CORVALLIS — Oregon State fans were buoyed by last season's Civil War victory over Oregon, which snapped an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry and provided a sense of momentum.
There might be reason for continued optimism after Saturday's spring game.
Running back Ryan Nall galloped for big gains as expected — and threw a 60-yard touchdown on the first play — but the Beavers also flashed more of a vertical passing game after being run-heavy last season.
"We want to be able to throw the ball and throw it effectively," said Nall, who had a 37-yard touchdown run and finished with 72 yards on seven carries.
Junior transfer quarterback Jake Luton went 13-for-21 for 118 yards. A 38-yard bullet to Isaiah Hodgins in the first quarter set up a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Villamin. Luton also had two interceptions.
"I want to make the big play whenever I can and I just have to be a little smarter with it," Luton said.
Marcus McMaryion was 9-for-14 for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including a 68-yard bomb to Hunter Jarmon. He also had three rushes for 27 yards.
Jarmon had five catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Gary Andersen encouraged celebrations, so Jarmon climbed into the Reser Stadium stands after catching Nall's pass. In a real game, "I'm handing the ball to the ref and going straight to the sidelines," Jarmon laughed.
Oregon State finished at 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the Pac-12 last season, and has 55 returning lettermen.
The team has a three-way battle for quarterback between senior Darell Garretson, a starter for six games last season, McMaryion, a junior who filled in while Garreston was injured, and Luton, a transfer from Ventura College in California.
The depth chart isn't a major focus, McMaryion said.
"We're just more concerned with getting better every day. It's five and a half months until our first game. A lot can happen in between now and then," he added.
Luton got the starting nod on Saturday, with McMaryion getting the next reps and then Garretson, who went 8-for-11 for 66 yards and one touchdown.
"I truly believe we have three quarterbacks who can manage a football game in the Pac-12," Andersen said.
The spring game was played with an offense versus defense format, with the offense able to score points not only with touchdowns, but with chunk plays of more than 20 yards and drives with more than three first downs. The defense could score with turnovers, three-and-out possessions, sacks and more. The defense won 77-65.
"There were too many big plays, so we have to limit those," cornerback Xavier Crawford said. "That's good to see for the offense, but on defense, in the Pac-12, you can't give up too many big plays."
Crawford said it was nice to see the offense try to attack downfield.
"That way, we can open up holes for Ryan Nall so everyone's not crowding the box," he added.
SEASON OPENER: The Beavers will open the season on Aug. 26 against Colorado State. The game was moved up from Sept. 23 this week, and that will be the earliest first game on record for Oregon State. It also will be the first game inside Colorado State's new on-campus stadium. Switching the date gives the Beavers a second bye week during the season.
COLLINS RECOVERY: Wide receiver Seth Collins has sat out the spring as he continues to recover from a serious illness that hospitalized him last season. "He's a huge part of our football team. He's with us every single day," Andersen said.
NALL: The Beavers practiced the halfback pass by Nall on Thursday, and he suggested in the locker room before the game that they should start with the play because the defense would never see it coming.
"I saw Hunter wide open and I just tried to throw it as far as I can. It caught the wind a little bit, but it was okay," Nall said. "It was my first touchdown pass that I ever threw."
FAMILIAR NAME: Wesley Payne and Jaydon Grant — son of former Portland Trail Blazers star Brian Grant — snagged interceptions for the defense.