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  • 30 Sep 2014

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Slow start, but Beavers close with a rush

Win over Arizona State pushes OSU to 7-1


CORVALLIS — On Friday night, as he addressed his players prior to Saturday’s game against Arizona State, Mike Riley had an important message.

“I rarely talk about our record,” the Oregon State coach said. “But I wanted to remind them they were 6-1 and ranked 11th in the country.

“Then I asked them, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ I thought tonight was a pretty good response.”

More than anything, the Beavers (7-1 overall, 5-1 in Pac-12 action) responded to adversity, rallying from an early 14-3 deficit and overcoming pass-protection issues with a 36-26 victory that sent the Sun Devils (5-4, 3-3) to their third straight defeat.

“There’s not much you can say other than we got our butts whooped,” first-year Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “We just played one of the top teams in the country.”

Quarterback Cody Vaz — off-kilter and battered by a blitzing ASU defense — came off the mat to throw three touchdown passes, two to Markus Wheaton and one to Brandin Cooks. Third-string tailback Terron Ward came through with the biggest performance of his career, rushing for 146 yards and a TD on 19 carries.

And Oregon State’s defense, knocked off balance early by Arizona State’s hurry-up offense, kept the Sun Devils off the scoreboard from early in the second quarter to the closing seconds.

“Their defense dominated our offense,” Graham said.

Trailing 19-10 early in the second quarter, the Beavers scored the game’s next 26 points to put the victory on ice.

“It was as close to a complete game as we’ve had this season,” OSU defensive end Dylan Wynn said. “In the second half, especially, both sides clicked.

“We didn’t completely click, but we clicked enough. That was a glimpse of what this team can be and will be.”

It was also the Beavers’ biggest game of the season after losing for the first time at Washington last Saturday. Defeat against ASU would mean a two-game losing streak going on the road to face a tough Stanford team next Saturday.

“We had to have this game,” said Cooks, who hauled in six passes for 116 yards. “We had to show everybody in the country. Wee took that loss last week. We were going to come back tonight and punch somebody in the mouth.”

Oregon State won without the services of perhaps its best defensive player — cornerback Jordan Poyer, who missed the first game of his career with a sprained right knee -- and tailback Storm Woods, who couldn’t go due to a sore left knee.

Sean Martin stepped in ably for Poyer and Ward — who entered the game with 32 yards on seven carries this season — earned a game ball for his performance at tailback.

“That’s the definition of a team,” said Ward, a 5-7, 195-pound sophomore who rushed for 211 yards in a reserve role as a freshman. “If one guy goes down, another picks us up.”

Riley turned to Ward early when the coach decided Agnew wasn’t blocking well enough in pass protection for Vaz, who was sacked six times — five times in the first half.

Ward not only protected, he got loose for a 53-yard TD run in the second quarter and another 29-yard gainer. He also returned a kickoff 39 yards and had a six-yard TD run nullified by penalty.

“That’s how he is and how he plays,” said Wynn of his teammate at storied De La Salle High in Concord, Calif. “It’s really nice that he got his time to shine.”

Vaz, given the starting nod over Sean Mannion after his relief role in Oregon State’s 20-17 loss to the Huskies, threw for 267 yards against an Arizona State team that came in leading the Pac-12 in total defense (322 yards per game) and pass defense (148.4).

The 6-foot, 200-pound junior gained his bearing after a horrendous first quarter in which he completed 1 of 7 passes — a 50-yard TD strike to Wheaton — and was sacked three times.

“It was a slow start, but you can’t focus on things in the past,” said Vaz, who finished 14 for 33 passing with one interception. “Part of that was my fault with some bad throws — that was on me. But the team came back well, especially in the second half.”

Oregon State had as balanced on offensive attack as it has had all year with 424 yards total offense, 157 of it coming on the ground. Actually, the Beavers had 227 yards rushing before subtracting the 70 yards for Vaz’s sacks.

“We were able to gash them with some big runs,” Vaz said.

Arizona State had 126 yards total offense the first quarter and 177 yards the rest of the game.

“Football is a game of adaptation,” Wynn said. “Once we figured out what (the Sun Devils) wanted to do, we changed what we were doing. It was getting off the ball and rallying to the ball.”

Taylor Kelly completed 22 of 41 passes but for only 153 yards and a TD. ASU’s sophomore QB was more dangerous with his feet, gaining 80 yards on 10 carries.

“He’s like a running back who can throw the ball,” Wynn said. “We should have done better at containing him, but you have to give him credit. He’s a hell of a player.”

The Beavers wouldn’t have won without the performance of Trevor Romaine, who booted three field goals — including a 45-yarder as time expired in the first half to tie the game at 19-19 — and turned five of eight kickoffs into touchbacks.

“Their defense is the real deal,” Graham said, “and they beat us in the kicking game, too.”

The game couldn’t have started in more disastrous fashion for Oregon State. On the Beavers’ third play of game, Vaz fumbled under pressure as he was setting to pass. The ball was scooped up by ASU’s Junior Onyeali, who returned the fumble one yard for a touchdown. Twenty-one seconds into the game, the Sun Devils led 7-0.

The Beavers answered by moving from their 26 to the ASU 25, the biggest play Wheaton’s 35-yard run on a fly sweep. On second-and-eight, Vaz didn’t see a wide-open tight end Caleb Smith in the end zone, throwing an incompletion to another receiver. Vaz missed on a third-down throw and the Beavers wound up with Romaine’s 41-yard field goal to close to within 7-3 with 11:21 left in the first quarter.

The Sun Devils struck back quickly in their no-huddle offense, covering 75 yards in nine plays and 2 minutes, 31 seconds. Cameron Marshall’s one-yard touchdown dive upped the visitors’ lead to 14-3 with 8:44 left in the quarter.

On second-and-six from the 50 on Oregon State’s next series, Vaz threw a bullet at the 25 to Wheaton, who covered the rest of the 50 yards for a TD to close the gap to 14-10 with 7:51 to go in the period.

The Sun Devils made it 16-10 when Kevin Ayers blocked Keith Kostol’s punt out of the end zone for a safety, then upped the lead to 19-10 on Jon Mora’s field goal with 12:56 remaining in the second quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Jovan Stevenson nearly went all the way, the last Sun Devil making the tackle at the OSU 35 after a 32-yard return. Three plays later, Ward burst through the middle for 53 yards and a touchdown, getting an escort from Wheaton the final 20 yards to paydirt. But Romaine’s extra point bounced off the upright, leaving the Devils on top 19-16 with 11:35 left in the quarter.

Late in the half, Oregon State drove from its 14-yard line to first-and-goal on the ASU nine. After successive sacks on second and third down, Romaine booted a 45-yard field goal as time expired to tie the count at the half.

“It seemed like we should have been behind,” Riley said. “I looked up one time and we were close to them. I felt actually pretty good about that.”

Oregon State came out all business in the third quarter. OSU forced a three-and-out and an ASU punt, which Wheaton returned 15 yards to the OSU 48. A 25-yard Cooks reception took the Beavers to the Sun Devil 20. Two plays later, Vaz found Wheaton in the corner of the end zone for 17 yards, a TD and a 26-19 edge with 11:29 remaining in the third quarter.

The Beavers moved from their own 4-yard line quickly downfield, a 36-yard Caz-to-Wheaton pass giving them first-and-goal at the 6. On first down, Ward’s TD run was nullified by a holding penalty on tackle Colin Kelly. The Beavers settled for a 33-yard Romaine field goal and a 29-19 advantage with 3:02 left in the quarter.

Arizona State drove from its 25 to the OSU 19 before stalling. But Mora’s 37-yard field goal attempt was wide left as the period ended.

After an exchange of punts, Ward got loose for 29 yards to midfield. On second-and-nine from the ASU 49, Vaz unleashed a beautiful throw under pressure to a wide-open Cooks for a TD and a 36-19 edge with 10:54 remaining.

“I’ve never been that open in my life,” Cooks said. “That’s one of the hardest catches to make. There’s so much stuff you’re thinking about until the ball gets there.”

For the Beavers, the victory was about resilience and survival.

“As the game went on, the defense kept getting stronger and making plays,” Riley said. “It was hard offensively, but we made big plays. Against a team like that that blitzes, we were going to take our shots and it was going to be feast or famine. We made enough of those plays to win the game.

NOTES — The crowd of 45,979 was the third straight sellout at Reser this season and the fourth-largest crowd in stadium history. ... Neither team got anything done on third down. Oregon State was 3 of 15, Arizona State 4 of 17. The Beavers’ defense went into the game ranked second nationally in opponent’s third-down conversion percentage. ... Ward’s 39-yard kickoff return in the first quarter was OSU’s longest of the season. ... Oregon State has won four of its last five games against the Devils.

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SCORE BY QUARTERS

Arizona State 16 3 0 7 — 26

Oregon State 10 9 10 7 — 36

FIRST QUARTER

ASU — Junior Onyeali 1 fumble return (Alex Garoutte kick) 14:39

OSU — Trevor Romaine 41 FG 11:21

ASU — Cameron Marshall 1 run (Garoutte kick) 8:44

OSU — Markus Wheaton 50 pass from Cody Vaz (Romaine kick) 7:51

ASU — Kevin Ayers blocks Keith Kostol punt out of end zone 1:27

SECOND QUARTER

ASU — Jon Mora 31 FG 12:56

OSU — Terron Ward 53 run (kick failed) 11:35

OSU — Romaine 45 FG 0:00

THIRD QUARTER

OSU — Wheaton 17 pass from Vaz (Romaine kick) 11:29

OSU — Romaine 33 FG 3:02

FOURTH QUARTER

OSU — Brandin Cooks 49 pass from Vaz (Romaine kick) 10:54

ASU — Marion Grice 2 run (Garoutte kick) :22

ATT: 45,979