CORVALLIS - There are to be no bowl games for Oregon State this season, and precious few victories.
So the Beavers are left to take them and enjoy them whenever they can.
A 38-21 win over Washington on a cold, damp Saturday afternoon made it a particularly fond farewell to 14 OSU seniors turning in their final appearance at Reser Stadium.
'That was the main thing,' said senior flanker James Rodgers, who set the school career receptions record before departing in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle. 'I don't care about the record, as long as we get the win. We got it, and I'm happy.'
'A lot of emotions going on inside,' OSU senior safety Lance Mitchell said. 'I couldn't ask for much more - my last game at Reser, going out like this against a good team like Washington.'
Sean Mannion threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns and Jovan Stevenson came off the bench to rush for three fourth-quarter TDs as Oregon State (3-8 overall, 3-5 in Pac-10 play) snapped a three-game losing streak and sent the Huskies (6-5, 4-4) to their fourth loss in five games.
'It proves a point I've been making all along, that (the players have) never quit,' Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. 'They've just kept working.
'It hasn't always looked very good, but that work is paying dividends. We're fighting to make plays, and many guys are getting better.'
Oregon State entered the game 119th out of 120 teams nationally in rushing, averaging 87.8 yards per game. And over the past three games, the Beavers have been outrushed 821-92 in losses to Utah, Stanford and California.
So Saturday's ground numbers against Washington - 145 yards for OSU, 160 for the Huskies - were more than palatable for those in Beaver Nation.
'We played a complete game,' OSU senior safety Lance Mitchell said. 'I know we made it personal to come out this week and stop the run.'
The Huskies, without injured sophomore quarterback Keith Price, were going with redshirt freshman Nick Montana, making his first career start. They'll get little sympathy from the Beavers, who have endured an overflow of injuries to key players all season.
Montana completed 11 of 21 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns and was sacked four times.
'Today was a freshman making his first start,' UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. 'There were moments when he did some nice things, and some other times, not so nice. I didn't expect him to come out and just set the world on fire.'
Sarkisian probably expected Chris Polk to run wild, though. Washington's junior tailback had a nice day, going for 109 yards and a TD on 25 carries. Polk got 57 yards in the first quarter, though, before Oregon State's defense got him under control.
'The way it started, I was thinking it was going to be a long day again,' Riley said. 'The biggest difference after that was we played better defense on the perimeter.
'Early on, we made a lot of good plays on the inside, but (the Huskies) were hitting us with sweeps. After that, we got better containment and more pursuit to the ball.'
Markus Wheaton was Oregon State's biggest star, catching seven passes for 125 yards and getting loose for a 56-yard first-quarter run on a double reverse. It was Wheaton who clinched the win with a nice snag on a 52-yard bomb from Mannion after OSU was at its 1-yard line with a 31-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
'I was kind of nervous when he made that call,' Wheaton said. 'We were backed up pretty deep and I was worried we were going to get a safety.
'We got the coverage we wanted, I gave him (the cornerback) an outside move and he bit, I went vertical and it was there. Sean gave me a perfect ball.'
Riley said his confidence in Mannion overrode concerns about a safety.
'That kid has a knack for knowing when he's in trouble and getting rid of the ball, even if it's not going to be a completion,' the OSU coach said. 'It was a nicely thrown ball, a nicely run route and good protection. We almost had a shot at 99 yards.'
Last weekend, Stevenson had fumbled at California's 1-yard line with the Beavers still alive and poised to score in the fourth quarter. He got the call in the second half Saturday and gained 41 yards on 10 carries, including TDs of 3, 15 and 1 yards.
'I was trying to redeem myself,' the 5-11, 195-pound sophomore said. 'I didn't know if I was going to get into the game, but when I did, I had to make the most of it.'
Stevenson and Terron Ward (13 carries, 43 yards) shared tailback duties for the Beavers.
'We're always trying to establish the run,' Stevenson said. 'As much as we can do, that's what we're here to do. We're not going to be Quizz (Rodgers) yet, but as a group, we can make plays.'
Stevenson rushed for a pair of scores 26 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter as Oregon State broke things open, taking a 31-14 lead.
Ahead 17-14, Oregon State moved deep into Washington territory when Mannion found Obum Gwachum across the middle on a shallow cross pattern that worked well all day against UW coverage. The 6-5, 225-pound redshirt freshman took the pass and lumbered 56 yards to the UW 3. Stevenson ran in for the score on the next play, and OSU's lead was 24-14 with 11:53 left in the game.
On Washington's first play from scrimmage on its next drive, Montana was stripped of the ball by OSU's Scott Crichton, and Andrew Seumalo pounced on the fumble at the UW 15. On second-and-10, Stevenson broke a tackle in the backfield, veered left and skirted 15 yards for the TD and a 31-14 lead with 11:27 still on the clock.
Sarkisian then inserted Price, nursing a sore left knee, and the 6-1, 195-pound sophomore quickly took the Huskies from their 15-yard line to paydirt. On fourth-and-9 from the OSU 20, Price avoided a pass rush and found Devin Aguilar in the end zone for a TD, drawing the Huskies to within 31-21 with 7:50 remaining.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brandin Cooks' fumble was recovered at the OSU 17, and the Reser denizens weren't liking what they were seeing.
'It didn't look so good right then,' Riley said. The Huskies 'had pretty good momentum going.'
On the next play, Price's pass was intercepted by the Beavers' Ryan Murphy at the 1. The redshirt freshman stepped in front of UW receiver Kasen Williams to make, in Mitchell's estimation, 'probably the play of the game.'
'It was a doubly smart play,' Riley said. 'In the coverage we were in on that play, the weakness is to the inside. He made them try to play to the strength of the coverage, took that away and they threw it to him. It was a good physical play, but a real smart play, too.'
The Beavers were near their goal line, though, and a safety could have made it a one-possession game. But on second-and-10, Mannion launched his perfect strike to Wheaton, who hauled it in for 52 yards to the UW 42. Game over.
'We executed real well,' Mannion said. 'We made some big plays. Across the board, we did a good job just chipping away, and our O-line did a great job all game.'
Rodgers was injured after Jordan Poyer's 19-yard punt return gave the Beavers great field position at the UW 26 early in the second quarter. On OSU's first play, Rodgers took the ball intending to pass off the fly sweep. Rodgers couldn't find a receiver, and the senior flanker was buried under a sea of tacklers for a seven-yard loss. He was helped off the field with a sprained ankle and returned to watch the second half in street clothes.
The Beavers wound up with a 24-yard Trevor Romaine field goal as time expired, taking a 17-14 advantage into intermission.
After an exchange of punts to open the third quarter, the Beavers marched from their own 15-yard line. On fourth-and-seven at the Washington 33 they went for it, and Mannion hit Wheaton over the middle for 22 yards to the UW 11. On third-and-nine from 10, though, Mannion's pass was intercepted by Sean Parker, and the Huskies took over on their 4-yard line.
'Sean's only bad pass of the game,' Riley said. 'He was really good today, but he's been good all year.'
Then came a play the Huskies will forever lament. On second-and-6 at the UW 22, Montana sidestepped a rusher and launched a pass to a wide-open Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The redshirt freshman tight end - with a chance to score on the play - dropped the pass at about midfield, and the Huskies wound up punting.
'A busted coverage and a (potential) big play for them,' Riley said.
'Pretty scary,' OSU safety Anthony Watkins said. 'Sometimes you need luck. We got it today.'
The Beavers were happy to send their seniors out in style.
'To win in their last game in our stadium and win against a rival team like the Huskies, it's awesome,' Riley said.
'They put a lot of work in every season they've been here,' Mannion said. 'They're good role models for me and the other young guys. I look up to them, and am happy we can get a win for for them.'
The Huskies felt much the way the Beavers have felt too often this season.
'It was a frustrating game,' Sarkisian said. 'So many opportunities to make plays and to get off the field defensively, and that didn't happen. Some opportunities offensively to creat some big plays that could have swung th game and gotten the momentum back in our favor, and that didn't happen.'
Mitchell called Oregon State's victory 'a testament to our character, to what kind of guys we got on this team. Riley's not lying when he tells you we practice hard. We do it every week, whether coming off a win or a loss. We're resilient. We come to work every day.'
NOTES - It was Oregon State's seventh win in the last eight meetings with the Huskies. The only loss over that span was 35-34 in double overtime at Seattle last season. ... Rodgers broke Mike Hass' OSU career receptions record with a 15-yard catch in the first quarter. Rodgers caught another pass before his injury, giving him 222 for his career. 'James is in great company,' Riley said of his senior flanker passing the likes of Hass, James Newson and Sammie Stroughter on the career receptions list. ... Rodgers presented the ball that he caught for the school career receptions record to assistant athletic trainer Josh Therrien, who has worked with Rodgers through the rehabilitation process following a pair of offseason surgeries on his left knee. 'He deserves the ball,' Rodgers said. ... Rodgers has 19 career TD passes, one short of the OSU mark co-held by Hass and Newson. ... The intended target on the play Rodgers was injured was Mannion. 'I was planning on throwing a touchdown to Sean, but it didn't work,' Rodgers said with a smile. ... Rodgers, asked if he'll be able to play next Saturday against Oregon: 'I'll be good. It's just a minor ankle sprain - nothing too serious.' Riley, asked the same question: 'He thinks he's going to play. He told me that at halftime, after he knew he wasn't going to play in the second half.'
Mannion's passing yardage against the Dawgs was his second-best of the season, behind the 376 yards he had against Washington State. He has 3,033 yards passing this season, joining Derek Anderson (three times), Sean Canfield, Jonathan Smith and Matt Moore as Beaver signal-callers who have surpassed 3,000 in a campaign. ... Micah Hatfield's 6-yard TD reception in the first quarter was the first catch of his career. The sophomore from Lake Oswego was in the game primarily due to injuries to OSU receivers Jordan Bishop and Kevin Cummings. Hatfield, whose career has been slowed by a series of injuries, had three catches for 18 yards. 'If Micah can stay healthy, he's going to be a good player,' Riley said. It was good to see him make some plays today.'
Oregon State was 8 of 14 on third-down conversions in the first half. The Beavers had seven penalties for 70 yards, but only two for 10 yards in the second half. ... Mannion's crushing block in the backfield on Wheaton's first-quarter double reverse was reminiscent of one ex-Beaver QB Lyle Moevao made - also against the Huskies - in 2007 in a 29-23 win at Corvallis. 'I don't think it was quite Lyle Moevao status,' Mannion said with a laugh. 'I was just trying to get in someone's way.' ... Bishop broke a bone in his left ankle in pregame warmups. 'Tough pregame today,' Riley quipped. ... Also sitting out was middle linebacker Rueben Robinson (concussion). ... Washington only has one Oregon native on its roster, 6-6, 335-pound redshirt freshman offensive guard James Atoe from The Dalles. ... Oregon State has 13 players from the state of Washington, including defensive end Crichton (Tacoma), tight end Halahuni (Orting), offensive linemen Grant Enger (Bothell) and Colin Kelly (Kelso), punter Johnny Hekker (Bothell) and safety Anthony Watkins (Burien). 'I enjoy these games when we play the Washington schools,' Watkins said.
Oregon State ends it season next Saturday at Autzen Stadium against Oregon. 'What better way to go out than to beat the Ducks?' Mitchell asked. ... Could OSU pull off a colossal upset? 'Records get thrown out in a rivalry game, because it's a little more intense,' Rodgers said. ... Crichton's forced fumble extended his school single-season record to five. The redshirt freshman D-end also had two sacks, giving him six for the season. ... Mitchell on Murphy: 'I know what kind of player Ryan is. He's going to make a lot of plays in his career. He's a special dude.'
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Washington 7 7 0 7 - 21
Oregon State 14 3 0 21 - 38
UW - Austin Seferian-Jenkins 4 pass from Nick Montana (Erik Folk kick) 11:03.
OSU - James Rodgers 6 pass from Sean Mannion (Trevor Romaine kick) 7:30.
OSU - Micah Hatfield 6 pass from Mannion (Romaine kick) 2:52.
UW - Seferian-Jenkins 5 pass from Montana (Folk kick) 11:19.
OSU - Romaine 24 field goal 0:00.
OSU - Jovan Stevenson 3 run (Romaine kick) 11:53.
OSU - Stevenson 15 run (Romaine kick) 11:27.
UW - Devin Aguilar 20 pass from Keith Price (Folk kick) 7:50.
OSU - Stevenson 1 run (Romaine kick) 2:12.
ATT. - 42,766.