Beavers pull off shocker, bring down Sun Devils
CORVALLIS -- After escaping the bedlam that had turned the Reser Stadium field into Mardi Gras, Mike Riley sought out his boss with a handshake and a wide smile.
"Happy birthday," Riley told Bob De Carolis, the Oregon State athletic director.
"I'll take it," said De Carolis, who turned 62 as Riley's Beavers shocked everyone but themselves by ending a four-game losing streak with a come-from-behind 35-27 victory over sixth-ranked Arizona State.
The better team on Saturday night won. It wasn't Arizona State, which entered the day 8-1 overall, 5-1 in Pac-12 play, in the driver's seat for the conference championship game and in the conversation for the national playoffs.
The Beavers (5-5, 2-5) made big plays and timely ones, too, in outscoring ASU 21-3 in the second half and pulling off the school's biggest upset since the 27-21 takedown of top-ranked Southern Cal in 2008.
"Our seniors talked at the beginning of the week and said, 'Why not? Why can't we beat that team?'" said linebacker D.J. Alexander, whose late sack of ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly spelled the final measure of doom for the losers. "We all came together as one and played our hearts out."
Oregon State hadn't tasted victory since a 36-31 win at Colorado on Oct. 4. There weren't a lot of folks who gave the Beavers a shot to knock off the high-flying Sun Devils. Most pundits thought the Men of Orange were destined to lose out the rest of their schedule.
"We don't pay attention to any of that," said quarterback Sean Mannion, who threw for 196 of his 251 yards, along with a pair of touchdowns, in the second half. "Everyone on this team believes in each other, and we believe in ourselves as a group.
"It's been a tough couple of weeks -- real close games where we were right in it. Everyone was feeling good about a lot of the football we were playing; it was just eliminating some of the bad, and continuing to put together good practices. It all came together tonight."
Said OSU linebacker Michael Doctor: "We didn't have anything to lose. We had energy on both sides of the ball. This was the biggest win of my career at Oregon State, by far."
Added Alexander: "Nobody believed in us but us."
ASU coach Todd Graham, who spent much of the evening taking out his frustration on officials, graciously paid homage to the Beavers afterward.
"They did a tremendous job tonight," Graham said. "Give them credit for outcoaching us and outplaying us. We weren't prepared to play them. They came out with the energy and the enthusiasm. That's (the ASU coaches') job to get them prepared. We did a poor job. I did a poor job of preparing them to play.
"They lost the last four games, and our guys didn't respect them the way we needed to. They came out and did things no one has done to us in five or six weeks. When you're sixth in the country and go into a place, you're going to get everybody's best performance. We got Oregon State's best shot tonight, and we weren't prepared for it. They deserve the credit."
Oregon State amassed 498 yards total offense with a balanced attack that featured a season-high 247 rushing yards to go with 251 through the air. Terron Ward finished with 148 yards on 19 carries, and Storm Woods added 125 yards on only 11 attempts. It was the Beavers' best two-way offensive performance since the days of Jacquizz Rodgers.
"Give at least 70 percent of the credit to our O-line," Ward said. "They played their butts off today. They were picking up the stunts and did a phenomenal job of run-blocking."
Riley gave kudos to offensive coordinator John Garrett and O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh for putting together a run game plan to combat ASU's aggressive defense.
"If you can break the first line against a blitzing team like that, there's not as many guys in pursuit," Riley said. "They didn't have many guys back. Our guys blocked it well, guys made good cuts, and we made them pay."
Trailing 24-14 at the half, Oregon State dominated the rest of the way, using big plays on both sides of the ball. Mannion found Victor Bolden for 20 yards and a TD to close to within 24-21 late in the third quarter. Then Mannion sidestepped a blitz and unloaded a bomb that Jordan Villamin turned into a 67-yard scoring play for a 28-27 lead with 10:55 to go.
After Arizona State pinned the Beavers on their 1-yard line on a punt with 8:52 remaining, the situation looked ominous. The Beavers, with the help of a pair of major Sun Devil penalties, moved to the ASU 45 before Keith Kostol's punt put the ball on the Devils' 15.
"That was an important a drive as we've had in the fourth quarter all year," Mannion said. "It was important for us to get out of the shadow of our own end zone. We flipped field position on them."
Arizona State was in trouble after Doctor stepped in front of a Kelly pass and returned an interception 35 yards for his first career TD and a 35-27 lead with 1:38 remaining.
OSU defensive coordinator Mark "Banker made a tremendous call, like he'd been doing all game," Doctor said. "I was man-to-man on the running back, but he stayed in. Our D-line did a great job of getting to (Kelly), flushing him. He didn't see me. I didn't think he was going to throw the ball, but he threw it and I jumped the route. I knew as soon as I saw all the open field I had to get in."
"I've been teasing him all week," Ward said. "Doc said he used to be a running back. When he picked it, he broke a tackle, and I was kind of surprised. I told him that when he came back out of the end zone."
Said Alexander with a laugh: "That bow-legged, pigeon-toed sucker took it to the house."
Alexander put the nail in the coffin with a fourth-down sack of Kelly on the Devils' final possession.
"When that (blitz) call came in, I told myself, 'I have to make a play right now. I have to seal the deal,'" Alexander said.
Oregon State came of the gates with a pair of career-long touchdown runs that stunned the Sun Devils -- 78 yards by Woods 3:43 into the game, then 66 yards by Ward six minutes later to give the Beavers a 14-3 jump.
"We knew Arizona State would blitz a lot," Ward said. "When they did that, they got out of position, and it opened up some holes for some big gains. Storm came out and set the tone with that big, long run. My long run set the tone, too. Any time we can get the running game going early, it gets our linemen juiced. That carried on throughout the game."
The Sun Devils gained control, though, beginning late in the first quarter and carrying through to their 24-14 halftime lead. The difference was 10 points off a pair of Oregon State turnovers -- an interception and fumble by Mannion.
But Riley said the spirits were up in the OSU locker room at the break .
"That might have been the most impressive part of the night," he said. "The mood was good and very upbeat. The offensive line and defense were very confident in what we could do. That was a very good sign."
After Oregon State took the kickoff in the third quarter, Mannion hit Villamin for 38 yards to the Arizona State 28, then found Connor Hamlett for nine yards to the 19. On second-and-1, Mannion had Caleb Smith all alone after play action but overthrew him. A third-down run by Ward gained nothing, and on fourth down, Mannion's pass went off Smith's hands in the end zone.
But the Beavers knew they could move the ball, and the defense had momentum.
"Arizona State has a good offense," Ward said, "but our defense was playing well all night."
And when it was over, the OSU students rushed the field to celebrate -- the first time that had happened since the Beavers upset 13th-ranked Wisconsin in the 2012 season opener.
"It was exciting," Ward said. "That wasn't a bad team we beat. That was the No. 6 team in the nation. It was exciting to us for the fans to even be there after what we put up the last couple of weeks. Then storming the field brought us back to Wisconsin."
Mannion was asked if the feeling in the locker room afterward was one of the reasons he chose to return to college for a senior season rather than go into the NFL draft.
"Yeah," Mannion said. "The things that last with you forever are right down there in the locker room. You get to celebrate with your teammates. Those are the kind of things that will stay with me the rest of my life.
"There have been a lot of big wins, big moments for me throughout my career here. I put this as high as any of them."
A crowd of 40,525 was announced, but that was tickets distributed. Probably 10,000 fans chose not to show, mostly because of the 7:51 p.m. start but also because they didn't give the Beavers much of a chance to win. Those who were there were loud and supportive and seemed to desperately want their team to win.
"The fans played a major role in that game," Riley said. "Our players fed off the fans tonight. It was a great atmosphere. There was true, real excitement in that fourth quarter that you could feel coming through the stadium."
Riley was asked how the coaches were able to keep the players focused through the troubled times of the past month.
"It wasn't that hard," he said. "These are good kids. I've said that since Aug. 4, when we started (training) camp. They work hard. They're easy to coach that way. Great character. Great leadership. Even though it was discouraging, they weren't going to throw it in. Everybody kept trying. When you do that, you have a chance to win."
Suddenly, the Beavers are a win away from bowl eligibility. Riley didn't shy away from that as motivation for the final two games, at Washington next Saturday and at home against Oregon on Nov. 29.
"I love bowl games for tons of reasons," he said. "It's a great reward for a team. So there's a great incentive out there."
The Beavers, though, aren't getting ahead of themselves.
"It's only one win," Ward said. "It doesn't count as two or three. But it's a big boost going up to Washington. We'll go to Seattle and try to beat them there."
NOTES: The Sun Devils had only 367 yards total offense. Tailback D.J. Foster was held to 51 yards rushing on 14 carries. It was the first time Oregon State has had two rushers gain 100 yards in a game since the 2007 Emerald Bowl. The last time the Beavers had two runs of more than 60 yards in a game was in 1994. On fourth-and-1 from the ASU 45 with three minutes left, Riley chose to punt, and Kostol's punt put the Devils at their own 15. "The players all wanted to go for it, of course," Riley said. "I didn't think it was smart at that time. We'd played so much good defense in the second half, I'd rather pin them down there and give our defense a chance to close it out."
The Beavers won despite nine penalties for 76 yards and going 1 for 12 on third down. The one conversion was the 67-yard TD strike to Villamin, who finished with four catches for 127 yards. Bolden had seven receptions for 72 yards. OSU had the ball for 19:45 to ASU's 10:15 in the second half. The Beavers had 183 first-quarter rushing yards -- more than they'd had in an entire game this season. Maybe the most impressive run of the game came when Woods had a 35-yard second-quarter burst in which he broke several tackles and somehow kept his balance to break loose before tripping at midfield. Mannion, on what effect the victory will have for the Beavers moving forward: "I don't want to say it will give us confidence. We're a confident group, and throughout the tough games, we've been able to keep faith. But it's a validation of our efforts."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Arizona State 10 14 0 3 -- 27
Oregon State 14 0 7 14 -- 35
OSU -- Storm Woods 78 run (Garrett Owens kick) 11:17
ASU -- Zane Gonzalez 28 FG 5:51
OSU -- Terron Ward 66 run (Owens kick) 5:09
ASU -- D.J. Foster 17 pass from Taylor Kelly (Gonzalez kick) 1:13
ASU -- Kody Kohl 46 pass from Kelly (Gonzalez kick) 9:40
ASU -- Antonio Longino 36 fumble return (Gonzalez kick) 7:04
OSU -- Victor Bolden 20 pass from Sean Mannion (Owens kick)
ASU -- Gonzalez 29 FG 12:43
OSU -- Jordan Villamin 67 pass from Mannion (Owens kick) 10:55
OSU -- Michael Doctor 35 interception return (Owens kick) 1:38
ATT. -- 40,525