Luton Leads Comeback In Colorado

Beavers Overcome 4 TD Deficit To Beat Buffs In OT

Oregon State started slowly in Boulder, not surprisingly, given they had 3rd string quarterback Jack Colletto making his first start. But so did Colorado, who was without star WR/RB Laviska Shenault for the second game in a row, and it was only a 7-3 deficit that the Beavers faced early in the 2nd quarter.

But it was only a matter of time, and the Buffs exploded midway in the period, when Colletto overthrew an open Timmy Hernandez, who was behind all Colorado defenders, and then on the next play, threw a pick-6 that went off the hands of Andre Bodden, who had come in cold for Hernandez, and directly to Dante Wigley, below.

Shortly thereafter, Steven Montez first completed a long pass to set up a short field, and then found an undefended K.D. Nixon for the touchdown that put the Buffs up 24-3 before halftime.

Oregon State had only mounted one scoring threat in the first half, and messed that up, having to settle for a field goal. And they were playing without guard Gus Levaka, who suffered a knee injury in the first quarter.

Colletto had completed only 6 passes, and suffered 5 sacks.

To make matters worse for the Beavers, the Buffs’ Travon McMillian went straight through the middle of the Oregon State defense for a 75 yard touchdown on the first play of the second half, taking a 31-3 lead as a result.

Oregon State Coach Jonathan Smith then finally made the decision to actually play Jake Luton.

Luton promptly led the Beavers on a 17 play, 75 yard scoring drive, completing 7 of 9 passes in the process, 1 more than Colletto completed all day. The last was a 7 yard touchdown toss to Isaiah Hodgins.

Jemar Jefferson, above, passed both the 100 yard rushing mark for the day and the 1,000 yard milestone for the season on the drive.

It was the beginning of a 25-0 run that pulled Oregon State within 3 points by midway in the 4th quarter, when Luton again connected with Hodgins, for a 7 yard touchdown, and then the 2 point conversion, below, that made it a field goal game.

Along the way, Elu Aydon had blocked a Colorado field goal, and Jordan Choukair had banked a 35 yard field goal off the upright.

Colorado seemingly took Choukair out of the equation with an Evan Price field goal with just over 2 minutes to go, but Luton proceeded to engineer the game tieing 75 yard touchdown drive in just over a minute and a half, connecting with Trevon Bradford, on 4th down, for the 10 yard drive capper.

But Choukair pulled the game winning extra point left, where it was further deflected by the Buffs’ Terrance Lang, giving rise to recollections of missing the game winning field goal at Nevada, which wasted Luton’s last miracle comeback, which also resulted in the high ankle sprain that has kept Luton sidelined since then until today.

Colorado got close enough to try a 53 yard field goal to win the game in regulation, not out of the question at the more than a mile high elevation in Folsom Field. But the kick was also into the wind, and never had a chance, sending the game into overtime.

The Buffs won the toss, and so the Beavers had to go first in overtime, and Luton drove Oregon State to the 1 yard line.

Smith then used the same unusual play he had used early in the 4th quarter, from the same distance, above, when he pulled out both Luton and Jefferson, and had Colletto do what he does do well, plow ahead for the touchdown.

Choukair redeemed himself by connecting on the conversion, making it a 7 point game.

But that put the burden on the Oregon State defense, which had already given up over 500 yards.

Isaac Hodgins set the tone with a sack of Montez on the Buffs first play, but Montez responded with a 21 yard completion to Jay Macintyre, and Colorado would have 4 shots at the end zone.

The Beaver defense stiffened in a manner rarely seen in several seasons, and didn’t allow another inch. Isaiah Dunn got a finger on one pass to cause a non-catch, and ultimately, Shemar Smith broke up Montez’s 4th down pass with the game on the line.

It set off a wild celebration in the corner of Folsom Field, the sight of the Beavers’ last road win, just over 4 years ago. In addition to spoiling Colorado’s Homecoming, Oregon State snapped a 22 game road losing streak, longest in the nation, a 17 game losing streak against FBS opponents, a 13 game Pac-12 Conference losing streak, and their current 5 game losing streak.

Luton completed 28 of 39 passes, for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns, in leading only the second ever comeback from a 28 point deficit by Oregon State. It was also the largest lead Colorado has ever blown.

“He gave us a spark offensively, for sure,” Smith said. “You could see he was still limited mobility wise, but he got out there and got the job done.”

Hodgins had 11 catches for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Timmy Hernandez hauled in 7 catches for 72 yards.

Jefferson had 6 catches for 49 yards to go along with 30 carries for 135 yards.

Montez had a big game for Colorado, connecting on 24 of 39 passes, for 319 yards, and 2 touchdowns, and ran for 66 more, and McMillian rolled up 132 yards on 20 carries.

But the Buffs’ 77 yard advantage, and over 100 in the air, was primarily built early, and surprisingly, it was the Beavers who had the most left in the tank late in the over 4 hour affair at elevation.

Oregon State’s ability to convert 4th downs was key to the comeback and the win, as the Beavers were 3 of 3, and are now 11-12 in their last 4 games, and 19 of 23 for the season. This is normally a recipe for disaster, but Smith has been a master of determining when the circumstances warrant the risk.

If only he could bring himself to start his starting quarterback, who has twice been able to play, and not seen the field until the second half. Worse, he’s twice been healthy enough to start, but didn’t play until backups had dug the Beavers into a deep hole, and contributed directly to it with a poor decision turnover that turned directly into a touchdown.

But today, the correct call was made, and as a result, the Beavers, now 2-6, and 1-4 in the Pac-12, return home happy, actually looking ahead to next week’s game vs USC. The Trojans, also down to their 3rd string quarterback, dropped to 4-4 and 3-3 in conference, after falling to Arizona State 38-35.

It was a great latter part of the afternoon to be a Beaver.

(AP photos by Dustin Bradford via Colorado)

2 thoughts on “Luton Leads Comeback In Colorado

  1. Gary Sedivy

    You said, “If only he could bring himself…”, seeming to imply that Coach Smith’s decision to play Luton was his alone. Do you mean CJS had something against Luton, not playing him in spite of him being healed and in good condition to play? (Similar to coach Anderson.) Is there a source that indicated Luton has been ready and raring to go, and has been so for a couple of games? Aren’t there doctors and other coaches that watch the players closely?
    It appeared to me that CJS was at a desperate spot: the 2nd QB has a concussion, the 3rd QB was over-matched. Did Smith ask Luton if he was willing, in spite of not being completely healed and ready to play? Watching the game, and the recording of the 2nd half, Luton was not at full strength and speed. He was ‘walking wounded’. Consider how much damage you can do to a young athlete if you rush him back into play, and he isn’t quite ready.
    That being said, I am impressed with how quickly and accurately Luton threw to the receivers. He was sacked less because he didn’t hold the ball too long. Jim Wilson noted during the game that Luton didn’t need to be mobile, but to throw to the receivers. And he did that well!


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