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Beaver notes: Passing game comes through for OSU

CORVALLIS – Before Friday evening, the Pacific-10 football cognoscenti knew what Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson was capable of, and he again showed it against No. 9 Oregon.

When it came to Beaver quarterback Tristan Gebbia, there were still a lot of questions. Against the Ducks, he came up with a lot of the right answers.

With the passing game finally complementing the running game, the Beavers had season highs in points and total offense – 532 yards - in beating Oregon 41-38 on a cold, foggy night at Reser Stadium Friday.

Jefferson, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game this season, ran for 226 yards – the most ever by a back for either school in the 124th edition of the rivalry game. Gebbia, who had passed for just 232 yards in the Beavers’ previous two games combined, overcame a slow start to complete 23 of 37 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown.

For Jefferson, the big day helped ease the memory of how the 2019 season finished. With Oregon State trailing by seven late in the game at Oregon, he took a pass from Gebbia then fumbled deep in OSU territory to set up the Ducks’ clinching score in a 24-10 loss.

“I obviously wanted to redeem myself from last year, what happened after that fumble,” Jefferson said. “I knew coming in this year I studied hard, I was really ready for this game. I was trying not to make any mistakes.”

Jefferson has 675 yards rushing this season; with three games left on the Beavers’ schedule, he has a chance to have a 1,000-yard season in this abbreviated season.

For all his production, Jefferson doesn’t receive a lot of notice beyond the West Coast. He was asked if he thinks he gets the national recognition he deserves.

“I really don’t feel like I get the recognition I deserve,” Jefferson said. “But I just have to keep down and keep working hard I’ve been underrated all my life.”

“I think he deserves the recognition,” OSU head coach Jonathan Smith said of Jefferson. “He’s a big-time back. I think everybody sees it and a lot of people say it. I know he’s a guy in our locker room that we appreciate, not only the production he has on Saturdays but the way he goes about things day to day, how hard he works. He deserves a lot of recognition.”

For the second straight week, Jefferson scored on a run of at least 75 yards on the Beavers’ first possession. He said when Gebbia audibled into the play, Jefferson knew he’d have a big hole.

“He’s really a smart quarterback,” Jefferson said of Gebbia. “He knows defenses, coverages, safety rotations – he knows what he’s doing back there.”

Gebbia was hurt on a quarterback sneak in the game’s closing seconds and joined OSU’s postgame celebration on crutches, but Smith said it may be a hamstring problem and he thinks Gebbia could be fine.

After completing just one of his first five passes, Gebbia settled into a groove in the second quarter and connected on 22 of his last 32, including going 5-for-6 for 52 yards on the game-winning drive. He also scrambled 13 yards for a first down on OSU’s previous drive and ran for a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

“He made some big-time plays today,” Smith said of Gebbia. “That scramble for a first down late in the game - and the kid is resilient now. He keeps on working. Our passing game showed up tonight, I thought receivers made some plays for him, he made some nice throws, made a couple plays with his feet. He played well enough for us to win this game.”

DEFENSE COMES AROUND: For the third straight game, Oregon State’s defense toughened up after halftime. After giving up 24 points and 299 yards in the first half, the Beavers allowed just 14 points and 169 yards in the second.

“Honestly, we just made the adjustments that we needed to,” outside linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray said. “I think Tibs (defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar) made some great defensive calls. We just weren’t doing things the right way the first time, the first half.

“Moving forward to the second, we just challenged ourselves to do your job and just trust your teammates, and this was a great team win.”

The second-half effort included a three-and-out in the game’s final 2 minutes, 18 seconds that got the ball back for the Beavers’ game-winning drive with 1:55 left.

“That was huge,” Smith said. “That was game-changing. We get stopped on fourth down, we have no momentum whatsoever. We did have three timeouts, and for them to get three plays and get the stop like that and really, we were able to save one timeout that was critical as well.”

IN-STATE INTEREST: OSU defensive back Jaydon Grant, from West Linn, agreed that for players from the state, there’s a little more incentive in this game.

“These are the moments you kind of dream about as a kid growing up here,” Grant said. “It means a lot for me as an in-state kid because the rivalry is so close to home. For our team, this is huge and that’s the best part of it. I’ll be glad of this not just for me, but for all of us.”

Smith, who quarterbacked Oregon State to wins over Oregon in 1998 and 2000, said winning in the rivalry “means a ton.”

“I actually told the team that after, in the locker room, that it means a ton to a lot of people, not just the guys sitting in that locker room,” Smith said. “I mean, it’s too bad that Beaver Nation couldn’t fill Reser Stadium right now and to have a win like this, the celebration that took place. We missed Beaver Nation so much, because it means a lot to so many, especially our in-state kids.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Oregon leads the all-time series 66-48-10; OSU’s win ended a three-game losing streak in the series. The Beavers have won two of the last three games in Corvallis Jefferson moved into fifth place on OSU’s all-time lists for rushing yards (2,740) and rushing touchdowns (27).

OSU's Jermar Jefferson. Photo by{ }Karl Maasdam