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Overtime, game on the line. The ball is snapped to Darell Garretson, and he … runs it in?
A 16-yard quarterback draw up the middle, on a bad snap no less, was the final play of Oregon State's 47-44 win over Cal (the Beavers' first Pac-12 win since 2014), and capped Garretson's 105-yard day on the ground 20 more yards than he passed for in the game.
If you asked him in his Utah State days if he thought he'd be winning games with his legs, he admitted he'd be a little incredulous. Even asked today, he laughs.
"I don't think it's something I expected to do," he said. "It's just the way things turned out. It was pretty exciting."
A lot hasn't turned out the way the junior quarterback expected, and much of it for the better.
He's the starting quarterback for Oregon State after spending his first two years in Logan, then electing to transfer. He sat out last year for transfer rules, and those within the program acknowledged he was the best quarterback at Oregon State, but he was unable to help the team through a 1-11 season.
Before last week, Garretson found himself in a familiar position: steeped in quarterback controversy. He hadn't finished the previous two games, pulled for freshman Connor Blount, and his grip on the starting job seemed to be loosening. But after coach Gary Andersen came out in support of him, and coming off just his second win this year, Garretson has been savoring the week.
The postgame celebration in the locker room, he said, was the stuff he dreamt about before coming to Corvallis.
"It was just one of those feelings and one of those scenes I'll replay in my head for the rest of my life," he said. "There's nothing like seeing all the guys that you've battled with, shed blood sweat and tears, and seeing all those smiles. It's something I'll never forget."
Garretson came to Utah State in 2013, and the first game he traveled for was at Rice-Eccles Stadium in a 30-26 Utah win. It was his first experience on a college football sideline, and, "I'll always remember how loud it was. That place was rocking."
The Arizona native would go in himself later that year after starter Chuckie Keeton was injured, starting the final seven games and leading the Aggies to a bowl win and a 9-5 season as Mountain West runners-up. He also started the next season, playing five games including a win in Provo before being lost for the season. In two years, he had 2,586 yards passing and 18 touchdowns against 10 interceptions in 13 games.
But the next spring, Garretson transferred. Speculation hung on the quarterback battle that year: Keeton was coming back for another year, and seemed to be the favorite to start. Garretson said he wanted to challenge himself, to see if he could cut it at a Power 5 school.
"I really wanted to push myself and see where I could play," he said. "It was time for me to move on."
He learned a lot from sitting out, he said: When he couldn't play, he focused more on leading with his relationships. He formed bonds in that first year, and he was a star on scout team.
It may seem ironic to some that the quarterback most thought Garretson was transferring to get away from, Keeton, followed him to Oregon State. He texted Garretson a few weeks before the move was announced, which Garretson said thrilled him. And now, just like their days back in Logan, Keeton is keeping him on his toes.
"He's on my tail about everything," he said. "He was my bigger brother at Utah State, and I love having him here. I think other people might think it's weird, but he's always that one guy keeping me real humble. Someday he's going to be a very, very, very good coach."
Garretson has yet to have his best days at quarterback for the Beavers: He's got only 593 yards and three touchdowns in five games. Oregon State's passing game trails the rest of the Pac-12 for the second straight year.
But try telling Cal coach Sonny Dykes that he's not effective.
"I thought he played well against us," he said of Garretson. "He's a good runner. He makes really good decisions and made very few mistakes."
It's not what Garretson expected to hear, but he doesn't mind hearing it.
Darell Garretson's Utah history
The Beavers' starting QB began his career at Utah State:
• Played in 8 games in 2013 as a true freshman, with 1,447 yards, 10 touchdowns, 7 INTs
• Played in 5 games in 2014, with 1,140 yards, 8 touchdowns, 3 INTs
• So far at Oregon State has 593 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 INTs in five games
No. 21 Utah at Oregon State
P Saturday, 2 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network