OREGON STATE WAS supposed to have trouble with the Boise State rush. The Beavs weren't supposed to…
Two-Minute Drill: BEAVS FULL OF HOLIDAY CHEER
Game at a Glance First and foremost, Oregon State came out looking like they got their jersey combinations mixed up by TSA operators that were Broncos fans – white pants with black shirts and helmets? Color me confused. But fashion be damned, as Oregon State's first two plays ripped off big chunks of yardage on the ground. The first three plays went for a trio first downs. Oh yes, the Beavs came out looking electric on offense, and steamrolled from there on. The first half saw OSU and Boise State jockey for field position and work their respective game plans -- for a while. Sean Mannion manipulated a loose BSU secondary with some strong throws over the middle to Brandin Cooks, Kevin Cummings, H-back Connor Hamlett and tight Caleb Smith with relative ease. Mannion & Co. were helped along by a Beaver ground game that kept BSU's explosive front seven with a fuse and no dynamite. The Beavs racked up 99 ground yards between Cooks, Storm Woods and Terron Ward in the first half, including a bullish touchdown run by Ward where he literally bowled his way into the end zone -- despite a would-be tackler getting low and into good position. The TD run put the Beavs up by 25 points before halftime. As if to provide Mark Banker with an early Christmas present, Oregon State's defense was anything but jetsam on the Hawaiian shores. They created their own ebb and flow amongst the blue-helmeted wave of a BSU offensive attack and bent but didn't break – in the best possible sense of the term. The second half was a little different, as Boise State displayed more urgency on both sides of the ball - but the energy exerted by the men in blue and white was too little, too late. All Oregon State had to do was keep the pressure on Bronco QB Grant Hedrick and put enough helmets on running back Jay Ajayi (23 carries, 97 yards) in order to ensure a Beaver victory. Check, and check. OSU head coach Mike Riley might have started biting his fingernails after Hedrick connected with wideout Matt Miller for a hefty passing touchdown with a good chunk of time remaining in the fourth quarter, putting the Broncos within 18 points, but this one was well in hand. The Beavs' offensive line play was stellar, and the ever churning legs of Ward and Woods chewed up both yardage and clock as time kept on slipping on BSU's hopes. Despite Boise State forcing OSU to punt three times over the final 30 minutes and holding them to just one score in that time frame, the differential in points was insurmountable. Turning Point/Game Changer Junior defensive end Scott Crichton blasted into the Boise State backfield and (along with and advancing Mana Rosa) gobbled up Hedrick in his own end zone. I barely had time to blink before Crichton forced a fumble which took a gentle roll toward senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, who scooped it up to give OSU a 17-3 lead with just under three minutes left in the opening quarter. Players of the Game Offense Ward and Woods kept the chains moving all day long -- that aided Mannion by giving him time to make decisions in the pocket. He used it systematically pick apart BSU with a resurgent aerial attack. The duo accounted for 161 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was a rare strong performance on the ground, and maybe a harbinger of what's to come in 2014. And Cooks cannot be overlooked here either. He tallied 60 receiving yards and a touchdown, as well as 29 hashes on the ground in helping the Beaver offense stymie the thundering herd mentality that was expected of the Boise State defense. The whole damned offensive line – Michael Philipp, Josh Andrews, Isaac Seumalo, Grant Enger and Sean Harlow. No sacks and the powering force behind 195 rushing yards tends to draw post game accolades. Defense Reynolds recovered a second fumble, this one forced by Larry Scott, in the second quarter and raced 70-yards for his second touchdown. The play seemed to crush Boise State's spirit, setting OSU up with an 18-point lead with 7:46 remaining in the second quarter. Crichton, in addition to forcing the first fumble, remained a tour de force on the defensive line throughout, testing the limits of BSU's offensive tackles and, along with some of his defensive mates, forcing Hedrick out of the pocket on multiple occasions. Perhaps even more impressive than his initial bursts into the backfield was Crichton's ability to stay in pursuit of the speedy Hedrick and force a bevy of errant throws during Boise State's fruitless attempts to claw themselves out of a very deep hole. Unexpected Developments - Oregon State's defensive line played arguably its best game of football all season long and were the key to Oregon State's five sacks, QB hurries and that huge fumble recovered and hustled in for six by Reynolds. Guys like Crichton, Dylan Wynn and Devon Kell were integral to having an early demoralizing effect on the Broncos, one that took hold early and wasn't easily sloughed off. One of the biggest storylines heading in was Oregon State's inability to run the ball, combined with an energetic and aggressive BSU front seven. Well, that question was definitively answered in two quarters, and the Beavs running game never let up. They relentlessly plowed past BSU defenders like Ben Weaver and Demarcus Lawrence – something most BSU fans didn't believe possible. Final Thoughts If this is the type of football that can be expected of OSU looking ahead to 2014, OSU fans should be excited regardless of whether or Cooks and/or Crichton decide to head to the NFL draft. It was a downright impressive if not dominating performance from the Beavers, one that should have OSU staffers, players and fans alike waking up Christmas morning with a smile that spreads ear to ear. It was a terrific way for Mike Riley and the Beavs to finish the season, and I imagine they will reap the recruiting benefits from the islands with that kind of performance.
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