach Nick Saban has become known for statements like this. The program isn’t Alabama, and they aren’t following a Saban blueprint. However, understanding their own identity is something the Oregon State Football team appears to be striving for.
“We’ve been making natural strides in our second year with a new coach,” Grant said on knowing there is a process that the team and fans must be patient with.
With five games left in the season, there is a possibility for bowl conversation, although the Beavers have a difficult schedule ahead of them. Including crucial home matchups against Washington on Nov 8., Arizona State Nov 16., and at Oregon for the civil war, Nov 30. A bye week could be what the team needs for rest and preparation ahead of the closing half of the 2019 college football season.
The Oregon State Football team heads to the desert for a matchup with the Arizona Wildcats, led by senior dual threat quarterback Khalil Tate, and coach Kevin Sumlin. The Wildcats sit at 4-4 after a 41-31 loss at Stanford on Oct 27. The two teams will square off on Saturday Nov 2. and the game will be televised on the PAC-12 Network.