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QB Nelson leads BYU over turnover-prone Beavers 38-28

CORVALLIS - The losses piled into a heap for Oregon State Saturday at Reser Stadium. To wit:

• The game, a 38-28 defeat to Brigham Young that left the Beavers 1-5 at the midway point of the season.

• Any momentum built from last Saturday's victory over Arizona.

• Realistic chances to play in a bowl game.

• A laundry list of defensive players due to injury, including tackle Castro Masanai, likely lost for the season with a fractured fibula.

And even though the Beavers played hard - and well at times - it didn't erase the bottom line.

'We're at the bottom,' OSU receiver Markus Wheaton said glumly. 'Five losses. We can't go any lower than that. We have a lot of work to do.'

As Oregon State coach Mike Riley said afterward, there were a pair of story lines to Saturday's contest - turnovers and rushing totals.

OSU had four turnovers - two interceptions and two fumbles. Brigham Young (5-2) had two.

'We shot ourselves in the foot,' said Wheaton, who caught eight passes for 104 yards. 'Turnovers really hurt us.'

'We had some real good scoring chances that could have sparked some momentum after just getting the ball back,' Riley said. Turning the ball over was 'pretty demoralizing.'

The Beavers rushed for only 59 yards while the Cougars amassed 282 yards on the ground to go with 217 through the air.

When an opponent 'rushes for almost 300 yards, it's difficult to win,' Riley said. 'But even with that rushing, turnovers can offset some of that stuff if you don't just give the ball back too them too much.'

BYU quarterback Riley Nelson rushed for 87 yards, and the Cougars' tailbacks, Michael Alisa and JJ Di Luigi, added 84 and 74 yards, respectively.

'We couldn't stop the run,' OSU defensive end Scott Crichton said. 'That's all we needed to do, but we didn't do it today.'

It wasn't all Oregon State needed to do defensively, but it would have helped.

The Beavers were at less than full strength on that side of the ball almost from the opening kickoff. Masaniai went down. So did their first two middle linebackers - Feti Unga (calf strain), then Tony Wilson (hip contusion). Early in the second half, starting outside 'backer Cameron Collins went to the sidelines with a strained groin. And safety Lance Mitchell, still dealing with an abdominal injury, played only in the nickel package.

'There's no doubt, it's something of a factor,' Riley said of the injured defenders. 'They were trying to shore it up without those guys, but that's not easy.

'I don't want to make any excuses. (The Cougars) did a great job with their will to run. But it was rough seeing those guys go down together. That's not a good thing.'

'It's tough, but you have to keep playing,' OSU safety Anthony Watkins said. 'Hopefully, the guy who comes in for the guy who goes down does his job. That's what we preach throughout the week - make sure you're ready, even if you're not getting all the reps at practice.'

Nelson was too much for the Beavers, both on the ground and through the air.

The 6-foot, 195-pound junior, who took over for Jake Heaps as starter in last week's 29-16 win over San Jose State, threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Cody Hoffman was his chief target, hauling in nine passes for 162 yards and a score.

But Nelson's running skills were the bigger weapon on Saturday. He ran 12 times for his 87 yards and averted pressure all day, getting sacked only once.

'A running quarterback is always tough, and he was a good one,' said Watkins, who had 11 tackles. 'But the (defensive) scheme was right. We just have to execute the assignments.'

'We didn't contain him,' Crichton said. 'He shouldn't have gone for that many yards today.'

OSU quarterback Sean Mannion completed 27 of 43 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown and ran for a second score. But the redshirt freshman was intercepted twice - once in the red zone, leading to BYU's second TD in the second quarter.

'You want to limit your mistakes,' Mannion said. 'I can't throw two interceptions like that and give the ball to the defense. But there were a lot of good things, too.'

Malcolm Agnew made his first appearance since rushing for 223 yards and three TDs in the opener against Sacramento State. He entered on OSU's second offensive series Saturday. The 5-8, 190-pound true freshman, who had been out with a hamstring injury, was effective on that possession, But he fumbled in the third quarter and didn't play after that, finishing with 49 yards on 10 carries.

'You can't play if you put the ball on the ground - that's what I was told,' Agnew said. 'You're not going to play if you do.

'I'm upset, but I have to keep working at it. High and tight, and work on my grips.'

Brigham Young scored a touchdown on its opening drive of the second half to go in front 21-14, and the Cougars never trailed. A 59-yard bomb from Mannion to Brandin Cooks brought Oregon State to within 24-21 late in the third quarter, but the visitors scored a pair of TDs in the fourth period to put the game on ice.

Oregon State had rallied from a 14-0 deficit with a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to go into the half tied at 14-14. Jordan Poyer scored the equalizer on a 51-yard interception return for a score.

Poyer jumped Nelson's sideline pass intended for Ross Apo and raced down the sidelines for a touchdown that seemed to give the Beavers momentum going into intermission.

'We felt good going into halftime,' the junior cornerback said. 'We felt like we could come out and hold them on defense.'

The first play from scrimmage in the third quarter was a microcosm of the game. Nelson wriggled out of the grasp of Crichton and found Hoffman deep for 34 yards and a first down at the Beaver 46. Six plays later, Nelson hit Hoffman in the end zone for a TD and a lead the Cougars never relinquished.

Poyer gave the Beavers a short field by returning the ensuing kickoff 57 yards to the BYU 39. On second-and-7 at the Cougar 24, though, Mannion's pass was tipped and intercepted by Brandon Ogletree at the BYU 23.

The Beavers' defense eventually held, and Justin Sorensen's 53-yard field goal attempt was short.

On the next play, though, Agnew fumbled. The ball was recovered by BYU's Uona Kaveinga at the OSU 39. The Beavers forced a BYU punt.

But Oregon State turned it over again, Colby Prince fumbling a pass reception that was recovered by BYU's Matt Putnam at the OSU 36. The Cougars wound up with a 33-yard field goal by Sorensen and a 24-14 edge with 3:26 remaining in the third period.

Then Mannion air-mailed a strike to Cooks for a touchdown. Suddenly, the Beavers were within 24-21 with 2:08 left in the period.

'We've been looking for that play,' Riley said. 'Our guys have gotten behind those corners a few times in (recent) games. We were looking for that spark, and we got it.

'But we needed to have something else go after that. And they responded like a veteran team.

The Cougars went on a 10-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that made it 31-21 with 10:39 remaining.

Oregon State didn't die, driving from its 17 to the BYU 26 on its next offensive series. The OSU offense stalled, and Trevor Romaine's 48-yard field-goal attempt was wide right. It was Oregon State's last gasp.

The Beavers were left with 'could'ves,' including the last play of the first half. Sorensen's 50-yard field goal was partially blocked, and Watkins picked up the ball at the Beavers' 10-yard line. He weaved his way cross field and nearly took it to the house, going 60 yards before getting tripped up by Sorensen at the Cougar 30 as the half ended.

'I got pretty tired,' Watkins said. 'If I'd have scored, that could have helped the team. I'm pretty mad at myself about it. I have to get my conditioning better.'

The Beavers drove to the BYU 10 on their second possession, but Mannion's pass over the middle was intercepted.

The Cougars 'fooled him,' Riley said. 'They dropped a guy (into coverage) out of the line. That happens to every quarterback. We just didn't want it to happen right then.'

For the Beavers, it was that kind of day.

'We've been getting better each week, but we kind of took a step back today,' Watkins said. 'We just have to get back to work on Tuesday.'

'I don't know that it was a step back,' Poyer said. There's a lot of stuff we need to work on. It's going to come. We just have to not give up on our season. We still have six games left. We can still do some things.'

The loss, Riley said, 'makes it a bigger job for our team to get right back at it on Tuesday. But that's life. We would have loved to kept that momentum building with another win. Now we have another roadblock/setback we have to deal with.'

NOTES - Oregon State's blocked field goal at the end of the first half was its fifth of the season. ... Agnew carried eight times for 40 yards - including gains of 13 and 12 yards - on Oregon State's second drive. ... Romaine, who was 0 for 2 on field-goal attempts, missing from 41 and 48 yards, drew a personal-foul penalty on a third-quarter kickoff. ... BYU was 11 of 14 on third-down conversions - 5 of 5 in the first half. ... Each team had only one punt in the first game. For BYU, it's the only punt in Nelson's nine quarters as BYU's quarterback, beginning with the fourth quarter of a 27-24 win over Utah State ... With Unga and Wilson out, OSU used outside linebacker Rueben Robinson in the middle. ... BYU lost two of its starting D linemen to injuries in the first half - end Hebron Fangupo and nose tackle Romney Fuga. ... Jovan Stevenson started and played the first series at tailback for Oregon State, but finished with 10 yards on eight carries. ... A Big 12 crew officiated the game.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Brigham Young 7 7 10 14 - 38

Oregon State 0 14 7 7 - 28

FIRST QUARTER

BYU - Michael Alisa 10 run (Justin Sorensen kick) 5:02.

SECOND QUARTER

BYU - JJ Di Luigi 3 run (Sorensen kick) 9:23.

OSU - Sean Mannion 1 run (Trevor Romaine kick) 3:51.

OSU - Jordan Poyer 51 interception return (Romaine kick) 1:18.

THIRD QUARTER

BYU - Cody Hoffman 12 pass from Riley Nelson (Sorensen kick) 11:16.

BYU - Sorensen 33 field goal 3:26.

OSU - Brandin Cooks 59 pass from Mannion (Romaine kick) 2:08.

FOURTH QUARTER

BYU - JD Falslev 2 pass from Nelson (Sorensen kick) 10:39.

BYU - Kaneakua Friel 8 pass from Nelson (Sorensen kick) 3:37.

OSU - Jovan Stevenson 2 run (Romaine kick) :23.

ATT. - 42,584.