Leaving the Rose Bowl on Saturday night, a feeling of euphoria surrounded the Oregon State Beavers. They had just won their first conference game of the season (2-3, 1-1 Pac-12), led by the soon-to-be College Football Performance Awards National Player of the Week, Jake Luton.
The redshirt senior quarterback accounted for six total touchdowns, including his first rushing touchdown of his Oregon State career, to ice the game with 1:42 left on the clock.
"That was fun... It was something we practiced, and to finally get it called in the game, Noah [Togiai] gave me a great block, it was fun."
However, Luton's road to today has not been easy. He began his career at Idaho appearing in just six games before transferring to Ventura Community College where he became a JUCO All-American throwing for 3,551 yards and 40 touchdowns.
He then committed to play the rest of his college career at Oregon State. Immediately, he came down will an illness that saw him lose 30 pounds. However, he would still beat out the two previous starting quarterbacks for the Beavers: Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson. Despite being poised to breakout, it did not come together for Luton who suffered multiple serious injuries over the next two seasons that allowed him to start in only nine games: a thoracic spine fracture four games into his redshirt junior season, a concussion against Ohio State to open his senior season, and a high ankle sprain against Nevada.
Due to the bad injury luck, the NCAA granted Luton a sixth year of eligibility. He has answered with the best football of his career. The quarterback has passed for 1,297 yards and 14 touchdowns through five games this season. But more importantly, he has taken care of the football only losing one fumble and not throwing a single interception on the season. Luton credits his fearlessness on the field for the ball security.
"I'm not thinking about it. Just going out there and playing football, and putting work in...you can't be scared."
The success should not be too surprising given Luton always showed flashes in his playing time at Oregon State (i.e. the comeback in Boulder last season against Colorado). But this is the first time in his collegetic career of carrying over the same offense and offensive coordinator in consecutive seasons. He credits the continuity with making him feel more comfortable running the offense and enjoys executing some of the more complex plays.
"It's been awesome to take that next step in the playbook."
Luton's play has been one of the bright spots on the season for the surprising and much improved Beavers. Despite a 2-3 record not being super impressive, the Beavers could have easily won either the Stanford or Hawai'i games. They lost both 31-28. The over/under win total in the preseason was 2.5 wins for Oregon State and the team could easily be 4-1.
Beaver fans should be pleased with the season so far, and credit Jake Luton, along with many other players, with the improvement.
Jake Luton's improvement integral to Beavers' success originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest