Shortly after Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith lifted the Las Vegas Bowl trophy overhead after the Beavers beat Florida 30-3, the game’s brightest player was announced.
It was winger Ben Gulbranson, but honestly, it could have been eight or 10 players. In a nutshell, it perfectly describes the number 14 Oregon State and its 2022 team, which made it to the school’s best players list after the 10-3 campaign.
Gulbranson excelled in mastering an effective attack that produced 353 yards, four touches and 24 first touches. But who can say it couldn’t be the special teams ace Jack Colletto, Deshaun Fenwick and his 107 yards dash to spell Damien Martinez, or one of the few defensive players that nearly caused Florida to close for the last time. first in 34 years?
If there’s one word to describe the 2022 Beavers, it’s selfless.
“When you have a group of people who work hard and don’t care who gets rewarded, only good things happen,” said Jaydon Grant, senior safety officer.
Anyone who has spent time in sports has heard this. Doing that in an era when athletes want to make a name or develop a brand is not easy. But that’s part of coach Jonathan Smith’s magic in building this program virtually from the ground up. Smith and his staff convinced players that the reward was the win, not the stats that showed up on the printed sheet or the top 10 highlights on ESPN.
Smith just went as far as Saturday’s performance as a prime example. Gulbranson benched two series in the first half to give senior Tristan Gebbia a chance to play his final game. Backrunner Damien Martinez, preparing for the 1,000-yard run, left the field in the first half with a shoulder injury, only for Fenwick to shine in his place. Full-back Jaden Robinson, who began his first career when Rejzohn Wright injured his thumb, made seven tackles, OSU’s second-highest total tackles behind full-back Kyrei Fisher-Morris. . Colletto, recruited to play quarterback at OSU, became an exceptional team and short-field star.
“That’s why this group is so special, because we hold to this idea of altruism,” says Smith. “In this day and age, that is unique. And we won 10 games doing that.”
The Beavers won Saturday at Allegiant Stadium the way they usually do this season. The defense, one of the Pac-12’s best, left Florida vacant for more than 59 minutes. The foul didn’t go to its script, running the ball efficiently and using the pass to keep Florida’s balance (6-7). Special teams contributed a lot, as Colletto set up two touchdowns by blocking a pitch and running a dummy pitch for the first takedown.
It’s hardly the stuff of Las Vegas dreams. But that’s what the State of Oregon knows best. To stick with your approach to work, no stars, the Beaver went 2-10 in Smith’s first year in 2018 to potentially finish among the country’s top 12 when The final polls of 2022 are published.
Colletto said: “I came here in 2018 and we couldn’t win a football game to save our lives. “From February 10, such a record in 2018, to completely changing the show, turning it upside down… there is no better feeling.”
There was some pressure on Saturday for the State of Oregon. The regular-season 9-3 record is great, but the 9-4 will feel empty. A year after losing the team’s first flop in eight years, the Beavers are unable to repeat the feat and say they’ve matured.
“I think last year we were a bit ill-informed when it came to (LA Bowl),” said Colletto. “When we started practicing after the game against Oregon, they were all full of energy, everyone was on lockdown. We spent a lot of time after practice researching the movie and getting ready to play this match.
“And it showed.”
As for this team’s place in Oregon State history, there’s a strong argument to be made that the team is second only to the 2000 Beavers’ Fiesta Bowl winners. OSU won 10 games for only the third time in history. show and won seven finals. eight games. The Beavers ended the season by beating Florida, the school’s first win over an SEC team.
Perhaps the only question is, how close is this team to the gold standard, Oregon State 11-1 co-Pac-10 champion in 2000?
Smith, quarterback for the 2000 team and coach of the 2022 team, will not be caught up in the debate, although he did laugh when the question was asked.
“Both of those teams have some really good players. Special year in both cases. Really pleased with this team,” Smith said.
Saturday’s victory was not just a statement for the State of Oregon, but for the Pac-12 as well. The conference hasn’t won a single losing game in two full seasons. Oregon State got the Pac-12 off to a bad start by beating an SEC blueblood thoroughly.
“There are a lot of good teams and good football in the Pac-12,” said Colletto. “I think it’s only going to get better.”
Did someone say better? That’s the question for the State of Oregon. With many leaders leaving the show after this season, can the Beavers sustain, or even build on, their success in 2023?
Grant, who left Oregon State after a seven-year career, is convinced that when players return to off-season training in early January, there will be famine. Strength and conditioning coach Mike McDonald wouldn’t let them think otherwise. It won’t be about 10 wins. This could be a 12 win season. Maybe 13.
“He always pushed us to be the best,” Grant said. “That’s why it’s a really fun place to play.”
— Nick Daschel reporting from Las Vegas.