Giving thanks to the Beaver seniors

CORVALLIS -- After years of dedication, hard work and love put forth towards the Oregon State football program, it all came to a close Saturday afternoon for the seniors with a loss to rival Oregon at Reser Stadium. Five-and-seven doesn't read well as a season ending record, but four-of-five years of success does.

Going into Saturday's game with BCS No. 2 ranked Oregon, the Beavers' season hinged on the outcome. A win would have made OSU bowl eligible, a loss would end their season. A lot of the pressure was placed on the shoulders of the experienced upper classmen who were also saying good-bye to a record Reser Stadium crowd of 46,469 for the last time.

Names such as Paea, Dockery, Pankey, Olander, Linnenkohl, and Miller were among the list of players paid tribute to before the kickoff. It was an emotional one at that. Every senior named received a very respectful ovation, a chance to appreciate each individual that put in the sweat and tears over their college career.

Starting DE Gabe Miller came out of the inflatable Beaver helmet to a thunderous applause. The DE who tore both Achilles but persevered, the guy who's play has been up and down, was given one last curtain call. Miller had a fairly good season, a career-defining season. He finished with three tackles against UO but his speed and strength on the outside will be missed. And Saturday we were reminded just how lucky we were to have a Gabe Miller.

The starting C Alex Linnenkohl, doesn't play a position that receives much notice, but the crowd showed him that they've seen his blocking and appreciated it. The line as a whole has struggled this season, but Linnenkohl has stayed steady and continued to push through a difficult campaign.

One of two DTs, Brennan Olander, wasn't even supposed to play Saturday because of a torn pectoral muscle. However, Olander would not sit out the most important game of the season. He put on a brace and it fit well enough for him to get around. Although limited, Olander did record one tackle. He was in tears after the game, which is all you need to know about how much playing for the Beavs means to Brennan Olander.

Senior TE Brady Camp was announced and received quite an ovation from the Beaver faithful. Camp has been plagued with injuries this year, but he's been a great pass and run blocker for OSU. He finished with one catch for five yards on Saturday but leaves a legacy of being a tough, ideal Beaver student athlete.

As far as talent being lost, linebacker took a serious hit. For starters, the Beavs lose senior LB Keith Pankey. He tore his Achilles last winter but rehabbed furiously and was somehow able to play when the season kicked off in September. Pankey was a wild man out on the field on Saturday, and his helmet flew off repeatedly. He had three tackles and a fumble recovery to wrap up his OSU career. The Beavers will miss his no-fear attitude come this spring.

Another LB playing in his final game was Dwight Roberson. The Beavs' most consistent tackler among the ‘backers this season, Roberson was highly praised by Riley for his toughness, hard-hitting ways and a prescient knack for the ball. Roberson had a sensational season as well. He finished the day with four tackles but trust me when I say, next year, the Beavers will miss Roberson, considerably, on and off the field.

Quietly entering his last game on Saturday was senior WR Aaron Nichols, though he seems like he only just arrived. Nichols has been one of the most sure handed WRs in a long time at OSU. Coming into the season, Nichols was considered the favorite by many to have a big impact -- and he did, early on. Though he statistically tailed off, he was a big help to sophomore QB Ryan Katz. He finished his day with two catches for six yards. His quiet leadership and work ethic were strong points. He also is attending pharmacy school, making him the ideal, STUDENT-athlete.

One of the final seniors announced Saturday was also one of the most beloved, CB James Dockery. He battled through early injuries to earn a starting spot and was named a team captain. He was often seen or heard on the media scene for the Beavers and was a huge factor for them during the season, sealing two games with interceptions. Dockery's desire and passion for the program can't be duplicated, and the Beavers are going to need someone to fill his shoes next season. He finished with seven tackles in his final battle against Oregon.

Last, DT Stephen Paea. Where to begin? Paea is one of the most dominant d-tackles OSU has ever produced, and he's projected to be a mid first rounder in the upcoming NFL draft. On Saturday afternoon, Reser showered him with love and appreciation as Paea by far received the greatest ovation from the crowd. In fact, even some Duck fans were seen clapping for the senior, who turned down millions to return for his senior season. He did not disappoint in ‘10. Paea drew double teams, sacks, and created emotional sparks. He finished the day against Oregon with three tackles.

True, Oregon came into one of the longest standing rivalries and handled Oregon State pretty easily in Reser Stadium, but there's more to the story. These Beaver seniors, and others who weren't named, deserve a hero's goodbye. No, the season didn't go as planned, but each senior put everything they had into it. That both deserves and demands respect.

And so instead of writing about who didn't do what, or how disappointing the season has been, I just want to give thanks. Thanks, to a group of men who gave their all every time they touched the field. Oregon State didn't just lose a football game Saturday, Oregon State lost special people who will never be replaced. Go Beavers!

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