Oregon State's 38-23 win over Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl ensured the Beavers a "Mele Kalikimaka" in Honolulu. More importantly, the win—which was more lopsided than the final score indicates—set the right tone for Oregon State's 2014, a season in which it could play a dangerous spoiler role in the Pac-12 North.
The performance Oregon State put together on both sides of the ball was arguably the Beavers' best since blowing out Washington State on Oct. 12.
Tuesday's showing has bearing on 2014, as head coach Mike Riley’s lineup primarily featured players who will return next year. As noted on the ESPN television broadcast, just three seniors started for Oregon State in Tuesday's dominant win.
Playing as it did in the Hawaii Bowl, Oregon State's role as a spoiler in its division next season is hardly a stretch—particularly given it played Pac-12 North heavyweights Oregon and Stanford within single digits in a trying 2013.
Count Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff among those who know how dangerous Oregon State can be. His touchdown reception on the Ducks' final drive saved Oregon from an upset in last month's Civil War.
Got so much respect for @BCooks4 not only bc he's a great player. He always give glory to the man above. Congrats on the bowl win Beavers— Huff 2Live (@Huff_Era_1) December 25, 2013
Despite its struggles in the back half of this season, manifested in a five-game losing streak, Oregon State showed flashes of being a dangerous team this season. Tuesday, those flashes were a sustained burst that resulted in one of the team's best performances. It will serve as a building block in the upcoming offseason.
The Beavers dominated the Broncos up front both offensively and defensively, assuaging a season-long concern of Riley, particularly on offense. The Beavers' ability to assert themselves in the trenches resulted in 195 rushing yards.
Running back Storm Woods ripped off 6.7 yards per carry for 107 total and scored a touchdown, far and away his best outing of the year. Woods struggled to get going in 2013, coming off a 2012 campaign of 940 yards and 13 touchdowns. He'll be an integral part of the Beavers' offense in 2014.
Make no mistake, next year's Oregon State team could face some significant turnover from the Hawaii Bowl winner. Defensive end Scott Crichton, a star of Tuesday's rout, has a year of college eligibility remaining but is a high-level NFL draft prospect. CBS Sports, for example, projects Crichton as a second- or third-round target.
The Beavers defense also loses cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, who was outscoring Boise State for the better part of the evening by himself. The All Pac-12 selection returned two fumbles for touchdowns.
And, of course, what 2013 Oregon State game is complete without mention of junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks? The star receiver caught eight passes for 60 yards and a touchdown to end the season at 1,730 yards and 16 scores.
A favorite among NFL draft experts, including B/R’s Matt Miller, who writes Cooks is a “top-40 player,” and NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, Cooks could be destined for a first-day selection in May. But if he does return to Corvallis, Ore., for another campaign, he’ll team with quarterback Sean Mannion, the Pac-12's record-setting passer, to form the conference's, if not the nation's, most prolific passer and receiver combination.
Challenging the status quo Oregon and Stanford have set is a high hurdle, but Oregon State has the right makeup to play spoiler in 2014. And the Hawaii Bowl gives the Beavers a much-needed stepping-stone into the offseason after they took their lumps to end the regular season.