Oregon State has returned from its 2 week venture into Big West and bottom of the Mt West territory, and the results in their Pac-12 opener were predictable. Arizona established the upper hand early, opening a 14-7 first half lead that belied how large their statistical advantage was. The Wildcats became dominant in the second half, and pulled away to a 35-14 win that was in line with an advantage in yardage of 594 to 238.
The ‘Cats served notice on the first drive of the game when JJ Taylor went 40 yards for the first of his two long touchdown runs that bookended his 284 yard afternoon to take a a 7-0 lead.
The Beavers evened things up just before the end of the first quarter when Connor Blount found Trevon Bradford, back after missing the last game and a half with a shoulder injury, to cap their best drive of the day, a 13 play, 85 yard march.
Arizona took the lead for good shortly before the midpoint of the second period on a 21 yard Khalil Tate pass to Shun Brown. The lead would have been bigger at the break had the ‘Cats not missed a pair of field goals.
Arizona added a 3rd quarter score on a 16 yard Tate toss to Shawn Poindexter that made it 21-7 ‘Cats, and effectively put the game out of reach of Oregon State’s pedestrian offense with Gary Brightwell’s 8 yard touchdown run a minute and a half into the fourth quarter that capped a 94 yard drive.
The Beavers did respond with a 75 yard drive, capped by Blount’s 25 yard touchdown throw to Timmy Hernandez. But the drive took 6 1/2 minutes, and at that pace, the time would run out before any comeback could have occurred.
But any such thoughts were quickly erased when Taylor took off for a 62 yard touchdown run, the biggest play of the day, to end his afternoon and the scoring.
Big plays were the story of the game, as Arizona not only had Taylor’s 2 big touchdown runs, and Brown’s 21 yard scoring catch, but also a 43 yard run by Brightwell, a 27 yard run by Brown, and a 50 yard reception by Poindexter.
Oregon State entered the game as the Pac-12 leader in total offense, a position built on multiple explosion plays (22 plays that went for 25 or more yards) in each of their first 3 games. Against Arizona, the only play of more than 15 yards the Beavers had besides Hernandez’s touchdown catch, which came with the game effectively decided, was a 23 yard run by Jemar Jefferson.
With Jake Luton in street clothes after suffering a sprained ankle that knocked him out of last week’s game at Nevada, Blount got the start at quarterback, and struggled to get the offense going all day. Though he completed 17 of 24 passes, for 2 touchdowns, they totaled only 137 yards, and his quarterback rating (QBR) for the game was only 22.3.
Hernandez had 4 catches, for 51 yards, and Bradford had a team high 5 grabs, but for only 29 yards. Isaiah Hodgins, last week’s leading receiver for the Beavers, with 14 catches for 200 yards, only had 2 catches, for 19 yards. The ‘Cats secondary did a solid job almost all day in coverage, but Blount frequently held onto the ball far too long, unable to even think of making throws into small windows that Luton frequently put balls into.
Tate, who was a one man highlight show running for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns in last year’s 49-28 win over Oregon State last year in Tucson, was not up to speed, and that was before he got hobbled after a significant hit. Tate completed only 9 of 17 passes, and was a non-factor running, but got more than enough support from a Wildcat rushing attack that ran through, around, and away from the slow Beaver defense, which entered the game the worst in the conference, and avoided giving up a 600 yard game only because Arizona chose not to go for the milestone at the end of the game.
In addition to Taylor’s 284 yards, Brightwell was over the century mark as well, with 113 yards.
There weren’t too many cases of major miscues by Oregon State; it was mostly the result of a half-decade of poor recruiting and retention that has left the Beavers with serious flaws, a lot of inexperience, no defensive speed, and very little depth. The same physical advantages that Oregon State has over Big Sky teams that produces a winning record against them, and allowed them to be competitive with a middle of the Mt. West Nevada squad, are, and will be all season, owned by Pac-12 opponents relative to the Beavers.
Oregon State (1-3, 0-1) heads to Tempe for a high temperature test against Arizona State next Saturday night, before returning home in 2 weeks for a visit from Washington State.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)