Oregon State started both halves fast, but used bigger finishes to both halves to outdistance Arizona in a shootout in Tucson Saturday. The Beavers scored on their first possessions of the game and after halftime, but it was a 28 point 2nd quarter and 2 more scores in the last 8 minutes of the game that produced the Wildcat Homecoming spoiling 56-38 win.
The Beavers rolled up 572 total yards, including 385 in the first half, using a balanced attack that saw both Artavis Pierce and Jemar Jefferson run for over 100 yards, and Jake Luton complete 20 of 26 passes, for 328 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The 1-2 punch of Pierce (114 yards on 15 carries), above, and Jefferson (105 yards on 22 rushes), who was seeing his first significant action since the Hawaii game, also accounted for 4 of Oregon State’s 5 rushing touchdowns, 3 by Jefferson.
Isaiah Hodgins had another monster game, with 7 catches for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, and overcame a knee injury that knocked him out of action briefly late in the 2nd quarter, but Noah Togiai also had 5 catches for 69 yards and a score as well. Luton found 6 other Beavers as well.
The offensive barrage came despite the naming this week of Arizona Hall-Of-Famer Chuck Cecil as the ‘Cats’ new Defensive Coordinator.
Oregon State needed nearly all of it though, as the Beaver defense, though continuing their trend of being better at times, still gave up 526 yards, 378 in the air to a combined effort of Kalil Tate and Grant Gunnell, who combined to complete 26 passes.
The ‘Cats also got 78 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing from JJ Taylor, and another 54 yards and a score from Gary Brightwell, most of that on a late 3rd quarter Arizona drive that pulled the ‘Cats within 42-31. Taylor also had 7 catches for 89 yards.
The Beavers made matters worse for themselves with a number of penalties that kept multiple Cat drives alive which subsequently ended in touchdowns.
In all, Oregon State was penalized 12 times for 120 yards.
But then Arizona’s own penalties reduced an apparent touchdown to a field goal, and kept the Oregon State 4th quarter drive alive that ended with the Beavers’ penultimate touchdown, Luton’s 25 yard scoring toss to Hodgins midway in the period that made it 49-31, and effectively turned the game into a clock affair.
The ‘Cats also struggled all game long with the results of losing both their center, and ultimately their right guard, when they got tangled up, and were both injured on the same play, in Arizona’s first drive of the game.
Remarkably, both teams played turnover free football, as Oregon State continued their best in the country run of only 2 turnovers all season.
The defense did have a major accomplishment, as Hamilcar Rashed Jr., the Pac-12 leader, had 3 sacks (2 solo, 2 shared), tieing him for the school single season record with (at least) 4 games to go, and the Beavers collectively passed the 20 sack total for the season before halftime, in 7 1/2 games, this after falling short of the 20 sack mark in each of the last 4 seasons.
The game got off to a good start for Oregon State, as the Beavers marched the length of the field in 9 plays, and also foreshadowed things to come, with both Pierce and Jefferson running productively, and Luton capping the drive with a 21 yard touchdown toss to Hodgins.
When Arizona’s first drive ended in a field goal after a holding penalty wiped out a touchdown, and the Oregon State defense, after initially getting gashed, held the ‘Cats to another field goal on their next series, it meant the Beavers, leading 7-6, would never trail in the game.
Hodgins’ 27 yard catch highlighted a 10 play, 75 yard Oregon State drive that crossed over into the 2nd quarter, and was capped by another Jefferson touchdown run that made it 14-6.
Gunnell then made his first appearance for Arizona, as ‘Cats coach Kevin Sumlin would give both of his quarterbacks multiple series in a row dispersed throughout the game, and capitalized on a pass interference penalty on Jalen Moore and a holding penalty on Doug Taumoealau to finally connect with Brightwell for a 38 yard touchdown, but Taumoealau redeemed himself by breaking up the 2 point conversion attempt pass that would have tied the score.
After Bradford drew a pass interference penalty, Luton connected with Hodgins for a 39 yard completion, but Hodgins would bang and twist his knee while going down battling close to the end zone.
Jefferson capped the drive with the touchdown run, but Oregon State fans were nervous to see Hodgins headed to the medical exam tent.
Taylor got Arizona back within 2 points again, on a 3 yard run to cap the drive that Oregon State was flagged 4 times for facemask and roughing the passer penalties.
Hodgins returned briefly, but soon had to head to the locker room for more attention. Jesiah Irish filled the gap with a 45 yard catch and run though, which set up back to back runs by Pierce, for 14 yards, and then 4 for the touchdown to make it 28-19 Beavers 2 1/2 minutes before halftime.
Rashed’s sack of Tate then set up what would be a key sequence in the game.
Pierce’s 25 yard run jump started what would be a 94 yard scoring drive that took just 54 seconds, as Luton completed 3 passes in a row, 2 to Togiai, and, with Hodgins back in the field drawing a triple team, found Togiai again for a 23 yard touchdown just 4 seconds before halftime, as Oregon State took a 35-13 lead to the locker room.
When the Beaver defense forced a 3 and punt to open the 3rd quarter, Irish’s punt return set the table for Luton, above, to connect with Hodgins again, Pierce to top the 100 yard rushing mark, and Jefferson to record his 3td touchdown of the game to put Oregon State up 42-19.
Arizona would rally though, capitalizing on missed tackles and a personal foul to get a 35 yard touchdown from Gunnell to Cedric Petersen. One of their 3 sacks of Luton got the ‘Cats the ball back, and led to a Brightwell highlight series that included a 29 yard catch and a 10 yard touchdown run that made it an 11 point game.
Another sack of Luton and a holding penalty led to another Oregon State punt, but Daniel Rodriguez pinned the ‘Cats at their own 1 yard line at the end of the 3rd quarter.
It would prove critical, as though Arizona quickly marched deep into Oregon State territory against minimal resistance, the Beaver defense did stiffen, forcing a field goal attempt, which they got a piece of, forcing a miss.
Then it was Arizona’s turn to self destruct defensively, as a roughing the passer penalty and a horsecollar tackle opened the door for Luton to find Hodgins, below, 2 more times, the 2nd one for the 25 yard touchdown that made it 49-31.
When it took nearly half of the remaining 8 minutes for Arizona to drive 75 yards for Taylor’s 2nd touchdown (aided again by yet another facemask penalty), after the ‘Cats’ kickoff went out of bounds, there wasn’t enough time to further the comeback, and the Beavers converted the resulting short field into Lindsey’s fly sweep score (which made amends for his immediately preceding false start penalty) for the final 18 point margin.
“Offensively I thought we were really efficient and executed at a high level,” Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith said. “Third down and converting and getting scores in the red zone. We’ve got a big time quarterback and the run game was there so we played really balanced. Excited about that effort.”
“We expect to come down here and win these games,” Luton added.
The offensive explosion was great, but Coach Smith won’t be pleased with the overall defensive performance, despite the 4 sacks and 8 tackles for loss. And the numerous penalties that repeatedly kept the ‘Cats in the game, none of which were close to even being controversial, absolutely HAS to be cleaned up if the Beavers hope to continue the upward trend the team overall is on.
Oregon State not only improved to 4-4, and 3-2 in the Pac-12, the Beavers have won 2 in a row, 3 in a row on the road (for the first time since 2013), 3 of their last 4, and 4 of their last 6 games. The 56 point outburst was the Beavers best offensive showing since October of 2013.
The 56 points are also the most ever scored by Oregon State in a true road game, surpassing 52 in 2007 at WSU (in a conference game), 51 in 1983 at Portland St. (vs an NCAA school in a non-conference game), and 54 at Willamette in 1921.
The Beavers return home to take on Washington Friday night. The Huskies have dominated the Beavers in recent seasons, but lost a double digit lead in losing to Utah 33-28 today in Seattle.
(AP photos via UofA)