Familiar Beavers All Figure In Homecoming Win
Oregon State had to overcome numerous obstacles, some self-created, some courtesy of officiating, and certainly some created by a very tough opponent, in order to come from behind multiple times, and defeat Utah 42-34 Saturday evening.
First there were the after-effects of the upset loss 2 weeks ago to Washington State in Pullman, due in significant part to their own miscues. A bye week should have been long enough to get back on track, but instead, Oregon State came out unready to play an opponent of the level of Pac-12 South leading (and still leading, despite the loss Saturday) Utah, and the Utes promptly jumped out to a 14-0 lead, scoring on their first 2 possessions of the game.
Cam Rising connected with Micah Bernard, above, for the 14 yard touchdown to cap the opening drive of the day.
The second score came on a short field, after a mis-handled snap forced Oregon State punter Luke Loecher to have to gather up the ball deep in his end zone and still get off a 37 yarder on what looked like a sure second touchdown would result right there.
It only delayed the Utes taking a 14-0 lead briefly, as Rising found Brant Kuithe, above, all alone in the end zone for an 11 yard touchdown, after the Beavers had sold out against the run, and disregarded Kuithe. It was as bad a coverage breakdown as had been seen since a similar inexplicable (and inexcusable) touchdown resulting mis-call in the Purdue game.
The Beavers battled back, wrapping a pair of touchdowns around a Ute field goal to get back within 3 points by just past the middle of the 2nd quarter.
Anthony Gould got the Beavers on the scoreboard less than a minute before the end of the first quarter with a 14 yard fly sweep that ended with a pylon dive, above.
BJ Baylor’s 68 yard run, above, the longest single play of the game, set up Chance Nolan’s 1 yard touchdown toss, below, to “do everything Jack Colletto” cut the deficit to 17-14.
The Utes rebuilt the lead to 10 points with a touchdown less than a minute before halftime though, and took a 24-14 lead at the break.
Oregon State appeared to finally turn the tables in the 3rd quarter, after pulling back within 3 points, when Trevon Bradford snagged a scoring pass from Nolan to cap a 75 yard drive to open the second half, above, and then surging ahead on Luke Musgraves’s blocked punt, which he scooped up and sprinted 30-some yards for the touchdown, below, that put the Beavers ahead for the first time in the game.
“We got the lead with that and I thought our whole momentum changed,” Musgrave said.
“I did think the first possession of the second half was huge, a momentum factor for us,” Oregon State Coach Jonathan Smith said. “To be able to get the score and get it within range, and then the defense gets a huge stop and the punt block for a touchdown. Got the crowd back into it.”
However, Utah immediately responded, covering 75 yards in 6 plays, and less than a minute and a half, going back up 31-28 on Thomas’ 2nd scoring run of the night.
The drive was aided by a controversial targeting penalty on its first play, when Rising ran and ran into Jaydon Grant, who had to sit out the rest of the evening, and will also watch the first half of next week’s game in Berkeley.
Oregon State responded to that adversity with their own touchdown drive, and it too was aided by another controversial targeting call. Utah’s Devin Lloyd, one of the Ute’s best defenders, clearly hit Nolan late, and low, and was correctly penalized for it. But he also got sent to the sideling for the rest of the evening, and the first half of Utah’s game next Saturday night against UCLA.
Bradford took the lead back for the Beavers, with a drive capping 10 yard run to make it 35-31 Oregon State.
The targeting call on Grant and an earlier knee injury to Alton Julian combined to set up a situation that would sabotage Oregon State’s opportunity to open a 2 score advantage early in the 4th quarter.
Keonte Schad blew up Utah’s Cameron Peasley’s punt at the Oregon State 44, and Omar Speights gathered up the ball and fought through the traffic and mele that followed, getting all the way to the Utah 11 before being blown out of bounds.
But the play was wiped out, due to Elijah Jones, a lightly used DB, who was thrust into the punt return team after the Beavers had lost both Julian and then Grant, wearing number 8, his normal number, and the same number as Bradford.
Instead of being set up in the Utah red zone, the Utes got the ball back in Beaver territory.
Oregon State responded to this latest self-created obstacle too though, forcing Utah to settle for a field goal attempt, which Jordan Noyes hooked wide left from 52 yards out.
The Beavers then did open their only 2 score lead of the game, capping a 6 play drive with an 8 yard touchdown run, to go up 42-31. Baylor’s scoring run was set up by back to back Nolan completions to Trey Lowe for 11 yards, and then Bradford, for 32 yards.
With still nearly 10 minutes to go, the game was still far from over though, and Utah proceeded to march to the Oregon State 2 yard line. The Beaver defense stopped Rising’s roll-out run to the right for no gain though, and the Utes, trailing by 11, opted to try and get the touchdown.
But Rising’s pass to Britain Covey in the left flat that was all but a touchdown was instead knocked loose by Alex Austin, above.
Backed up against their own goal line, which ended poorly in the first quarter, was a challenge the Beaver offense was able to overcome, and Nolan connected with Tre’Shaun Harrison, below, for a 54 yard completion to flip the field.
Oregon State’s drive wound up consuming Utah’s time outs, but would ultimately end with an all too familiar failure to convert a 4th down though, and Nolan’s incomplete pass when a positional punt was called for allowed Utah a shorter field than was necessary as a result.
The Beaver defense overcame that mistake as well though, and eventually forced a 4th down at the Oregon State 15 yard line. Utah correctly opted for the 33 yard field goal by Noyes that made it a 1 possession game, cutting the deficit to 42-34.
Akili Arnold covered the onside kick, and a first down run by Baylor, who finished with a game high 152 yards on 19 carries, allowed Nolan to kneel down 3 times to seal the win that kept the Beavers tied for first place in the Pac-12 North with Oregon, who also improved to 3-1 in conference with a 34-31 come from behind after falling behind 14-0 to way ahead and then hold on win at UCLA earlier in the day.
Oregon State again mounted a strong running game, supplementing Baylor’s big day with even more by others, finishing with 260 rushing yards.
“They run the ball better than anybody in the conference, they score more points than anybody, and convert third downs better than anybody,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Their offensive line is extremely efficient. They run that zone play and that stretch play as well as anybody in the country.”
“B.J. had one long crease for a huge hit,” Smith said of Taylor’s run that set up the Beavers’ second score of the game. “I did think we were pretty efficient and productive throughout the night.”
Rising, above, led Utah, out throwing and out running Nolan, for 267 yards and 2 touchdowns, on 22 of 36 passing, and ran for 73 more. Nolan finished with 208 yards passing, and 2 scores, on an efficient 14 of 19 passing (74%), and only added 1 net yard on the ground, though he did have a timely 11 yard run. Nolan also suffered a pair of fumbles, one of which was lost.
But Nolan’s big second half completions, especially notable considering he had only thrown for 32 yards in the first half, were a key to the Beavers’ victory as Baylor’s rushing, and represented a significant halftime adjustment when many of the about 30,000 on hand were calling for Nolan’s benching to be the halftime adjustment.
The Nolan to Bradford connection worked 6 times, as Bradford had a game high 6 catches for a game high 74 yards, and took 2 sweep handoffs for 20 more yards.
Harrison was close behind, with 72 yards on 3 catches. Lowe had a strategically important night, with 3 runs for 53 yards, one for 38, and an 11 yard catch.
The Beaver defense held Utah to 188 rushing yards, led by Thomas’ 74, 1 more than Rising ran for, and as a result Oregon State outgained the Utes narrowly on the night, recovering from a very shaky start.
Covey was held to just 40 yards on a team high 5 catches, and an additional 8 yards rushing. Devaughn Vele had a team high 69 yards receiving for Utah, on only 3 catches, with 45 coming on Utah’s longest play of the day. The Beaver defense also gave up a 43 yard reception, as chunk plays continue to plague the secondary that’s played well at times.
“You didn’t play your best game and you find a way to come out on top, that’s big,” said OSU linebacker Avery Roberts, above, who had a game-high 16 tackles, including a game high 7 solo, and a pass breakup. “It’s a really good win for us to have.”
The win improved Oregon State to 5-2 for the season, and a win against California (2-5, 1-3), who beat Colorado 26-3, next week in Berkeley will keep the Beavers in at worst a tie for first in the Pac-12 North, and secure bowl eligibility for the first time in 8 years, which is the same interval since OSU’s last win over Utah.
The hard fought and well earned win snapped a 5 game losing skid against the Utes, and was the perfect reason to “Cue the Fight Song!”
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)