Oregon State Pounds Out Perfect Home Season, And Arizona State

Oregon State is the best rushing team in the Pac-12, and Arizona State found out about that cold, hard truth Saturday night. The Beavers used both a relentless grinding ground game and a couple of big runs to cap a perfect home season, the first one since the one the 2000 Fiesta Bowl team honored at the game, and with throwback uniforms, with a 24-10 in what’s become an annual late season tradition, a frigid night game against the Darkness Devis from the dessert. It was the 3rd season in a row where Oregon State’s last home game has been a visit from Arizona State, a cold situation the Beavers have capitalized on at the Darkness Devils’s expense 3 times since 2014.

BJ Baylor, as usual, did the heavy lifting, with 20 carries for 150 yards, both easily game highs, but the highlight play of the game, and effectively the knockout punch in what was essentially a rock fight, came from the omnipresent Jack (of all positions) Colletto, who delivered the breakaway 47 yard 4th quarter 4th down and 2 touchdown run that re-shifted the momentum to Oregon state after Arizona State’s second half surge had turned the game the Beavers had controlled throughout the first half into a 1 score game.

Coupled with Oregon State’s best adjusted for the quality of opponent defensive effort of the year, it was cause for serious celebration on Senior Night, and a fitting “Last Ride” for the soon to be demolished west side of Reser (and Parker, the first 40 rows of seats date to the original construction of Parker) Stadium that will be replaced and updated.

Alex Austin intercepted Daniels, above, on the second play of the game, which set the tone for the first half for the Beavers, even though they were unable to produce points from it. Chance Nolan connected with Zeriah Beeson on Oregon State’s first 2 plays, but a mis-fire on third down led to a 3 and punt.

However, Luke Loecher’s punt pinned Arizona State at their own 1 yard line, and the Oregon State defense forced a punt that produced a short field for the Beavers, and that led to the 52 yard Everett Hayes field goal for the game’s first points.

Arizona State responded by driving to the Oregon State 9 yard line, with a 34 yard Jayden Daniels pass to Rachaad White, the biggest pass play of the game by either team, the key play.

However, what would become a big deal as the evening wore on, an illegal procedure penalty derailed the Devil, who had to settle for a 32 yard Cristian Zendejas field goal attempt, Which Zendejas pulled wide left.

Oregon State then took total control of the rest of the first half, wrapping a pair of long, clock consuming touchdown drives around the Beaver defense forcing an Arizona State 3 and punt.

Oregon State went on a 14 play drive that consumed 7 ¾ minutes, which Nolan capped 6 minutes into the second quarter with a 10 yard toss to Tre’shaun Harrison, below, who dove and reached the ball around the pylon for a 10-0 lead.

After the Devil’ punt, the Beavers proceeded to literally march 88 yards, with all but 7 coming on carries or Arizona State penalties. Nolan’s passing was a factor though, as a toss intended for Trevon Bradford did draw a pass interference flag, below, and a 7 yard completion to Bradford set up a Colletto run, and finally Nolan’s 1 yard touchdown dive for a 17-0 lead less than 2 minutes before halftime.

Arizona State got within field goal range on their last drive of the first half, but Logan Tyler’s 49 yard attempt also sailed wide left.

Things changed drastically after the break, as Arizona State forced a 3 and punt on Oregon State’s first possession, and then marched 76 yards into the Oregon State red zone. The Beaver defense did stiffen though, and the Devils had to settle for a 26 yard Zendejas field goal to get Arizona State on the scoreboard.

After an exchange of punts, another regular feature of the Oregon State season, a fourth down disaster leading to points off a short field, happened again. This time it wasn’t a questionable 4th down gamble though; Head Coach Jonathan Smith’s signature risky play calls actually worked a couple of times, with a Colletto conversion sustaining the first touchdown drive, as well as ultimately producing Colletto’s game icing touchdown.

This time, it was a special teams breakdown, when Loecher couldn’t handle a punt snap cleanly, and fumbled under rush by Chad Johnson Jr. (yes, the son of “that” Chad Johnson, one of the members of the 2000 team, over 60 members of which were on hand). Arizona State’s Timarcu Davis recovered the ball on the Oregon State 4 yard line, and 2 plays later, DeaMonte Trayanum’s touchdown jump had cut the Oregon State lead to just 7 points early in the 4th quarter.

Even Coach Smith admitted that caused a few nervous moments, something all of the nearly 30 thousand Beaver frigid faithful also noticed.

Oregon State answered the dramatic moment with one of their own though, as Baylor, above, busted off a 20 yard run to start the ensuing possession, his second longest of the night. Deshaun Fenwick added 5 more on the next play, but was lost for the rest of the game, and potentially longer, when Merlin Robertson’s tackle sent Fenwick off with an ankle injury.

Fenwick reappeared on the sideline late in the game, but on crutches, and with his foot in a boot.

The key drive appeared to have stalled, with the 4th and 2 at the Arizona State 47 arising shortly thereafter. But that meant it was time for another Smith gamble, and another chapter in the saga of “Collettto time”.

Colletto, the Beaver linebacker/fullback/kick returner/h back/lineman/quarterback, took the snap, took a couple steps to his right, above, and turned on his 4.5 speed to out-sprint the Devil defense to the right sideline right in front of the Arizona State bench, and then on to the end-zone for the touchdown that produced the ultimate final score of 24-10.

“That’s what Jack does,” Trevon Bradford said. “He comes in and makes plays when we need him to make plays. We needed to go get points on that drive. That was a big play, and we needed that out of Jack.”

“The more you do it, then it kind of becomes normal,” Colletto added.

There was still 11:24 to go though, and still a lot of work to do to secure the win.

The Beaver defense forced an Arizona State 3 and punt, but though the ensuing Oregon State drive ate up almost 4 ½ minutes of clock, it ultimately ended un-productively score-wise, when Hayes hooked a 37 yard field goal wide left.

Consecutive first down completions by Daniels got Arizona State’s next drive started, but consecutive false start penalties derailed it. A sack of Daniels, Oregon State’s 3rd of the night, and a 4th down incompletion under pressure handed the ball back to the Beavers, and after Baylor’s 5 yard run, a 24 yard run, Baylor’s last, and longest of the night, set off dancing, and set the stage for 3 straight Nolan kneel downs to earn an elusive 7th regular season win, something Oregon State hasn’t accomplished since the 2012 Alamo Bowl run season, and trigger the regularly scheduled for OSU home conference games fans-on-the-field celebration (though the Beaver fans did wait for the signal from the PA announcer this time, avoiding a threatened $100,000 fine from the Pac-12 Conference).

The low scoring win was the second straight strong defensive effort by the Beaver defense that was beleaguered by big break downs for most of the season, and former Defensive Coordinator Tim Tibesar’s career at Oregon State, after Tibesar’s dismissal 2 weeks ago, after back to back losses to California and Colorado.

“I think they’re playing with a lot of energy,” Smith said of the defense. “They want to play well. They’ve practiced well.”

Jaydon Grant described the change since Trent Bray took over as Defensive Coordinator 2 weeks ago, saying “I would say execution, and playing team defense, not position defense.”

Arizona State entered the game averaging nearly 31 points per game, and featured a rushing attack not far behind Oregon State’s.

Oregon State achieved the defensive shut-down despite the absence of their leading tackler Avery Roberts for the final ¾ of the game, after Roberts suffered an ankle injury. A team high 9 tackle performance by Kyrei Fisher, who filled in for Roberts, helped significantly, Roberts’ status for the regular season ending showdown with Oregon is unknown at this point, but Roberts did appear potentially capable of returning to the game, contrasted with the apparently more serious injury to Fenwick.

The Beavers ran for 237 yards on 46 plays, despite losing over 20 on the punt malfunction, and the 3 kneel downs, which translates to over 260, spread across 7 ball carriers, on 42 actual rushing plays.

Meanwhile, the Devils were held to only 100 yards on 30 runs, and Raschad White, above, was contained to just 39 yards, on 15 carries, though White did have a game high 86 yards receiving, on a game high 6 catches.

Daniels, above, out-produced Nolan, completing 16 of 27 passes, for 166 yards, over 10 yards per completion, compared to Nolan’s 12 of 18, a more accurate 67%, but for only 90 yards, 7.5 per catch. This despite Arizona State being without massive 6’ 8” 245 lb starting TE Curtis Hodges, the Devils’ #3 receiver, one of several key players injured in a post-practice car accident Thursday in Tempe.

And Daniels was Arizona State’s leading rusher, with 46 yards on 10 carries. However, Daniels was kept out of the end-zone, and had the interception, whereas Nolan, below, completing a pass to Luke Musgrave, had both a passing and rushing touchdown, and no turnovers.

As a result, Arizona State dropped to 7-4, and 5-3 in conference.

The win elevated Oregon State to a matching 7-4 for the season, and 5-3 in the Pac-12. Coupled with Oregon’s 38-7 loss at Utah earlier in the evening, which had eliminated the Devils from the Pac-12 South Division race, the Beavers will have a shot at the Pac-12 North Division title if they get help from Washington with Washington State in Friday evening’s Apple Cup.

Because of the Beavers’ 31-24 loss earlier in the season in Pullman, a Cougar Apple Cup win eliminates Oregon State from the division race. But an upset win by the Huskies on their home turf in their rivalry game sets up the formerly known as the Civil War showdown with the Duck Saturday at 12:30 in Autzen Stadium as a winner takes a trip to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Championship game.

In any event, the season will end in a bowl game, and as a winning season for the Beavers, for the first time in 8 years.

Cue the Fight Song!

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)

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