CORVALLIS — Oregon State’s defense was the star of Saturday’s first scrimmage this spring, and they weren’t shy about letting everyone know it.
1 defense had a few three outs, the second ending with quarterback Chance Nolan throwing an interception to John McCartan. The Beavers’ second and third units were also strong, giving up yards but not points.
Finally, the offense broke. Nolan threw a nice deep ball to tight end Luke Musgrave on the goal line for a touchdown. Musgrave celebrated by throwing the ball high in the air.
But wait. This being a scrimmage, Oregon State brought in officials to practice. A spotted holding the play, waving the touchdown. The defense loved it. Cornerback Rezjohn Wright, who did not participate on Saturday, ran onto the field, grabbed the penalty flag and waved it playfully towards the touchline of the attack.
The offense had the last laugh, however, as Tristan Gebbia capped off the drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jesiah Irish. The only offensive touchdown of the day was celebrated as everyone wearing white jerseys (offensive) ran around the corner of the end zone to celebrate the Irish.
The practice competitions between attack and defense under coach Jonathan Smith have always been lively, but they seem to have reached a new level with the high-energy Trent Bray taking over as defensive coordinator.
“They play with a certain energy there. And they are competitive. You want them to have fun here, so I think that’s happening,” Smith said.
Saturday concluded the de facto first half of spring training, although the Beavers still have nine of 15 practices remaining. The team no longer practices until April 2, as the players have finals week and spring break ahead.
Saturday was the first time there were extended live tackles. It looked good for the defense, as there weren’t many misses. Defensive back Ron Hardge was particularly impressive, as he made several open-field tackles like a textbook.
“He’s coming,” Smith said of Hardge. “We have a certain depth in this room. His ability to play for a corner and a nickel… he had a great day.
The offense had a few moments. Freshman running back Damien Martinez had some nice, tough runs with the first and second units. Gebbia completed 7 of 9 passes in his opening series to set up a field goal attempt. Tight ends saw a lot of action in the passing game.
One of the biggest offensive changes is moving right tackle Brandon Kipper to right guard. Kipper has 32 career starts at right tackle, but coaches want to see if they can fortify the right side by moving Kipper inside and playing 6-foot-6, 331-pound Taliese Fuaga at right tackle.
Smith said the move isn’t set in stone, but “we’re going to put the top five (offensive linemen) there. Tali is a good player, and so Kip’s ability to move allows Tali to play where he is comfortable with the right tackle.
Gebbia, who operated with the second offensive unit, threw about 15 passes and seemed to move well. Gebbia has just completed a year’s absence due to hamstring surgery in December 2020. Gebbia attended the first three weeks of camp last August before closing it.
“The ball came out of his hands and threw a nice ball over there to finish it off,” said Smith, who added that Nolan, Gebbia and Gulbranson made good plays but also missed chances.
Smith’s assessment of the first two weeks is typical: progress and many areas to address. The upcoming break is good for players and coaches, who can dive into the practice video and fine-tune plans for final workouts.
Briefly: Nickel Jaydon Grant (hand) and defensive end Isaac Hodgins (foot) will not participate the rest of the spring. Both should be ready to leave for camp in August. … Besides McCartan, Ian Massey also had an interception, picking Ben Gulbranson on a deep throw to John Dunmore near the end zone.