Redshirt senior linebacker John McCartan doesn’t want to end his Oregon State career with three straight losses.
He and his teammates will have the opportunity to avoid that outcome in the Sun Bowl when the 21st-ranked Beavers (8-4) play No. 15 Notre Dame (9-3) on Dec. 29 in El Paso, Texas.
“It’s just another opportunity for us. We didn’t end the last two games how we wanted to. I think this is a great way for guys — young guys, older guys — to step up, show what this culture is made of,” McCartan said.
The announcement of the bowl game Sunday capped a remarkable week for the Oregon State football program. Head coach Jonathan Smith stepped down Nov. 26 to take the job at Michigan State, defensive coordinator Trent Bray was named head coach Tuesday and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei announced his decision to enter the transfer portal Thursday.
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All of these moves took place at the same time the reality was setting in that this was the last week of Pac-12 Conference football.
Center Jake Levengood summarized what a lot of players and fans were feeling during a media session Thursday at the Valley Football Center.
“It’s been five days. It feels like a month, but it’s only been five days,” Levengood said.
The matchup with Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl brings some interesting historical connections. The Beavers and the Fighting Irish have only met twice and both meetings came in bowl games. Oregon State defeated Notre Dame 41-9 in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl and the Beavers defeated the Fighting Irish 38-21 in the 2004 Insight Bowl.
This is also Oregon State’s third trip to the Sun Bowl. The Beavers defeated Missouri 39-38 in 2006 and shut out Pittsburgh 3-0 in 2008.
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Interim head coach Kefense Hynson will lead Oregon State in the bowl game against Notre Dame. Bray has made the decision that with all of the work he has to do building his first coaching staff, recruiting players and protecting the Oregon State roster during this month’s transfer window, he does not have the time necessary to also coach the team during the bowl preparations.
Levengood and his teammates understand the decision and are confident they will be ready to play.
“We’re gonna do everything that we’ve done all year long. The game plan is still the game plan. We’re still gonna be physical, still gonna try to run it down your throat, so it’s still gonna be a fun bowl game,” Levengood.
Redshirt senior Kitan Oladapo agreed that with the coaching staff in transition during bowl preparation, there will be more responsibility on the team’s veterans.
“I think the veterans are ready for that,” he said. “I think the young guys are ready to step up and have bigger roles. These freshmen are really not freshmen anymore, they’re sophomores. The young guys are going to be looking up to them next year.
So I think it is more responsibility, it is more pressure, but I think we’re up to the challenge.”
Chiles to enter portal
Oregon State’s bowl roster took another hit Monday when it was reported that freshman quarterback Aidan Chiles planned to enter the transfer portal. Chiles served as Uiagalelei’s backup throughout the season and played in multiple games.
With his departure, Ben Gulbranson moves up the depth chart and is expected to start against Notre Dame. Hynson has expressed his confidence in Gulbranson, who led Oregon State to the win over Florida in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl.
There had been rumors for several days that one of the first additions to Bray’s staff would be former Oregon State quarterback Ryan Gunderson. Gunderson has been serving as the quarterbacks coach at UCLA.
Oregon State confirmed that move, along with other coaching news, Monday morning.
Gunderson played at Oregon State from 2003-07 and is a former teammate of Bray, who played at Oregon State from 2002-05.
Bray has also brought in OSU alum Kyle DeVan as the offensive line coach. DeVan, who played in three bowl games during his time at Oregon State, has coached at schools including Ball State, Colorado, Michigan and Charlotte.
Bray also announced Monday that Hynson would remain on staff as Oregon State’s wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Anthony Perkins will continue in his role as cornerbacks coach.
“I’m excited to be able to announce that Kefense and Anthony are remaining a part of our coaching staff while being able to bring in a pair of alums in Ryan and Kyle who know what it means to wear the Orange and Black,” Bray said in a news release.
“Coaches Hynson and Perkins have been integral part of our successes on both sides of the ball. Coaches Gunderson and DeVan are experienced and well respected and will make an impact on the offensive side of the ball. They add a familiarity with Oregon State and the West Coast.”