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Seniors, including ex-Gorman star, lead Oregon State resurgence

Updated December 14, 2022 - 7:45 pm

Senior offensive lineman Brandon Kipper doesn’t mince his words.

When he first arrived at Oregon State ahead of the 2018 season after transferring from Hawaii, the Beavers weren’t headed in the right direction.

“This program was in a rough spot,” he said. “It really was not in a good, winning state.”

Oregon State won two games during Kipper’s first season in Corvallis. It improved to five wins a year later, but the Beavers fell back to two wins during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Things are different now. Kipper’s arrival coincided with the beginning of coach Jonathan Smith’s era at Oregon State. A former walk-on turned starting quarterback who led the Beavers to a 2001 Fiesta Bowl win against Notre Dame, Smith has brought Oregon State back to prominence.

The No. 17 Beavers (9-3) will play Florida (6-6) in the Las Vegas Bowl at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Allegiant Stadium.

A year ago, Smith led Oregon State to the inaugural LA Bowl, the team’s first postseason appearance since 2013. Now, the Beavers have a chance to reach 10 wins for the first time since 2006.

Smith said the Las Vegas Bowl is the perfect reward for his seniors, who have helped him turn the team around.

“They’ve been around here for a long time, seen the progress of the program,” Smith said. “The opportunity to have the type of season we’ve had — to finish it the right way against a quality opponent we have a lot of respect for in a big-time place — we want to send them out in the right way.”

For one Oregon State senior in particular, playing in the Las Vegas Bowl will be a fitting end to his college football career. Sixth-year wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey’s hometown is officially listed as Corona, California, but the 5-foot-9-inch wideout lived in Las Vegas and attended Bishop Gorman from 2014-16, playing alongside fellow high school star Tate Martell.

The Gaels went 45-0 during Lindsey’s time in Las Vegas, and he said the experience gave him a deeper understanding of football, the discipline necessary to win and life. Lindsey said every time he comes back to Las Vegas, it’s like being in a time machine that takes him to some of his favorite memories.

“It just feels great to be home again,” he said.

Lindsey started his college career at Nebraska, but transferred to Oregon State during the 2018 season. Similarly to Kipper, he’s seen the Beavers transform into a legitimate contender under Smith.

The former Gaels star said he hadn’t paid much attention to bowl projections during this season, but after Oregon State upset Oregon 38-34 on Nov. 26, Lindsey started to hope he might get the chance to play in Las Vegas one more time.

Now, he has a chance to bring his journey full circle, and finish his career on a high note.

“This is where my first high school game was, where I started showing what I can do on the field,” he said. “I have a great opportunity at hand — at home — to finish this off.

“It’s been a marathon, but I feel like I’m on my last lap, the final one. A victory lap.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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