4 interceptions sink Oregon State in loss to Utah: ‘We’re way better than we showed today’ – OregonLive

  • October 3, 2022

Oregon State Beavers at Utah Utes, Oct. 1, 2022
Turnover margin has been a strength of Oregon State football under coach Jonathan Smith.
Suddenly, it’s a problem.
It’s not as if No. 12 Utah blew the Beavers off the field Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. The final score said 42-16 in favor of the Utes, but the Beavers contained one of Pac-12′s top offenses to 361 yards. OSU managed 417 yards against a top-10 Utah defense.
None of it mattered. Four interceptions equaled 21 Utah points. It was a hill too steep to climb for the Beavers. It comes on the heels of a 17-14 loss to USC last week, when the Trojans turned four interceptions into 10 points.
“You intercept four footballs, you expect to win the game,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
Afterward, Smith spoke about how he appreciated the Beavers’ effort. It never appeared to wane, even after Utah scored the game’s final 21 points to turn a 21-16 lead into a rout. But just like a week ago, Oregon State knows exactly where the blame in this loss belongs.
Utah/USC eight interceptions, Beavers 0.
“We’ve got to improve, man. We’ve got to execute a lot better. We’ve got to give them better plans and positions and all that,” Smith said. “It starts with me, to the coaches, to the players.”
Quarterback Chance Nolan continued his erratic performance of late by throwing two first-quarter interceptions by Utah cornerback Clark Phillips, including one for a pick-six. Smith credited Phillips for the first interception, but the second one he thought Nolan was culpable.
Nolan left the game early in the second quarter with a neck strain. Smith said he didn’t consider pulling Nolan from the game before the injury made the decision for him.
Backup Ben Gulbranson was modestly better, throwing for 177 yards during his three-quarter stint. Like Nolan, Gulbranson had two interceptions, both in the end zone with OSU threatening to score. Gulbranson led the offense to the red zone five times, resulting in a scant three field goals.
Smith believes in his quarterbacks, whoever that may be next Saturday at Stanford.
“I think we’ve got guys that can help us score points. We just have to do a better job of it,” Smith said. “This is back-to-back weeks with four picks. That ain’t gonna get it done.”
The scoreboard didn’t do justice to Oregon State’s defense. The Utes’ scored 21 of their 42 points off a pick-six and two short-field touchdowns set up by interceptions. Though quarterback Cam Rising threw for three touchdowns and led the Utes with 73 rushing yards, the Beavers did a solid job bottling up Utah’s running game.
What Oregon State’s defense didn’t do: the tackling was shoddy at times, and the Beavers didn’t create a takeaway for the third time in five games this season.
How does Saturday’s loss affect the big picture? Depends on Oregon State’s frame of mind moving forward. Utah was the Pac-12′s preseason favorite, and USC has rocketed to No. 6 in the national polls. That the Beavers are 0-2 in conference play, despite a 3-0 start to the season, doesn’t surprise many outside Oregon State’s locker room.
“These are two good teams we just played. 100%. We know that,” Smith said. “I do think these guys will reload tomorrow and understand that we have half our season left.”
Said safety Jaydon Grant: “We’ve got to be better, and we will be better.”
If the disappointment of a second consecutive loss doesn’t linger past Sunday afternoon. Smith is confident that because he has a veteran team, he’ll see a roster ready to learn from mistakes Sunday, and ready to prep for Stanford when practice resumes Tuesday.
“I go to the effort we’re playing with. I don’t think that’s a problem out there. I don’t think we were in any kind of a funk, or hangover, any of that kind of thing,” Smith said. “We came out swinging.”
Though the Beavers have lost two consecutive games, this was the most difficult stretch of the season. Up next are games against Stanford, Washington State and Colorado. The Cardinal and Buffaloes are considered two of the worst teams in the Pac-12. If the Beavers sweep the next three games, they’ll be bowl eligible before the end of October, something only three OSU teams have accomplished since 2000.
After losses to USC and Utah, reaching the Pac-12 championship game is likely out of reach. But everything else — an improved record over a year ago, a better bowl game, a top 25 berth — remains in play.
“Our goals are always going to stay the same. We’re not going to take one loss, one bad performance and question the type of team we are,” Grant said. “We know we’re way better than we showed today.”
— Nick Daschel reported from Salt Lake City
[email protected] | @nickdaschel
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