The first collegiate pass attempt in the roller-coaster career of Oregon State quarterback Darell Garretson is distinctly etched in his mind.
At home in Logan, Utah, against Boise State in October of 2013, Garretson, then at Utah State, was unexpectedly thrown onto the field. Quarterback Craig Harrison started for the Aggies in place of an injured Chuckie Keeton, but proved to be ineffective.
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So in came Garretson, a true freshman from Arizona’s Chandler High.
His nerves were admittedly high. His immediate results were less than ideal.
“Holy crap, I’m going in against Boise State,” Garretson thought then. “I think my first throw was a 5-yard hitch I threw straight into the ground.”
Fast-forward nearly three years and Garretson once again finds himself taking on the Broncos at home. This time, though, he will do so at Reser Stadium wearing Oregon State black and orange.
Things have a funny way of coming full circle.
“I didn’t think (I would see them again). But Boise State is a really good team. I know how they play, at least,” Garretson said. “They’re going to be Boise State. They’re not going to go outside of their comfort zone.”
Garretson will make his third start for the Beavers on Saturday (1:30 p.m., FS1). His rematch with the Broncos signifies what he hopes is a fitting end to a checkered three-year journey.
The perseverance Garretson has shown on and off the field has not gone unnoticed by Oregon State coach Gary Andersen, who coached at Utah State prior to Garretson’s enrollment.
Oregon State was 2-10 last season and winless in the Pac-12, but a leader like Garretson is what the Beavers need. He’s been around the block before.
Garretson experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows at Utah State. Now he’s finally home and ready to lead the Beavers.
“We’ve gone through some obviously hard times and we’re right in the middle of a big-boy fight. We’re in the hard part of a fight. And (Garretson’s) stable, he’s stayed consistent. I think he showed that as a scout team player,” Andersen said. “I think he’s great for this young football team.”
After ultimately falling to Boise State in that 2013 game, Garretson led Utah State on a five-game winning streak, a berth in the Mountain West title game (loss to Fresno State) and a victory over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Aggies finished the season 9-5, marking the only time since 1997 that Utah State has finished with a better record than Boise State.
Adversity struck the gunslinger in 2014, however. After leading Utah State to huge wins against No. 18 BYU and Mountain West rival Air Force, Garretson broke his wrist during a 16-13 loss at Colorado State.
After watching from the bench as the Kent Myers-led Aggies won six of their final seven games, Garretson decided to transfer. He finished his Utah State career with 18 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.
“After beating BYU (and Air Force), hopes are high,” Garretson said, “(but) things happen for a reason.”
Though Garretson said it was current Aggies coach Matt Wells who recruited him to Utah State, Andersen had previously made an impression on his teammates.
Andersen served as the Utah State head coach from 2009-2012 before taking the same position at Wisconsin. After two years in Madison, Andersen took the job at Oregon State.
“Matt (Wells) got the job. Matt wanted (Garretson). He stuck with his commitment to go to Utah State and was excited about it. And as time went on, things worked out in different ways,” Andersen said. “Myself and Matt were in the middle of the process. And that’s what Darell wanted to do. And we had a spot for him (at Oregon State).”
As he looked for transfer destinations, Garretson said he was drawn to Andersen’s charisma.
“Just the things that I heard from the players at Utah State, how much they loved Coach A, how great of a person he was, what kind of a players’ coach he is,” Garretson said. “Within those couple minutes (after meeting him), I was sold.”
Garretson sat out in 2015 due to NCAA transfer rules. Now back under center, the junior has thrived in his two games leading Oregon State, throwing for 400 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
“The first game (against Minnesota), he got smacked around pretty good. And a lot of guys might have pouted or got a little upset,” Andersen said. “He kept stable, kept fighting, kept battling and supported his team.”
Though there isn’t much tape on Garretson at Oregon State, Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said he has a good grasp on what the junior can do.
“The quarterback has been in the system and run this system. He does a good job with it,” Avalos said. “You can see what he’s capable of, what they want to do with him.”
As he prepares to face Boise State for the second time in his career, Garretson is hopeful his first few throws Saturday are a bit sharper than they were in 2013. They’re going to have to be if he and the Beavers want a shot at an upset.
“Hopefully my first couple passes are somewhere around the body of the receiver,” Garretson said with a laugh. “That would be nice.”
Boise State at Oregon State
▪ When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
▪ Where: Reser Stadium (43,305, AstroTurf) Corvallis, Ore.
▪ TV: Fox Sports 1 (Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman, Bruce Feldman). FS1 can be found on Cable One (channel 146 or 1146 for HD), DirecTV (219) and Dish (150)
▪ Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender).
▪ Records: Boise State 2-0 (0-0 Mountain West); Oregon State 1-1 (0-0 Pac-12)
▪ Kickoff weather: Low 70s and partly cloudy, little to no chance of precipitation
▪ Vegas line: BSU favored by 13
▪ All-time series: Oregon State leads 5-3 (last meeting: OSU def. BSU 38-23 in 2013 Hawaii Bowl)
▪ Did you know? Since their last meeting in 2013, Boise State has more wins over Pac-12 opponents (3; Arizona, Washington and Washington State) than Oregon State (2; Colorado and Arizona State)
▪ Next home game: Utah State, Saturday, Oct. 1, 8:15 p.m., ESPN2
Oregon State at a glance
▪ Nickname: Beavers
▪ Location: Corvallis, Ore.
▪ Head coach: Gary Andersen (3-11, second year; 48-42, 8th year overall)
▪ This year’s record: 1-1, 0-0 Pac-12 (defeated Idaho State on Sept. 17, 37-7)
Andersen and the Beavers are searching for their first win over an FBS opponent in 2016 and hope to find it against the Broncos. Oregon State lost to Minnesota, 30-23, in their opener before blowing out FCS opponent Idaho State last weekend.
The Beavers went 2-10 and were winless in Pac-12 play in Andersen’s first year in 2015 after averaging a paltry 19 points per game and surrendering 37. The returns this season have been much better for Oregon State through two games, as the team averages 30 points and gives up 18.5 points per game.
Oregon State ran for 246 yards against the Bengals and amassed 418 total yards in the 30-point win.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RYAN NALL, RB
The 6-foot, 234-pound sophomore will be among the biggest running backs Boise State will face all season. Though he didn’t have a ton of success against Idaho State (carries, 39 yards), Nall was solid against Minnesota in the team’s opener, rushing for 71 yards on 13 carries. Included among his runs against the Gophers was a 40-yard scamper.
Nall was third on the team in rushing in 2015, finishing with 455 yards and three touchdowns. Oregon State’s leading rusher last season was Seth Collins (575 yards). Collins moved from quarterback to wide receiver in the offseason.
▪ What BSU is saying about Nall: “Mike Alstott, way back. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, right? Big, physical guy. That’s what we see (in Nall) when we turn on the film. He runs behind his pads. And, obviously, they get the ball to him in the passing game as well. He gets his touches in the passing game as well. A little bit different style.” — Andy Avalos, BSU’s defensive coordinator