Oregon St.'s Cody Vaz threw for 3 touchdowns, with no turnovers, in his first start. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
Oregon St. used a dominant 4th quarter during which they outscored BYU 21-3 to pull away from a scrappy Cougar team, and claim a 42-24 road win that gave the tenth ranked Beavers their first 5-0 start to a season since 1939. And they did it with a quarterback, Cody Vaz, who had never started an college game before, and hadn't even played since season before last.
The mid-week meniscus surgery that sidelined the Beavers' starting senior Sean Mannion for 2-4 weeks was supposed to spell an end to the great start Oregon St. was off to, especially going up against the #3 defense in the country.
But Vaz dismissed all such talk by completing all 5 of his passes, including the 11 yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton, in driving Oregon St. 75 yards for a touchdown on the first series of the game.
BYU's Riley Nelson, who was making his first start after missing a pair of games with a back injury, answered by completing 5 of his first 6 passes, and leading the Cougars on a 75 yard scoring drive of their own, and it was clear that predictions for something like a 6-3 game were out the window 5 1/2 minutes into the game.
Vaz would find Wheaton again, this time for a 24 yard touchdown, above, with 3 minutes left in the first quarter, which staked Oregon St. to a 14-7 lead that held up almost until halftime, before Nelson found Devin Mahina for a 2 yard touchdown on 4th down, 1 of 3 4th downs BYU faced and converted on the day.
The Beavers and Cougars traded third quarter scores, as Storm Woods stormed into the end zone from 16 yards out, and Jamaal Williams answered with a 2 yard touchdown run.
Vaz did struggle mid-game, suffering 6 consecutive incompletions at one point, but fought that off, and completed 6 of his last 8 passes of the game, starting with completions to Brandin Cooks for 11 and then 59 yards as the 3rd quarter ended.
Markus Wheaton's downfield blocking sprung Brandin Cooks for a 59 yard gain.
It set up one of the stranger plays of the game, as Vaz, who had had a couple of other passes deflected, again saw a pass get tipped. But the ball was deflected directly toward the Beavers' tight end Colby Prince, who wrestled the ball away from 2 Cougar defenders for the touchdown that put Oregon St. ahead for good, up 28-21 12 seconds into the 4th. quarter.
BYU drove into the Oregon St. red zone moments later, but the Beaver defense stiffened, forcing the Cougars to settle for a field goal.
Vaz responded by directing the drive that opened the game's first multiple score lead, capped by Wheaton's third touchdown of the day, on a double reverse, which Vaz threw the key block on. Wheaton's 12 yard run made it 35-24 OSU with 5 1/2 minutes to go. Oregon St. overcame a pair of penalties, and then benefited from a pair of Pass Interference calls on the Cougars, the second of which resulted in considerable controversy. But it didn't deter the reverse from working. It was possibly the best call of a masterfully called game by Oregon St. Head Coach Mike Riley.
The reverse was well sold, with BYU flowing with the play, and not noticing Wheaton going the other way.
However, the play would still have been shut down were it not for Vaz's block.
Wheaton's running ability in traffic didn't hurt either.
The Oregon St. defense closed the day out with a pair of interceptions, the first on a ball that caromed off Ross Apo's shoulder pad, a bad thing with with Jordan Poyer in the vicinity. Poyer snagged the ball out of mid-air and raced 49 yards for the touchdown a half minute after Wheaton's score.
Rashaad Reynold's interception on the next series sent the BYU Homecoming crowd of 63,484 for the exits.
Vaz finished with 20 completions on 32 attempts, for 332 yards, with the 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions.
"He was magnificent," Riley said while picking up his order of "In-N-Out" Burgers for the team.
In all, the Beavers rolled up 450 yards on the "Zion Curtain" defense.
"Obviously, we didn't expect that," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "I didn't do a very good job of preparing us."
Oregon St. got a game high 57 yards rushing on 11 carries from Storn Woods, above, before losing him to an apparent sprained right knee. Woods would lobby to return to the game, but the Beavers' team medical staff wouldn't allow it.
Fortunately, Malcolm Agnew, above, was able to add 44 yards, and Oregon St. wound up with 118 rushing yards, not spectacular, but still nearly twice what the BYU defense, which entered the game #1 in the nation against the rush, has averaged.
Vaz's spectacular day was made easier by the antics of Cooks and Wheaton. Cooks, above, finished with 8 catches for 173 yards, and Wheaton, below, added 66 yards on 5 catches, including the first 2 Oregon St. scores. Cooks went out late in the 1st. quarter, after a scary looking twisted ankle, late in the first quarter, but a re-tape job had him back early in the 2nd period.
But even that was largely possible by a stellar job by the Oregon St. offensive line, which gave Vaz time to throw all day. And with his mobility, Vaz suffered only 2 sacks.
Nelson completed 28 of 51 passes, for 305 yards, and also troubled Oregon St. with crucial runs, above, but in the end, ran for only 29 net yards.
BYU's Cody Hoffman, above, caused most of the problems for the Beaver defense in the passing game, catching 10 balls for 102 yards, but the Beavers were able to keep the rest of the Cougars receivers under control.
The biggest problem turned out to be shovel passes from Hoffman to Williams, who had 4 catches for 76 yards, including the one above, which was far more than he came up rushing, where he had only 36 yards on 15 carries.
In defense of the Oregon St. defense, the shovel pass was something BYU had not run all year until a single time in last week's win over Utah St., so there was no tape on it.
The other problem play for the Beavers was the option, which picked up key yards on several occasions, and a touchdown. It's another play Oregon St. hasn't seen all season, and rarely in a year.
Despite the problems with these plays, its important to grasp the significance of what Oregon St. accomplished in Provo. During Mendenhall's career, BYU was 62-8, and most recently 27-1, when the Cougars score 24 or more points, before today.
Few expected to see Richie Harrington, above, taking a knee to run out the clock on an 18 point Oregon St. win today.
Oregon St. improved to 5-0, and has only 2 road games remaining. The Beavers, who are 3-0 in the Pac-12 North, now return to Corvallis for a Saturday night Homecoming encounter with Utah (2-4, 0-3). The Utes dropped a 21-14 decision to UCLA in the Rose Bowl today.
BYU fell to 4-3 for the year, and visit Notre Dame (6-0) next Saturday. The Irish edged Stanford 20-13 in overtime today in South Bend.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)