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  • 27 Nov 2014

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Vaz, 5-0 Beavers pull through for 42-24 win at BYU

PROVO, Utah — Several things were evident Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Cody Vaz is a cool customer. Mike Riley knows how to prepare his team for situations of adversity.

And Oregon State is a pretty darn good football team.

The 10th-ranked Beavers proved it again in a 42-24 victory over Brigham Young, with Vaz serving as the best pinch-hitter since Manny Mota.

Vaz — stepping in for injured quarterback Sean Mannion — threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and the Beavers (5-0 overall, 3-0 in Pac-12 action) outscored Brigham Young (4-3) 21-3 in the fourth quarter to win going away.

It’s Oregon State’s first 5-0 start to a season since 1939.

“When you’re in the middle of a season, you don’t think about stuff like that too much,” Riley said. “I do know we’re 5-0 and I really like that.

“It’s not too long before we start thinking about trying to be 6-0, but I’m proud of this team and our coaches. That was a big-time win today.”

It was the first start for the 6-foot, 200-pound junior since his senior year at St. Mary’s High in Stockton, Calif., in 2008, and his first action since 2010, when he played five games in a mop-up role as a redshirt freshman. It was the first time in the last 14 games anyone but Mannion — out a minimum of four weeks after undergoing knee surgery on Wednesday — has taken a snap at quarterback for the Beavers.

Boy, did the replacement come through under pressure.

“Cody did exactly what we all expected him to do,” said receiver Markus Wheaton, who planted a kiss on Vaz’s cheek as he was conducting on-field interviews afterward. “We all had faith in him. We knew he could play.

“It was his first start, so maybe he would come out a little bit rusty, but he came out strong. He was firing them from the beginning.”

Vaz’s performance was suitable for framing. He completed 20 of 32 passes, orchestrated five touchdown drives and ran an offense that had no turnovers against one of the best defenses in the country.

“I wasn’t surprised at that at all,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “He was very poised. He made some big throws early and managed the game great.”

“Every week, he practices as if he’s going to start the game,” OSU safety Ryan Murphy said. “It made it easier on us. We all relied on Cody, and he came through.”

Vaz took his enormous achievements in stride Saturday, a reflection, he said, of the type of person he is.

“That’s just my personality,” he said. “I’m a laid-back guy. I was confident. I might be a little nervous, but I try not to show it.

“My teammates made it so easy on me. Brandin (Cooks) and Markus made the plays out there, and the line did an awesome job. I had so much time the whole game. It was a great team win.”

Brigham Young’s defense, led by seven senior starters, entered the game ranked among the nation’s top 10 in most statistical categories, including rushing defense (first, 59.5 yards per game), red-zone defense (first, 40 percent), scoring defense (third, 8.8 points), total defense (fifth, 229.3 yards), opponents’ third-down conversation percentage (sixth, 26.7) and opponents’ first downs (seventh, 14.2). BYU’s last 12 opponents had gained as much as 300 yards total offense, and the Cougars hadn’t allowed a touchdown — and only three points — in their previous 13 quarters.

The Beavers were only 2 for 11 on third-down conversations, but they busted the rest of BYU’s defensive numbers to shreds. The Beavers amassed 23 first downs and 450 yards total offense — 332 yards passing and 118 yards rushing — and put up the most points against the Cougars since a 54-10 loss in September 2011.

Brigham Young had also won its last nine games at home over two seasons, including three straight this year.

“I was thinking all along knowing Cody is a pretty good player, but knowing this was going to be a hard venue to step into,” Riley said. “Guys really helped him out and made plays.”

Cooks and Wheaton, fast becoming the premier receiving duo in the country, in particular. Cooks hauled in eight passes for 173 yards while Wheaton snagged five catches for 66 yards and a pair of TDs and scored a third six-pointer on a 12-yard double-reverse run.

“Oregon State’s ability to throw over the top of us — the big pass players — was the difference in the game,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “They were able to execute in a lot of critical situations with just giant chunks” of yardage.

The Beavers came out passing from the start.

“They’re a great defense, but we thought we could push the ball down the field on them,” Vaz said. “We got some big plays trying to open them up and that set the tone nice and early.”

“I knew we couldn’t play BYU just slugging it out up front, and I knew Cody could throw the football,” Riley said. “He hadn’t played a game in a long time, but I’ve been there on the practice field with him for four years. I know what he is capable of doing.

“It was a matter of giving him protection, which I wondered if we could do. That’s where guys stepped up. That’s a very good defensive team, so I thought we handled that part of it pretty well, and that allowed Cody to do what he can do.”

Oregon State rushed only eight times for 19 yards in the first half but got it going on the ground in the second half with 99 yards. Storm Woods carried 11 times for 57 yards and a TD before leaving late in the third quarter with a left knee injury, and Malcolm Agnew gained 44 yards on five attempts, including a 30-yard gain in the fourth quarter.

“We were hit-and-miss with the runs early and got them going later,” Langsdorf said. The OSU offensive linemen “were solid toward the end and finished out that game for us.”

Said Vaz: “We popped some good runs, and that helped a lot. There were some huge holes out there the second half.”

BYU’s offense gave Oregon State’s touted defense some trouble, too. The Cougars rushed for only 81 yards, but senior quarterback Riley Nelson completed 28 of 51 passes for 305 yards and a TD and picked up 62 yards with his nimble legs. The Beavers intercepted three of his passes, though, and sacked him four times, with more success as the game wore on.

“I don’t like playing against him,” said OSU defensive end Scott Crichton, who had two of the sacks. “He tucks it in and got a lot of first downs against us. We have to learn from that. We’ll face more scrambling quarterbacks the rest of the season.”

“BYU had it all going today” on offense, Riley said. “They had the option going, the shovel pass going, the bootlegs going, the quarterback scrambling. ...

“When they get it all going like that, it’s hard to put your fingers in enough holes in the dike. But we just kept plugging and made enough plays to win the game.”

With two of the nation’s top defenses going at it and Vaz in his first career start, pundits had an over/under line in the 20s. That went by the wayside early in the third quarter.

Vaz marched the Beavers with precision downfield on the game’s first possession, a 75-yard drive in only six plays. Vaz was 5 for 5 passing on the series, hitting Connor Hamlett for 29 yards to set up Wheaton’s 11-yard TD catch. The Beavers led 7-0 only 2:31 into the game.

Brigham Young responded with a scoring drive that was nearly as easy, covering the 75 yards in 10 plays. Nelson was 5 for 6 and scrambled 16 yards on the Cougars’ first play. Williams’ 1-yard run on a pitch play tied the score at 1-1 with 9:21 left in the first quarter.

It was 14-14 at the half, and Oregon State never trailed, though BYU hung close until near the end. Vaz found Hamlett for another 29-yard pass to the Brigham Young 16, setting up Woods’ 16-yard run to paydirt for a 21-14 lead with 6:26 left in the third quarter.

Brigham Young responded with an eight-play, 75-yard TD drive aided by three Oregon State penalties — including a pass-interference call on Murphy on third-and-9 at the OSU 12. Jamaal Williams’ 2-yard run on a pitch play evened the count at 21-21 with 2:50 remaining in the quarter.

On Oregon State’s next possession, Vaz released just as he was being whacked by a BYU defender to Cooks, who rambled 59 yards with the pass play to the BYU 5-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 2, Vaz’s pass was batted into the hands of tight end Colby Prince for a completion, a touchdown and a 28-21 advantage with 14:48 remaining in the game.

“I thought that was a good sign,” Riley said with a smile.

After a exchange of punts, Brigham Young moved from its 13 and had first-and-goal at the 10. But on third down from the 10, Crichton sacked Nelson. Justin Sorensen’s 35-yard field goal drew the Cougars to within 28-24 with 8:55 left.

The Beavers pulled away after Wheaton’s double-reverse TD run with 5:30 left for a 35-24 lead, then iced the victory with Poyer’s 49-yard interception return for a score with 4:58 remaining.

“We started off slow, but we stepped it up in the second half,” Crichton said. “We just wanted to win. Everyone talked about it at halftime. We weren’t going to lose this one. Everyone got hyped up and did the job.”

Oregon State entered the game as a six-point underdog despite its national ranking. The Beavers haven’t forgotten the media picked them sixth and last in the Pac-12 North before the season.

“We’re just having fun,” sophomore receiver Cooks said. “I want to keep doing it. We still have a lot of doubters. I want to keep proving people wrong.

“One player goes down, the next player is going to step up. That’s what this team is all about. We’re going to keep this thing rolling.”

NOTES — Riley, asked if he would be treating his players to their customary visit to In ‘N Out Burgers after the game: “That’s what I was told.” ... Woods left the game late in the third quarter with an apparent left knee injury and didn’t return. “At first I was nervous that it was serious, and I still don’t know,” he said afterward. “I’m able to walk on it a bit, so we’ll take it from there.” ... Woods, on the performance of the OSU O-linemen: “They get better each week. I love those guys.” ... The last time Brigham Young had allowed an opponent 300 yards total offense was in its 38-28 win at Oregon State a year ago. ... The 6-foot, 200-pound Vaz had four passes batted either at the point of release or line of scrimmage. ... Nelson had runs covering 16, 11, 9 and 9 yards in the first half. ... Murphy finished with a career-high 11 tackles, nine in the first half. ... Poyer has 11 interceptions in his career and five this season. ... Oregon State linebacker D.J. Welch is now known as D.J. Alexander. The sophomore from Palm Desert, Calif., is taking the surname of his stepfather, Eugene Alexander. ... OSU middle linebacker Feti Taumoepeau is twin brother to BYU linebacker Uani Unga, who played linebacker at OSU in 2009 and ‘10 before transferring.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Oregon State-14-0-7-21—42

Brigham Young-7-7-7-3—24

FIRST QUARTER

OSU — Markus Wheaton 11 pass from Cody Vaz (Trevor Romaine kick) 12:29.

BYU — Jamaal Williams 1 run (Justin Sorensen kick) 9:27.

OSU — Wheaton 24 pass from Vaz (Romaine kick) 3:01.

SECOND QUARTER

BYU — Kaneakua Friel 2 pass from Riley Nelson (Sorensen kick) 3:25.

THIRD QUARTER

OSU — Storm Woods 16 run (Romaine kick) 6:26.

BYU — Williams 2 run (Sorensen kick) 2:50.

FOURTH QUARTER

OSU — Colby Prince 2 pass from Vaz (Romaine kick) 14:48.

BYU — Sorensen 35 field goal 8:55.

OSU — Wheaton 12 run (Romaine kick) 5:30.

OSU — Jordan Poyer 49 interception return (Romaine kick) 4:58.

ATT: 63,484.

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