Ken Goe: After Oregon State Destroyed Colorado, Let’s Stop to Appreciate What Jonathan Smith Built

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There was nothing flashy about what Oregon State did to Colorado on a wet Saturday night at Reser Stadium.

On the contrary, it was a devastating method.

OSU crushed the Buffaloes 42-9, like a heavyweight boxer who is content to pound the body rather than go for the knockout.

That seems to be the identity of the Beavers this season, all helmet and lunch bucket.

OSU plays a physical brand of defense. The Beavers overturned Colorado’s offense. Colorado set off for the return trip to Boulder with the bruises to show and just 290 total rushing yards.

The defense even entered the score with the return of 42 yards from Alex Austin on a stolen pass in the third quarter. It was not a fair fight.

Oregon State’s offense wasn’t particularly explosive, but the Beavers were relentless. Colorado wore down a withered Colorado defense in the second half, with Damien Martinez finishing with 178 rushing yards.

It remains to be seen what that means in the stretch run for the Beavers (6-2, 3-2). But let’s stop here and pay homage to them for how far they have come.

They are bowling eligible two-thirds through the season with winnable games ahead of them. It’s clearly OSU’s best team since coach Jonathan Smith began the rebuilding project in 2018 amid the rubble left by former coach Gary Andersen.

“These new guys on the program, they’re spoiled,” said OSU safety Jaydon Grant, who has been around since 2016. “That’s the beautiful thing. These new guys, that’s exactly what they’ve been waiting for. .

You know, bowling games, winning seasons, demolishing conference opponents by 33 points.

During Smith’s five years on the job, OSU and Colorado swapped places.

OSU’s only Pac-12 win in Smith’s first season was a stunning 41-34 upset at Colorado. The Buffaloes had started 5-0 in 2018. CU coach Mike MacIntyre was two years away from a 10-win season and the Pac-12 Coach of the Year award.

By the end of the season, MacIntyre had been fired. Colorado has gone through four head coaches since, if you count interims Kurt Roper and Mike Sanford.

Now Colorado (1-6, 1-3) is in such a deep hole it will be hard to dig in, and start all over again with another head coach in 2023.

So pat OSU athletic director Scott Barnes on the back for finding the right person to run his football program and then having the patience to let Smith do it from scratch.

“There’s no doubt that it’s satisfying to feel much better off in Year 5 than in Year 1,” Smith said.

The Beavers remain a work in progress, especially on offense.

Granted, they are quarterbacked by Ben Gulbranson, a redshirt freshman who started the season as a backup.

But starter Chance Nolan wasn’t lighting up college football until he suffered a neck injury and concussion in a 42-16 loss at Utah three weeks ago.

Nolan had thrown eight interceptions and seven touchdowns before being injured. Gulbranson took better care of the ball. On Saturday, he threw for 202 yards and a pair of scores. He was not intercepted.

The running game, so devastating a year ago, has been inconsistent even as Martinez showed his stuff against Colorado.

Whether he became the leader of OSU or remains in a three-way rotation remains to be seen. Smith was evasive after the game.

Maybe continuing to give the ball to Martinez more than 20 times is the solution needed.

To play with Washington in two weeks and Oregon in the rivalry game, the Beavers need to fit in better offensively. They will have to score and keep scoring.

But that’s a problem for another day.

That night, the Beavers parted ways with an overmatched opponent and left themselves in position to play for high stakes in November.

— Ken Goe reported from Corvallis for The Oregonian/OregonLive.

[email protected] | Twitter: @KenGoe

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