3 takeaways from Oregon State's Sun Bowl beatdown at the hands of Notre Dame
Notre Dame just hammered Oregon State in a battle of attrition on Friday at the Sun Bowl.
Both sides were hit hard by opt-outs and transfer portal entries. Both sides were working in new faces in new places all over the field. And both sides were probably a little disappointed to be playing in the Sun Bowl considering how their respective seasons started. But Notre Dame showed some conviction and some nasty, blasting Oregon State 40-8.
The 32-point margin gave Notre Dame its largest bowl win in school history, and it also secured a sixth 10-win season in the last seven years.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Decided at the line of scrimmage
It’s true of most games that if you win the line of scrimmage, you win the football game. Friday’s Sun Bowl was no exception. But Notre Dame didn’t just win, it dominated.
Notre Dame, despite missing tackles Blake Fisher and Joe Alt, dominated the Beavers when it had the ball. The ground game produced 236 net yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry (adjusted for sacks). Jadarian Price, filling in for Audric Estimé, ran for 106 yards on 13 carries.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame sacked Oregon State’s Ben Gulbranson four times, forced a safety, and held the Beavers to just 2 rushing yards.
It was the first time since 2019 that an Oregon State offense had been held under 50 rushing yards in a game. And it was the worst rushing output in a single game for Oregon State since 2004.
With coach Jonathan Smith leaving to take the job at Michigan State at the end of the regular season, Oregon State was one of the hardest-hit teams in the postseason by opt-outs and transfers. The Beavers were down to their third-string quarterback. Both all-conference tackles opted out of the game. The top tight end transferred. The top running back was unavailable. Then the top wideout was injured in the first half and missed the second half. On defense, Oregon State was missing key players at every level.
But Notre Dame was missing key guys, too. Everywhere. The Fighting Irish brought the fight at the line of scrimmage. Whether it was running up the gut or off-tackle, they were efficient. They went 7-for-8 in short-yardage power rushing situations. They harassed Gulbranson. They yielded nothing in the ground game. Oregon State entered the postseason as a top-20 rushing outfit by efficiency. So often, these bowl games come down to which side wants it more.
Notre Dame. The answer on Friday was Notre Dame.
Peanut butter Angeli time, indeed
Steve Angeli made his first career start in the Sun Bowl, filling in for Sam Hartman.
Angeli was outstanding. He completed 15 of his 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns before getting an early curtain call. He completed passes to five different players. Notre Dame rolled him and he delivered accurate passes. Notre Dame let him work from the pocket and he made smart decisions.
Irish receivers helped, certainly. Jordan Faison brought in five receptions for 115 yards and a score. A true freshman, Faison didn’t make his debut until October of this season, but with Notre Dame down its top three wideouts and its top two tight ends, someone had to fill the void.
The Angeli-to-Faison connection was productive.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 29, 2023
Angeli made the kinds of plays that endear a quarterback to his teammates. He didn’t turn the football over and lowered his shoulder into a defender at one point in the third quarter with the game comfortably in hand for Notre Dame.
Steve Angeli lowers the shoulder and Sam Hartman is loving it! 😤 pic.twitter.com/4kYKTWGaHv
— CBS Sports College Football 🏈 (@CBSSportsCFB) December 29, 2023
We’ll see what happens with this quarterback spot going forward in South Bend. Angeli wasn’t asked to be a world-beater against Oregon State, but he still made an interesting case for the job going forward. If nothing else, Riley Leonard will have quite the challenge from a guy who just received the ultimate boost of confidence heading into next season.
The Bray era begins
Trent Bray, Oregon State’s new head coach, was present for the Sun Bowl, but only on the periphery.
Taking a step back, the ground is incredibly unstable as the Bray era now officially begins.
The Beavers entered this season with legitimate Pac-12 title expectations. They were capable on the lines of scrimmage, talented enough at the skill spots, and had finally solved the quarterback problem. They opened the year 8-2, but closed with three consecutive losses.
Add in Jonathan Smith’s departure. Add in departures from a huge chunk of the two-deep. Add in the destruction of the Pac-12. Add in the reality that Oregon State is now, for all intents and purposes, homeless.
The next three months leading into spring ball are going to be crucial for Oregon State. How does Bray rebuild this roster? How does Bray sell the future? Where does the momentum come from? There’s very little of it right now.