It was torture for Oregon State Beavers fans pre-game and especially in the first half. Cody Vaz, starting in place of Sean Mannion, fumbles the ball on the opening drive. Arizona State Sun Devils recover the ball in the end zone, putting them up 7-0. The half continued to go incredibly bad for OSU, when the Sun Devils blocked a punt and sent the ball through the back of the end zone, granting ASU 2 points and the ball back. Aside from a touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton, who caught the ball midfield and juked defenders taking it an extra 20 yards for the score, the Beavers could not get much of an offensive game going. The Sun Devils defensive line was applying pressure and bashing through Beavers offensive line. Vaz was sacked a total of six times, having trouble putting the ball in the air because of the abusive pass rush, led by ASU’s star defensive lineman, Will Sutton.
Lets back track a bit before we move on. Not only was the Beavers star defensive player and corner back, Jordan Poyer, out with a knee injury, Storm Woods, the starting running back, sat on the sidelines as well with a similar injury. This was only Vaz’s third start and the team was coming off a loss in Seattle last week.
Terron Ward, the third-string running back ran all over ASU, amounting 146 yards on 19 carries and an astonishing 53-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He must have come out of nowhere. I am sure the Sun Devils did not expect such a performance. "They just threw me in and I just took advantage," Ward said.
The score was 19-19 at the half. “To be honest,” Head Coach Mike Riley said, “it felt like we should have been behind a lot more.” When talking about the second half he said that, “The beauty of it is, for people that watch football, is that they’ve got to be pretty fun games to watch. You’ve got to stay if you want to find out what’s going to happen.”
Come third quarter, OSU was ready to play and determined to win the game. Beavers held ASU quarterback, Taylor Kelly, to only 153 yards passing, impressive without Poyer to control the defense. Rashaad Reynolds led the team with 9 tackles and Scott Crichton delivered his 9th sack of the season with 5 tackles as well.
As usual, Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks had excellent games scoring big for the Beavers. They combined for 224 yards and three touchdowns. Cody Vaz threw for 267 yards with three touchdowns. It is interesting how much of an impact these two powerful wide receivers have on the OSU offense.
With 11 minutes and 37 seconds left in the third, Vaz guns a pass to Wheaton, in tight single coverage, to the left corner of the end zone. Staying poised and following his route, Wheaton turns, keeps his eye on the ball and repositions himself, creating space between him and the defender. He then follows through with the catch, the ball hitting him right in the middle of the diamond, his hands subconsciously make up. Touchdown! This breaks the tie and puts the Beavers up 26-19.
With an effective game on the ground from Ward, the field opened up tremendously.
“Terron had a great night, he stepped up big for us,” Vaz said. “He had some great runs and it kept them guessing a big on defense. We were able to gash them on some big runs so they weren’t able to pressure us as much.”
Cooks said he was as wide open as he had ever been and it was the truth when he grabbed a 49-yard touchdown pass to end the game, just like he’d practiced, with no defenders in sight. “We’re not the team that’s going to lay down,” Cooks said. “We’re going to come back and punch somebody in the mouth.”
“I feel like this is the game when we finally came together and both the offense and defense played well,” said defensive end Dylan Wynn.
Next week OSU Football makes it’s last trip out of Oregon for the regular season, traveling to California to face the No. 16 ranked Stanford Cardinal.
Jay Huffman is on Twitter. Follow him at @JayHuffmanLIVE