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Beavers stay undefeated with grinding 19-6 win over Washington State

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon State defensive back Jordan Poyer returns the first of his three interceptions in Saturday's 19-6 home victory over Washington StateCORVALLIS — Defense was the order of the day, and when the smoke cleared early Saturday evening, Oregon State remained among the nation’s unbeaten.

It wasn’t artistic or easy, but the 14th-ranked Beavers (4-0 overall, 3-0 in Pac-12 play) got enough done offensively to pull out a 19-6 victory over Washington State before a record Reser Stadium crowd of 46,579.

When it visits Brigham Young next Saturday, Oregon State has a chance to start a season 5-0 for the first time since 1939, when Lon Stiner was in the midst of his 16-year run as the school’s head coach. Not bad for a team picked to finish sixth and last in the conference’s North Division race this season.

Defense was Oregon State’s calling card Saturday. The Cougars (2-4, 0-3), which entered the game averaging 333.0 yards passing per game, managed 207 yards through the air and 227 yards total offense. The Beavers forced five turnovers, sacked WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel three times and yielded only 20 yards on the ground.

“We have to play like this every game,” said OSU defensive end Scott Crichton, who had all three sacks and four tackles for loss.

Oregon State wasn’t an offensive juggernaut, either, with 370 yards total offense, including 100 on the ground. The Beavers survived three turnovers and 11 penalties for 110 yards to win for the fourth straight time this season.

“Washington State played hard and played well,” OSU coach Mike Riley said, “but we were at times our worst enemy.”

“Our record says we’re perfect right now, so I can’t argue with that,” said Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton, who caught nine passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. “But we have a lot to work on.”

The Beavers led 6-3 at halftime and never really found a groove offensively, though they put together a pair of long touchdown drives in the second half.

“It was all hard,” Riley said. “The defense picked the team up by making plays.

“You have to play the game you’re in, and our kids fought through it and won. For right now, that’s good.”

Oregon State’s co-star with Crichton on defense was Jordan Poyer, who intercepted three passes, including the game-clincher in the waning moments.

“He showed why he’s one of the best cornerbacks in the country,” OSU tailback Storm Woods said.

“Just a beast performance,” Crichton said. “That’s a superstar right there. He carried us on the defense.”

Poyer didn’t carry the OSU defense, but he did lead the way.

“I was seeing the field real well,” said the senior co-captain, who said he never had a three-pick game at Astoria High. “The plays were there to make, and I made them.”

It was probably the poorest game of the season for Sean Mannion. Oregon State’s sophomore quarterback, who came into the ranked fourth nationally with 362.7 passing yards per game, completed 25 of 42 passes for 270 yards and a TD. But the reigning Pac-12 offensive player of the week was intercepted three times, was sacked three times and missed on several throws — most of them in the first half.

Mannion took the Beavers on the two second-half TD drives that proved the difference in the game — 75 yards in 10 plays to start the third quarter and 86 yards over 12 plays to sew up the win in the final period.

“I’m proud of the way our team came out in the second half,” Mannion said. “That says a lot about us. It would have been easy to fold and feel sorry for ourselves. We opened the third quarter with a real good drive. There are going to be games where we’re not going to play our greatest, but we dug our heels in.

“It says a lot about us, but by no means was it perfect.”

Oregon State made three trips inside the Washington State 25-yard line in the first quarter and had three points to show for it. The Beavers didn’t punt in the quarter and still led only 3-0.

“We won, but it wasn’t the way we’d like it,” Mannion said. “We left a lot of points out there.”

The Wazoo defense was aggressive trying to put pressure on Mannion. On several occasions it worked.

“Washington State was throwing a lot of blitzes at us, more than we could handle sometimes,” Woods said. “They mix it up pretty good between the 3-4 and the 4-3.

“I got confused (blocking) a little bit, which cost us two sacks. I went blank a couple of times, and over-thought it. I have to slow the game down and know my assignments.”

Offered Mannion about the Cougars: “They gave us a ton of different looks. They might have caught us off-guard at the beginning, but as the game went on, we settled down.”

The Cougars had pass plays of 51 and 49 yards and twice entered the red zone, including a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line in the second quarter. The Beaver defense kept them out of the end zone, though, limiting them to a pair of field goals.

“Sometimes they got down there and it looked like they had a chance to score a touchdown, but we wouldn’t let them,” Riley said.

After scoring only on a pair of Trevor Romaine field goals in the first half, Oregon State went right to work to start the third quarter. Mannion’s roll-out pass to Wheaton for 12 yards and a TD jacked OSU’s advantage to 13-3 with 9:17 remaining in the third quarter.

Poyer stepped in on a sideline route for his second interception of the game, giving Oregon State the ball at the Wazoo 36. But on third-and-9 from the 18, Mannion’s pass went off the hands of Brandin Cooks to WSU’s Casey Locker, who took the interception nine yards to the OSU 26.

Washington State had its best drive of the day early in the fourth quarter, aided by a pair of pass-interference plays against the Beavers. The Cougars marched from their own 13 to the OSU 15, winding up with a 32-yard Andrew Furney field goal to draw within 13-6 with 9:33 to go.

Oregon State then went 87 yards for a TD and a 19-6 advantage, fullback Tyler Anderson taking it in from the one.

Poyer dotted the exclamation point on the victory by intercepting a Tuel aerial and returning it 50 yards with 3:30 remaining, falling as he cut back trying to elude a tackler in a bid to score.

“I saw the ball in the air, I knew I was going to pick it and I knew the game was over,” Poyer said. “I saw green in front of me and started running and my legs were a little heavy. I was trying to make a move inside and the turf monster got me.”

The Cougars came into the game averaging 45 yards rushing per game and didn’t even get half of that.

“Defenses for both teams played better than the offenses,” said Mike Leach, Washington State’s first-year coach. “Oregon State’s defense was more physical than our offense. The Oregon State front was beating us because they were more physical. After the quarterback’s first read, they had people in his lap.”

The Beavers may not have earned many style points with Saturday’s win, but they can work on that later.

“We have so much potential to win every game on our schedule,” Crichton said. “We haven’t played a complete game yet — offense and defense.”

“It was kind of like first-game mistakes,” Wheaton said. “That shouldn’t happen. We’re going to have us a big week of practice.”

‘It’s some easy stuff to correct,” Mannion said. “We’re happy with the win however we get it, but we also know there’s a lot we can do better.”

“We knew (the Cougars were) going to be disruptive,” Riley said. “They threw us a bunch of curveballs that we didn’t handle very well. As hard and sometimes ugly as it was offensively, to pull themselves together and get the thing done. ... two of the third-down conversions on our last scoring drive were major-league plays.

“So we won the game. Do we have a lot to work on? Absolutely. But I told our players, our goal is to win the game. Then come Monday, we’ll start working on what we need to work on.”

NOTES — Oregon State improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2002. ... The Beavers last kept an opponent out of the end zone in a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh at the 2008 Sun Bowl. ... Oregon State has not been scored on in the first quarter this season. ... Washington State was 2 for 10 on third-down conversions. Oregon State entered the game ranked second nationally in opponents’ third-down conversions (8 for 39). ... Mannion’s best throw of the game might have been to Cooks for 12 yards and a first down on third-and-8 from the WSU 25 on the Beavers’ final scoring drive. “That describes our team,” Wheaton said. “When there’s a play that needs to be had, we make it.” ... Woods, who left the game for a while after suffering a shoulder stinger, finished with 54 yards on 15 carries while Malcolm Agnew picked up 44 yards on 10 attempts. ... The last time a Beaver had three interceptions was by Mitch Meeuwsen against Washington State in 2003. ... Wheaton moved up to fourth on the OSU career receptions list with 172 and into fifth in career receiving yardage with 2,248. ... OSU linebacker D.J. Welch sprained an ankle in the game.

Washington State got its initial first down of the game with 54 seconds left in the first quarter on a 12-yard Marquess Wilson reception on third-and-12 from the WSU 4. The Cougars had one first down and 22 yards total offense in the quarter. ... OSU tight end Caleb Smith, a true freshman, made his first career catch in the third quarter. ... Washington State had no senior offensive starters and four seniors who started on defense. Oregon State had seven senior starters — four on defense. ... Riley’s career record at OSU is 76-63, including 68-49 in the 10 years of his second stint at the school. ... Poyer said he was motivated by the presence of the entire Astoria High team at the game, including younger brother Jeremy.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Washington State-0-3-0-3—6

Oregon State-3-3-7-6—19

FIRST QUARTER

OSU — Trevor Romaine 30 field goal 11:49.

SECOND QUARTER

WSU — Andrew Furney 24 field goal 9:08.

OSU — Romaine 24 field goal 2:51.

THIRD QUARTER

OSU — Markus Wheaton 12 pass from Sean Mannion (Romaine kick) 9:17.

FOURTH QUARTER

WSU — Furney 32 field goal 9:33.

OSU — Tyler Anderson 1 run (kick failed) 4:27.

ATT: 46,579