The Beavs won the toss and elected to kick off to the Sun Devils, and the Oregon State defense came out aggressive and forced an impressive three and out. But the Oregon State offense returns the favor and goes three and out to give the ball back to Arizona State's offense, as both teams needed time to warm up in the near freezing temperatures at kickoff.
The ASU offense stalls again with more aggressive OSU pass rush and good linebacker coverage, allowing Oregon State's offense to then draw first blood on a huge Storm Woods 78 touchdown run putting OSU up 7 to 0 at the 11:17 mark. Woods, above, saw nothing but green the last 75 yards of the sprint. It was a spark of energy and fire not seen much this season, and the Beavs' defense then followed it up with a strong showing of their own on an important possession for Arizona State again as the Sun Devils looked to respond. The Oregon State defense kept the ASU offense in check with the help of an overturned tipped ball call.
But in a big turn Sean Mannion, who had looked composed and well protected, gets hit by Narcus Hardison as he threw the ball which goes to Damarious Randall for a ASU interception, but again the Beavs defense kept the pressure on and allowed only a 28 yard field goal greatly limiting the Oregon State turnover damage to only three points.
In a very big call Dylan Wynn was called for a dismissal from the game targeting call. How Umpire R. Meisenheime imagined Wynn's block on ASU kicker Alex Garoutte, above, was targeting no one could explain. But on review, the call is seen to be properly totally fabricated by the officials, and the call is overturned. Wynn then does one of his biggest celebrations on the sideline!
All of which allows Oregon State to break open again on a huge running play, this time Terron Ward goes 66 yards for another touchdown rush putting the Beavs up 14 to 3 at the 5:09 mark in the first quarter. It again was Oregon State play calling and execution taking advantage of the aggressive Arizona State blitzing schemes, and the Beavers already had 148 rushing yards at that point.
Arizona State though chips away on their next drive to take the ball down the field for a Taylor Kelly to D.J. Foster 17 yard touchdown pass play to cut the score to 14 to 10.
After what looks like a shift in momentum with a false start the Oregon State offense snags some energy back on a spinning and keeping on his balance 35 yard rush by Storm Woods to end the exciting first quarter, pushing the Beavers' rushing total to 183 yards in just 15 minutes.
The second quarter though sees the Arizona State defense step up their game and force a punt, but then a special teams mistake almost gives the ball the back but the call is only "running into" the kicker, but it gets the ball close enough for the Beavs to decide to go for it on 4th and inches and the offense converts the down. But as things have gone for the season the offense is not able to take advantage and ends up punting three downs later.
All of this does bode ill for Oregon State's push to keep the momentum on their side as Kelly hits tight end Kody Kohl for a 46 yard touchdown pass play, and Arizona State takes their first lead 17 to 14 at the 9:40 mark in the second quarter.
Oregon State looked ready to retake control of the game again with a couple excellent runs, but a break in the action slows down the momentum and then Mannion fumbles the ball which is returned 36 yards for the touchdown by Antonio Longino to put ASU up 24 to 14 at the 7:04 mark.
The second half wound down with the Beavs offense not being able to convert downs, but the defense created a huge break as the Sun Devils drove the field but the defense bends and does not break.
This sets up a 30 yard field goal that Arizona State misses, to keep the score at only a 10 point margin. Oregon State has to punt, but Arizona State turns the ball over on an interception that gives the Oregon State offense the ball close to midfield. A great diving catch by Victor Bolden gets the ball close to field goal range, but as the season has gone Bolden then drops the next easier catch. Trevor Romaine looks to be sent out for a 58 yard field goal attempt, but after the ASU timeout the Oregon State offense comes back on the field for a Hail Mary attempt that almost works but it ends up so close but yet so far away. At the same time though things looked like it was going to be a 13 point if not 17 point deficit for the Beavs going into the half.
At the half Oregon State went into the warmth of their locker room with 249 total yards, 55 yards passing and 194 yards rushing. Mannion only completed 10 for 20 attempts, but it was Woods (120 yards on 7 carries) and Ward (86 yards on 6 carries) who led the offense into the half. On the other side of the ball Arizona State had 257 total yards, 179 yards passing and 78 yards rushing. Kelly went 13 for 24, Jaelen Strong caught 5 receptions for 61 yards, all in the second quarter, and Demario Richard had 37 yards rushing on 7 carries.
The Beavers open the second half with a beautiful looking drive, but a 4th down play action call sees the ball go off of Caleb Smith's finger tips. At that point, there was considerable questioning of the decision to not take points on a field goal OR run the ball, as effectively as the Beavers had been on the ground.
The Oregon State defense though weathered the Arizona State drive, and after a couple first down conversions, and what looked like a possible Arizona State game defining drive, the OSU defense forces a Taylor Kelly pooch punt. This set the Beavs offense up for a second time is the charm in the quarter drive, and the offense behind some excellent rushing plays drove the field. The beleaguered Oregon State offensive line continued to pick up the ASU blitzes, all of which led to a 20 yard Mannion to Bolden touchdown pass play that closed the gap to 24 to 21 at the 3:19 mark of the third quarter.
The third quarter then winded down with a bit of a defensive back-and-forth with the next ASU drive going three and out, and then Oregon State offense ends the third quarter with a third down sack of Mannion.
In one of the cleaner penalty games for Oregon State does see the fourth quarter open with the trouble yellow flag trend come back to possibly haunt the Beavs with a big interface call on the punt catch on Terron Ward, which gave Arizona State excellent starting field position. This led to the Sun Devils getting another big call against Oregon State with a defensive holding call, which in the end though led to a solid red zone stand by the Beavs defense. Strong's end zone catch, below, was nullified as he came down out of bounds, forced by Steven Nelson. One of the key coaching moves of the game was the decision to have Nelson move from side to side, vs. always being on the defensive left (offensive right) as he has been all season, in order to keep Nelson on Strong in most situations.
Arizona State scored on a Zane Gonzalez 29 yard field goal, but the silver lining is that it only keeps the Sun Devils lead to six points. No one could know that would be the only points ASU would get in the sub-freezing second half.
On the next drive things looked bleak, as Oregon State got themselves into another 3rd down situation (they were 0 for 9 coming into this down), but the offensive line and blockers again picks up the Arizona State blitz allowing for Mannion to take full advantage as he hits Jordan Villamin in stride, and Villamin outran the tacklers to take it the distance on a 67 yard touchdown reception to put the Beavs back up for the first time in the second half 28 to 27.
It was Mannion's 80th (!) career touchdown toss, making him the all time leader at Oregon St., surpassing Derek Anderson.
The Oregon State defense follows up the score with another bend-but-don't-break performance, with the help of a big offensive holding penalty on what looked like to be a huge Jaelen Strong touchdown reception, but a brilliant Kelly pooch punt pins the Beavs at their 1 yard line. From this starting position Oregon State offensive made some nice plays and got a couple key penalty calls against Arizona State, but a holding call on the Beavs does finally stall the drive. At the same time though the drive does take a good amount of time off the clock.
Then what has not happened all season happened, Oregon State's Michael Doctor takes his interception to the house to put the Beavs up 35 to 27 at the 1:38 mark, above. This was after losing Nelson out of the game on an injury on a key play to break up of a possible huge catch by Strong for the Sun Devils. The play ended Strong's night as well, as both players hit the frozen field very hard.
But the Doctor pick-six is what has been totally lacking all season for the Beavs, the big play at the key moment.
"I dropped into coverage, and just locked on his (Kelly's) eyes," Doctor explained.
The game then came down to the Sun Devils having to drive the field down eight points, but the Oregon State defense comes up huge again putting a ton pressure on Kelly who is sacked by DJ Alexander on 4th and 2 to put the game away for Oregon State.
And this time around the other team does not celebrate at Reser, as the Oregon State fans that remained after halftime (about half of the original crowd of 40,525) rushed the field to celebrate with the Oregon State players.
Oregon State finished the game with 498 total yards, 251 yards passing and 247 yards rushing. Sean Mannion, above, went 19 for 33 with one touchdown and one interception. Villamin caught 4 receptions for 148 yards, but the game in many ways belonged yardage wise to the running backs with Ward rushing for 148 yards on 19 carries and Woods with 125 yards on 11 carries. Arizona State ended with 367 total yards, 264 passing yards and 103 rushing yards. Kelly went 22 for 44 and had two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Kelly's main targets were Strong with 103 yards on 9 receptions and Foster with 65 yards on 8 receptions. Foster also ran for 51 yards on 14 carries.
No matter how it is sliced it is a huge win for Oregon State (Colin Cowherd anyone?) and a huge loss for Arizona State.
The elements were tough, and this was the coldest game in the history of Arizona St. football (interesting, given they were in the WAC for a long time, with occasional late season games at BYU, Utah, Colorado St., Air Force, and Wyoming),but hats off big time for the Oregon State defense who held the Sun Devils to only 3 points in the second half. The offensive line also deserves a big time game ball with their amazing blocking coverage of the Arizona State constant barrage of blitzes. Plus one has to admit the coaching staff was in good form with some excellent halftime adjustments, excellent play calling on both sides of the ball most of the night, and maybe most importantly keeping the players heads in the game after the possible ASU dagger play on the fumble recovery for a TD.
The Beavers goes to 5 and 5 overall and 2 and 5 in the Pac-12, and the Sun Devils drop to 9 and 2 overall and even more importantly go to 5 and 2 in conference play. UCLA now is in the drivers' seat in the Pac-12 south as a result.
Oregon State will see if they can keep things going against the Washington Huskies (6-5/2-5) in Seattle next Saturday and with a win can become bowl eligible. The Beavers will be looking for a measure of revenge, after suffering the worst loss in the history of the program to the Purple last year. They will face some unhappy Huskies, after Washington lost 27-26 earlier today (yesterday?) to Arizona in Tucson, after the Wildcats hit the game winning field goal as time ran out.
It will be another late night for the Beavers in their first visit to renovated Husky Stadium, as it was announced during the game that kickoff will be after 7:30 PM in Seattle.
It will be an interesting week as we all collect our thoughts on a big win, the biggest one the Beavers have had in over 6 years. Where does this take things for the Beavs, who are still blow eligible? Can this be built on at all for a team that seemed pretty much down-and-out this season, or is it not quite enough and too late?
Whatever the upcoming answers might be at least we will be thinking about them this time around with a win to go through the week with.
And the band played on deep into the night. Cue the fight song!
Savor it Beaver Nation!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)