The first half was a physical defensive battle between the two teams. Oregon State kicks off to 20th ranked Utah, and the Utes bring out Kendal Thompson for his first college start at QB. Thompson does a good job marching the team down the field for looks like a possible tone setting drive, but the Beavs defense bends and does not break forcing a punt.
The first play of the first possession for Oregon State starts off with Sean Mannion trying to rope a ball into coverage giving up an interception that gives Utah the ball at the OSU 20 yard line. Again the OSU defense plays tough, highlighted by an excellent coverage play on what looked to be a touchdown pass that is knocked out of the receiver's hands at the last moment by safety Ryan Murphy. Utah's Andy Phillips hits a 38 yard field goal to put the Utes up 3 to 0.
Oregon State then goes to the run on the next drive with four straight rushes, but a sack kills the drive and the Beavers give the ball back to Utah. Utah drives the field but again the Oregon State defense bends but does not break and yields only a 43 yard field goal that puts Utah up 6 to 0 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter stayed much the same, but the tide does flip slightly in the Beavs favor in that Oregon State is able to force two turnovers and get two field goals. But really the story of the quarter was the defenses.
Oregon State's defense was highlighted by a huge sack by Lavonte Barnett and then a Dylan Wynn interception, above, off a ricocheted reception attempt sets up the Beavs for a Trevor Romaine 37 yard field goal at the 11:24 mark. This drive was looking to finally a possible touchdown for Oregon State after Victor Bolden rips off 27 yards on a fly-sweep, but a key false start penalty yet again haunts the Beavs offense, which has to settle for the field goal.
The quarter then settled into a back-and-forth of three and outs and crucial stops for each defense. Oregon State looked to have something going with a nice fourth-and-one conversion and was driving, but Storm Woods fumbles the ball turning it over to the Utes.
At the end of the half though Oregon State gets a huge play and a Thompson fumble at the 31 second mark inside the Utah 30 yard line. A botched snap does back up the Beavs for a 45 yard field goal. The drama of this score was Utah calling two timeouts to ice Romaine, who actually misses one attempt after the second Utes timeout, to then put the next kick straight through. And the first half defensive battle ends with the teams all even at 6 to 6.
The first half stats completely reflected the defensive dominance for both teams. Oregon State was able to only rack up 108 total yards, 43 yards coming through the air with Mannion going 6 for 12 and put in 65 yards on the ground. On the other side Utah only is able to garner 81 total yards, with Thompson going 4 for 8 for 17 yards and the Utes were able to rush for 64 yards.
Oregon St. quarterback Sean Mannion was under pressure, as above by Utah's Nate Orchard, all night.
One troubling note was seeing both Oregon State's running backs go out with injuries, which was one indicator of a heck of a physical game, and a first half with a lot of chippy play and attitude by both squads.
The first play of the second half goes well with Mannion finally getting time to set and throw to Victor Bolden for 16 yards, but Utah's defense again steps up to force a punt. One good note is that Terron Ward returned to the game after the half, but Storm Woods does not return, due to a knee injury, giving Chris Brown some key playing time.
Utah came out in the second half with Travis Wilson, but it is running back Devontae Booker who then makes the big opening play on a 42 yard rush. Overall the QB change gave the Utes a little opening spark as they drive down the field to score on another Phillips' field goal (46 yards). Yet again though, it is also a case of the Oregon State defense bending but not breaking (although a fumble recovery would have been nice on the botched play by Utah QB Wilson that Utah is able to recover).
The third quarter yet again settled down into a series of key defensive plays by both teams. Oregon State finally looked to open things up with a great play call rolling out Mannion who threw out of his endzone 52 yards to Victor Bolden. The Beavs falter again and can't convert a fourth down play to give the ball back to Utah.
But as was the theme of the game Utah is stuffed yet again, but they did force Oregon State to use their second timeout of the half (which comes in to play later in the game), yet the timeout does lead to a key sack by the Beavs defense to end the third quarter with the Utes hanging on to a tenuous 9 to 6 lead.
The fourth quarter finally sees a team break through for a touchdown, which is set up nicely for Oregon State by a strong Ward rush that leads to two plays later Mannion getting enough time on a play action for a 72 yard shot to Jordan Villamin, below, giving the Beavs their first lead of the game 13 to 9 at the 13:49 mark.
The Utes find their way to the end zone finally after a Booker 53 yard rush to the Oregon State 6 yard line (their first 3rd down conversion of the game) to then score a touchdown on a 4th and 1 going up 16 to 13 at the 4:06 mark.
In one of the more strangely low-key last minutes drive the Beavs overcome a false start penalty and then a sack to give Trevor Romaine an opportunity to tie the game and he promptly drills through a 49 yard field goal to send the game to OT.
In OT Utah strikes first and converts a short 3rd down to then two plays later score on a Booker 15 yard touchdown run. Oregon State makes it a bit more dramatic after Terron Ward makes a big time catch and run with a 15 yard face mask added on, but the Beavs need a 4th and 2 to score on a Mannion pass to Jordan Villamin to tie the game again.
The second OT sees Oregon State miss a 37 yard field goal and completely open the game up for Utah. In the end, with the Beavs defense hanging on with just fumes, the Utes are able to punch the ball in for the game winning TD, on a 19 yard run by Booker, below, his 3rd TD of the night, capping his 229 yard game, which sends Utah to 5 and 1 overall and 2 and 1 in the Pac South; the Beavs drop to 4 and 2 and 1 and 2 in the North.
Oregon State finished with 391 yards, Sean Mannion threw for 272 (21 for 37), which moved him past USC's Carson Palmer into 2nd place on the career passing yards list in the Pac-12, behind only another Trojan, Matt Barkley, and Terron Ward rushed for 70 yards on 23 carries. Utah ended up with 315 yards with the game ball going to Devontae Booker who rushed for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns. Indeed Booker was the difference in this game as Utah only mustered 62 yards passing between the two QBs. But it was just the type of difference needed to win a game that hinged on which offense could find just enough advantage to overcome an epic defensive battle.
It was a long and exhausting game that saw both defenses shine for most of the game, the special teams make key plays, and the offenses come up big at crucial times. It was a well fought football game and both teams had their chances, but it just came down to a missed play here and there for the Beavs and a last bit of Utah offense grinding down the game.
Oregon State will get another chance to go head-to-head against an excellent defense in the Stanford Cardinal when the Beavs visit "The Farm" next Saturday for a 12:30pm air time.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)