The Oregon State football team let out a big sigh of relief late Saturday night under the scoreboard in Sam Boyd Stadium.
Above it said the Beavers won the game 23-21. What wasn't pointed out was that they had escaped the nonconference showdown with UNLV on the road, and they knew it.
Place-kicker Justin Kahut won the game with a 33-yard field goal with seven seconds left. The game-winning drive was assisted with a fortunate pass interference call.
"This place was a lot harder than we thought," linebacker Keaton Kristick said. "We really respect these guys."
The Beavers were in a third-and-26 situation on the final drive when quarterback Sean Canfield dropped back for a deep pass and was hit hard as he threw.
The ball wobbled toward receiver Damola Adeniji, who was blocked by defender Deante' Purvis. The ball was in the area but not right at him. It was close enough that a penalty was called for an automatic first down.
Coach Mike Riley reviewed the video of the game Sunday, and it confirmed the opinion he had moments afterward. It was a penalty, but one that many times wouldn't be called in that situation.
"It was good to win, and it was hard," Riley said. "We had to battle every inch of the way. That is really good for this team. It was a big step up from a week before. We have a lot to learn from it."
The primary areas he wants his players to improve this week are in pass protection, kickoff return coverage and communication on player substitutions. There were three illegal substitution penalties in the game that he blames himself for.
The Beavers should have won the game with ease. They were up 20-7 after adjustments during halftime improved the offense.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers carried the ball 26 times for 166 yards. James Rodgers accounted for 92 all-purpose yards and a receiving touchdown.
"One of the things we had to do to win the game was to contain the Rodgers brothers, and the Rodgers brothers were a big factor in that game," UNLV coach Mike Sanford said.
Canfield completed 25 of 31 passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He stayed focused under a strong pass rush that sacked him three times.
After two games, Canfield leads the nation in completion percentage at 78.6. He has completed 33 of 42 with no interceptions.
The defense played well in the first half with two forced turnovers, but started to slip late in the game. UNLV's relentless passing attack became difficult to stop and finished with 228 yards.
"I was proud of our team and how we responded," Canfield said. "We stayed in it all the way to the end. It was a late game, in the heat. The anticipation in the hotel was big."
There were no injuries to come out of the game that will keep anyone from practice, Riley said.
Starting split end Darrell Catchings caught passes Sunday for the first time since suffering a wrist injury five weeks ago. He's expected to practice Tuesday.
"Well see on Tuesday, he might need another week of practice before he's ready for a game," Riley said.
Running back Ryan McCants will try to practice Tuesday, but may be a week away from a full-time schedule.
Cornerback Keynan Parker will be out for the rest of the year due to a second shoulder separation.
Parker came back last week after a month off from his first injury. He was covering a receiver with limited contact and his shoulder came out of the joint.