It felt wonderful to watch Oregon State play Florida in today's Las Vegas Bowl and have the most worrisome part of the game be whether the Beavers would hold the Gators scoreless, thereby ending Florida's NCAA-record 435 game scoring streak.
I was rooting for this to happen, but Florida kicked a 40 yard field goal with 37 seconds left. Oh, well, that was about the only thing that didn't go right in Oregon State's 30-3 victory. A missed extra point was no big deal.
I've got to admit that early in this year's football season I was more of an Oregon fan. But with every Oregon State game that I watched, I came away increasingly impressed with the character and style of the team.
Sure, Oregon has snazzier uniforms, and when playing well, a more exciting style. Oregon State, though, gradually won me over with its solid blue collar approach to the game of football. Not super flashy. Just tough hard-nosed play with fewer mistakes than the more mercurial Ducks.
Jonathan Smith is an impressive coach of the Beavers. I wondered what was up when Tristan Gebbia replaced Ben Gulbranson at quarterback early on in the game when the score was only 7-0. But an Oregonian story explained this move.
Gulbranson has become a culture setter in Corvallis, and I’m not sure what is more important to the Beavers program than culture.
Don’t forget that on Saturday, Smith pulled Gulbranson for the Beavers’ third and fourth series, with his team leading only 7-0, to give senior Tristan Gebbia a meaningful opportunity to play before his career ended.
Two years ago, Gebbia was the Beavers’ starter. He shredded his hamstring on the goal line against Oregon, then spent the next two years working back from injury. His teammates voted him captain three consecutive years, despite the injury.
“It was more than a tip-of-the-cap,” Smith said. “If he wasn’t close to Ben, we wouldn’t have put him out there. We’re trying to win the game.”
But that’s the kind of program Smith is running.
I don’t know how many other coaches are pulling their starting quarterback after he had just executed a 65-yard touchdown drive, as Gulbranson did in the first quarter, just to take a look at a backup who had barely played in 24 months.
“I look at his influence of being a captain on this team,” Smith said, “guys really rallying around him. The way he continued to support Ben.”
Smith rewards players who are about the right things. Who buy into the program and are selfless.
Really refreshing. Smith is a class act as a coach, as are his players. His team's 10-3 record this year is testament to his steady approach to building a quality program.
I recall that Gebbia entered the game on the last play, a quarterback knee-down as time expired. The post-game video showed Gebbia trying to hand the game ball to Gulbranson, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.
Gulbranson shook his head and left the ball with Gebbia. That image will stick in my mind. It personified the selflessness mentioned in the Oregonian story. In this age of big egos among many athletes. the Oregon State football team is a welcome exception thanks to the example of their coach.