CORVALLIS — The game was there for Oregon State.

With a 23-14 lead late in the third quarter, the Beavers were in position to knock off both Stanford and a potential Rose Bowl berth.

Then disaster struck twice — and with it the Cardinal escaped with a 27-23 victory Saturday at Stanford Stadium.

First, a sensational play by Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan started a 40-yard Stepfan Taylor touchdown reception on the final play of the third quarter.

Then Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz lost the ball on a scramble, and his fumble led to the winning score as the Cardinal (8-2 overall, 6-1 in Pac-12 action) remained in contention for the Pac-12 championship game.

“We had our opportunities,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, whose Beavers fell to 7-2 and 5-2.

That the Beavers let the game slip away in the late going left a bitter taste in their mouths.

“We beat ourselves again today,” said freshman tailback Storm Woods, who rushed for 94 yards on 15 carries. “No disrespect. That was a great team, but we let ourselves down.

“We made little mistakes — false starts, giving up sacks, missed reads. We had more than those guys, (but) they were able to come away with the win.”

Or looking at it another way, the Beavers — who lost the total offense battle 417-312 — were fortunate to be in position to win after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter.

Stanford — which entered the game leading the league in turnover differential (plus-11) — coughed up the ball four times, Oregon State only once.

But OSU’s giveaway was the biggest one of all.

The Beavers led 23-21 with 8:45 to play when Vaz scrambled right with real estate ahead. As the junior pumped to fake a pass, the ball slipped from his right hand and Stanford’s Josh Mauro fell on it at the Oregon State 29-yard line.

Six plays later, Hogan found tight end Zach Ertz in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass and a 27-23 lead with 5:07 remaining.

Oregon State had two more possessions but were unable to get into Stanford territory.

And to add injury to insult, Vaz hurt an ankle as he was being sacked in the closing moments. Sean Mannion came in to throw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-16 on the Beavers’ final offensive play.

“We lost the game,” said OSU’s Markus Wheaton, who seven receptions for 91 yards and a TD. “I’m hurting. I’m pretty sure everybody in (the locker room) is hurting.

“But the season isn’t over. We have a game to play next week (against California).”

It was a big day for Hogan, the redshirt freshman in his first start, who completed 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards and three TDs and ran 11 times for 49 yards.

“He’s a good athlete,” Riley said. “He hurt us with the bootlegs and some scrambles, for sure. Impressive.”

So, too, was Taylor, the senior tailback who rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 47 yards and a TD. And Ertz, who hauled in nine passes for 75 yards and a score.

The bigger story was a Stanford defense that made it hard on Oregon State all day. Vaz completed 23 of 38 passes for 226 yards and a TD and Woods approached the 100-yard rushing mark, but the Cardinal made them work for it.

“They were real physical,” Woods said. “Those linebackers were fierce, running through everything.”

“They were great,” Wheaton said. “They did a good job stopping the run and the pass.”

Have the Beavers faced a better defense this year?

“Probably not,” he said.

Oregon State got a break early when Ertz fumbled after a reception, OSU’s Michael Doctor recovering at the Cardinal 46. The Beavers went three-and-out, though, forcing a Keith Kostol punt.

Stanford then embarked on a 13-play, 93-yard scoring drive — the longest of the season for the Cardinal — eating up nearly six minutes of clock. Taylor’s one-yard TD dive made it 7-0 Stanford with 5:41 left in the first quarter.

After another Kostol punt, Stanford was back in business again. The Cardinal marched 80 yards in 10 plays, Hogan hitting Ryan Hewitt for 12 yards and a TD to up the lead to 14-0 with 31 seconds left in the quarter.

“Stanford was good” in the first quarter, Riley said. The Cardinal “made plays. We had two opportunities with the ball and didn’t get a first down. They had long, sustained drives and did a nice job executing. We had a hard time with it at the beginning.”

Then, in the final minute of the first quarter, the worm turned.

“We got our feet wet out there,” Woods said, “and started making plays.”

Oregon State took the ball at its 19 and marched into the Stanford end zone. The Beavers went 81 yards in 10 plays, Terron Ward carrying over from seven yards for the TD, drawing the visitors to within 14-7 with 10:51 remaining in the second quarter.

After a Stanford punt, it was Oregon State on the move again. Mixing the run and the pass effectively, OSU drove from its 18 to the Stanford 3. On third-and-2, Vaz’s pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage. The Beavers settled for a 20-yard Trevor Romaine field goal to cut the deficit to 14-10 with 2:21 remaining before halftime.

Stanford moved quickly, going from its 22 to the OSU 21. But Taylor’s fumble was recovered by OSU’s Sean Martin and Oregon State went into intermission trailing 14-10.

The Beavers took the second-half kickoff and moved for the go-ahead score. Wheaton’s 22-yard TD catch on an inside screen from Vaz capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive and gave them their first lead at 17-14 with 10:17 left in the third quarter.

On Stanford’s next possession, Hogan’s pass was tipped upon release by OSU’s Rudolf Fifita and intercepted by Ryan Murphy at the Cardinal 27. The Stanford defense held but Romaine’s 42-yard field goal hiked OSU’s advantage to 20-14 with 7:34 to go in the quarter.

After a Stanford punt and a return by Jordan Poyer to the Cardinal 49, the Beavers added to the lead with a 44-yard Romaine field goal to go in front 23-14 with 3:32 to play in the period.

With the situation growing desperate for Stanford, the Cardinal responded. On second-and-six from the Oregon State 40, Hogan — under pressure and going down — flipped a check-down pass toward the sideline to Taylor. The senior broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, shrugged off a couple of other would-be tacklers and raced to paydirt to draw the Cardinal to within 23-21 as the quarter ended.

“That was a great play he made — probably the play of the game,” Riley said. “We were up two scores ... and they score a touchdown that really changed the momentum.”

Oregon State moved to the Stanford 38 but stalled, and Kostol’s punt sailed into the end zone. When Hogan’s bomb was intercepted by Rashaad Reynolds at the OSU 30, the Beavers had a 4-0 edge in turnovers and a chance to run some clock and pad their lead.

Ward was stuck for a five-yard loss on first down, though, and then Vaz’s fumble spelled the beginning of the end for the Men in Orange.

“We were ready to play,” Wheaton said. “It was a great game. We just couldn’t get it when it was needed.”

Added Riley: “You always look at what you might have done better. When you get down to it, we just didn’t play well enough in the fourth quarter.”

Woods said he feels badly for seniors such as Wheaton and Poyer, who were hoping to end their careers in a BCS bowl game.

“We want to get to the best bowl we can,” Woods said. “Of course, this one hurts. But we can’t let this one affect us. We have to put this behind us and move on.”

“What’s going to be important for us now,” Riley said, “is to not let this game beat us again. we have to get on monday and go for it, have a great week of practice and play real well next Saturday.”

NOTES — It was 56 degrees and sunny at the opening kickoff. ... Vaz was helped off the field. Riley said he wasn’t sure the severity of his injury. ... OSU lost linebacker D.J. Alexander early in the game with a rib contusion. Senior Rueben Robinson played the rest of the way. “That’s a tough deal,” Riley said. Alexander “can make a lot of plays. He can run. We’re not overly deep at that position.” ... Stanford had a huge advantage in third-down conversions, going 7 for 12 to Oregon State’s 3 for 13. The Beavers entered the game ranked second nationally in opponents’ third-down conversation rate. ... Stanford’s 163 rushing yards were the most by an OSU opponent this season. The Beavers entered the game ranked fifth nationally at 91.8 per game. ... Oregon State had 20 first downs, but didn’t get one until Wheaton reception with 15 seconds left in the first quarter. ... Kostol had a 67-yard punt into the Stanford end zone late in the first quarter.

Wheaton passed Sammie Stroughter and James Rodgers to move into third place on the OSU career list with 2,628 yards. Wheaton trails Mike Hass (3,824) and James Newsom (3,572). Wheaton has 197 career receptions, 25 behind Hass (222), who leads the list. ... Stanford’s senior class is the first in school history to go to four straight bowl games. ... Oregon State has a number of players from northern California, including fullback Tyler Anderson (Walnut Creek), cornerback Steven Christian (Sacramento), receiver Brandin Cooks (Stockton), quarterbacks Vaz (Lodi) and Mannion (Pleasanton), safety Ryan Murphy (Oakland), tailback Ward (Antioch) and defensive end Dylan Wynn (Concord).

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Twitter: @kerryeggers


Oregon State 0 10 13 0 — 23

Stanford 14 0 7 6 — 27


STAN — Stepfan Taylor 1 run (Jordan Williamson kick) 5:41

STAN — Ryan Hewitt 12 pass from Kevin Hogan (Williamson kick) :31


OSU — Terron Ward 7 run (Trevor Romaine kick) 10:51.

OSU — Trevor Romaine 20 FG 2:21.


OSU — Markus Wheaton 22 pass from Cody Vaz (Romaine kick) 10:17

OSU — Romaine 42 FG 7:34

OSU — Romaine 44 FG 3:30

STAN — Taylor 40 pass from Hogan (Williamson kick) 0:00


STAN — Zach Ertz 14 pass from Hogan (run failed) 5:07.

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