Utah defense stops Beavers in 27-8 victory
- Kerry Eggers
- Portland Tribune - Sports
OSU hurts its cause, too, with slow start
SALT LAKE CITY - The numbers didn't add up kindly for Oregon State Saturday night.
Four turnovers. Six quarterback sacks. And 225 rushing yards for Utah to OSU's 32.
That and a 24-0 halftime deficit were too much for the Beavers to overcome as they became Utah's first Pac-12 conquest in a 27-8 loss at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
It was victory for the Utes (4-4 overall, 1-4 Pac-12) and a discouraging defeat for the Beavers (2-6, 2-3), who dug a large hole they actually wound up having a chance to climb out of.
'As bad as it was,' OSU coach Mike Riley lamented, 'we missed some opportunities to make it a game.'
Like Markus Wheaton dropping two long passes - one of which would have provided the game's first touchdown in the first quarter.
And Malcolm Agnew's lost fumble as he tried to dive over the goal line for a score with Oregon State trailing 24-6 and gaining momentum early in the fourth quarter.
But the real story was Utah's run game in the first half and the Utes' punishing defense throughout.
With 5-8, 185-pound junior tailback John White making like Anthony White, Utah rushed for 178 yards in the first half - 161 of them by White on 18 carries.
At that point, the only question seemed to be whether White - a junior transfer from L.A. Harbor College - would break Utah's single-game rushing record of 254 yards set by Mike Anderson in 1999.
White finished with 205 yards on 35 attempts, carrying 17 times for only 44 yards after intermission. But the damage was done.
Meanwhile, Utah's defense was stuffing the run and applying increasing pressure on Oregon State's Sean Mannion, who did not have his best game.
Mannion completed 27 of 49 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown. Add in Wheaton's two blatent drops and Mannion throws for more than 300 yards for the third straight game.
But the 6-5, 225-pound redshirt freshman, hurried by a Utah rush that became more torrid as the game went on, missed on some throws and served up three interceptions. And Mannion - sacked only 13 times in OSU's first six games - went down six times against the Utes.
'We were talking all week about the fact that this might be the most physical defense we've seen,' Riley said. 'We found that out tonight.'
Utah came into the game 15th nationally in defending the run, yielding only 99.4 yards per game. Oregon State didn't come close to that figure. Agnew gained only 26 yards on nine carries and spent most of the second half on the bench. Replacement Terron Ward picked up 21 yards on five runs.
'We didn't run the ball at all tonight,' Riley said. 'That was the difference in the game.
'I knew it was (going to be) hard. I saw other (opponents) having a hard time. I had said it might be the best defensive front we've played against so far. They're very physical.'
Utah's Jon Hays completed only 6 of 14 passes for 62 yards, but two of them went for touchdowns. The Utes made only 13 first downs - 12 on runs - and had but 287 yards total offense, 52 after halftime. But the Beavers couldn't get anything done consistently on the offensive side.
'They did a lot of good stuff (defensively), but we moved the ball on them on occasion,' Mannion said. 'We just have to string complete drives together and score touchdowns.'
Three TDs for Utah in a 6:40 span late in the second quarter spelled doom for the Beavers.
With the Utes ahead 3-0 late in the first quarter, Oregon State blew a scoring chance when Wheaton dropped a perfectly thrown bomb from Mannion that would have gone for a 46-yard touchdown pass. The Beavers wound up failing on a fourth-and-1 from the Utah 37.
The Utes got a boost midway through the second quarter when Griff McNabb returned a punt 19 yards, and an Oregon State holding penalty allowed them to begin the drive at the OSU 47. Two plays later, Hays dialed up a perfect strike to Dres Anderson for 35 yards, a touchdown and a 10-0 Utah lead with 7:04 left before halftime.
The Utes were in business again when Mo Lee jumped an out route and returned an interception 30 yards to the OSU 18. Two plays later, White started right, reversed field and went six yards for a TD, pushing the hosts' lead to 17-0 with 3:06 remaining before the break.
The locals weren't through. With Utah at its 26 and probably content to run out the clock inside the final minute, White avoided a tackler at the line of scrimmage and dashed 60 yards to the Beavers' 14. Three plays later, Hays found Devonte Christopher for 3 yards in the corner of the end zone, extending Utah's lead to 24-0 with 24 seconds on the clock before intermission.
'They popped a few big plays on us,' OSU linebacker Cameron Collins said. 'We have to eliminate those. We have to get off the blocks. We missed a decent amount of tackles. We have to make sure we fill the right gaps. A couple of those holes were way too big. We have to do a better job restricting those holes.
'And some of the big plays they had, they caught us off guard with some misdirection stuff.'
It wasn't just defense, though, in the first half.
'They had the edge on our team in every phase of the game - offense, defense and special teams,' Riley said. 'We were wounded. They ran by us and through us, and we missed so many tackles.'
Oregon State's defense made adjustments at halftime, and the Utes were pretty much done advancing the ball on a regular basis.
'We have to play the whole game like we played the second half,' Collins said. 'We came out playing with our hair on fire. Good things are going to come out of that.
'From here on out, we can't come out lackadaisical at all.'
On their first five possessions of the second half, the Utes had four three-and-outs and a lost fumble.
Oregon State's offense finally got something going midway through the third quarter, when, on first down from the OSU 38, Mannion hit James Rodgers for 30 yards to the Utah 32. Brandin Cooks followed with a 14-yard run on a fly sweep to the Utes' 18. On third-and-2 from the Utah 10, Mannion was sacked, and Trevor Romaine's 35-yard field-goal attempt was wide right.
Utah was flagged for a personal foul on Romaine on the play, though, and the Beavers got first-and-goal at the 9. Mannion hit Wheaton for a 3-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, but a 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving them behind 24-6.
Suddenly, the Beavers had the momentum. On second-and-10 from the Utah 20, White's fumble was recovered by OSU's Andrew Seumalo at the Utes' 12. On first-and-goal from the Utah 1, Agnew fumbled as he tried to dive over the goal line, and the Utes recovered at the 1.
By now, though, OSU's defense was dominating the line of scrimmage. On third-and-goal from the 1, Utah was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety to narrow the margin to 24-8 with 12:02 remaining.
'We get the safety,' Riley said, 'but we would have been in a lot better shape had we not fumbled and scored the touchdown.'
Oregon State wasn't done until Mannion threw his third pick, to Utah's Matt Martinez, at the OSU 34 with 4:39 remaining. The Utes' Coleman Peterson converted a 20-yard field goal with 1:31 to put the game on ice.
'I don't think we came out to play,' said Rodgers, who caught seven passes for 83 yards. 'The second half, we tried to put it together, but we have to play four quarters in order to get a win.'
'Our defense came out and played really good football in the second half,' Riley said. 'That's the way that whole game could have, should have been, as far as I'm concerned.'
NOTES - Oregon State's most valuable player might have been Johnny Hekker, who averaged 52.5 yards on five punts. Backed up to his own goal line, the 6-5, 225-pound senior fielded a low snap and boomed a punt 64 yards near the end of the first half. Hekker also came up with a beauty on a rugby-style boot that covered 58 yards in the fourth quarter. ... Wheaton's touchdown was his first of the season. ... Oregon State took the opening kickoff and drove from its 22 to the Utah 33, stalling there. Romaine's 50-yard field goal was wide right. Moments later, Peterson made a career-long 48-yarder for a 3-0 lead. ... Oregon State had five false-start penalties. ... Mannion said he felt pressure from the Utah defense on his sacks, 'but a lot of it is me getting rid of the ball faster,' he said. ... OSU center Grant Johnson reinjured a tender ankle and was replaced in the second half by Geoff Garner. ... Utah announced its 10th straight sellout at Rice-Eccles, capacity 45,017, though were several hundred visible open seats in several corners of the stadium. ... Oregon State was without middle linebacker Feti Unga, who injured a calf muscle on the first defensive play of the Brigham Young game on Oct. 15 and hasn't played since. ... Before losing to Arizona State and Washington at home this season, Utah had won 22 straight at home dating to September 2007.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Oregon State 0 0 0 8 - 8
Utah 3 21 0 3 - 27
UTAH - Coleman Peterson 48 field goal 8:14.
UTAH - Dres Anderson 35 pass from Jon Hays (Peterson kick) 7:04.
UTAH - John White 6 run (Peterson kick) 3:06.
UTAH - DeVonte Christopher 3 pass from Hays (Peterson kick) :24.
OSU - Markus Wheaton 3 pass from Sean Mannion (pass failed) 14:55.
OSU - Safety, Utah holding in end zone 12:02.
UTAH - Peterson 20 field goal 1:31.
ATT. - 45,017.