For the second time in as many weeks, the Oregon State offense needed to make what would essentially be a game-winning drive.
Last week at Arizona, the Beavers went 75 yards in 10 plays to score the go-ahead touchdown in the closing minutes for a 38-35 win over the Wildcats.
The stakes weren’t so dire on Saturday in Reser Stadium, but the Beavers, leading just 13-6 with 9 minutes, 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter, needed to make some kind of a statement after a Washington State field goal.
They did just that.
Picking up three big third-down conversions, the Beavers went 86 yards in 12 plays with Tyler Anderson punching it in from a yard out for a 19-6 lead with 4:27 left.
Then it was the defense getting what amounted to another game-ending interception, this time by Jordan Poyer, his third of the game, as the No. 14 Beavers escaped the Cougars with a 19-6 Pac-12 win in front of a Reser Stadium record crowd of 46,579.
“As hard and sometimes ugly as it was offensively, I thought to pull themselves together, because there’s still a lot of young guys there … I thought ‘OK, let’s get this thing done’ and then they made plays,” OSU coach Mike Riley said. “Two of those third-down conversions on that drive were major league, I mean major-league plays.”
The victory gives the Beavers their first 4-0 start since 2002. It also means OSU is 3-0 in conference play as they head to BYU for next Saturday’s nonconference tilt in Provo, Utah.
This game was far from pretty.
Both offenses struggled, but the Beavers were able to put together two touchdown drives in the second half to leave Reser with a win.
The first came at the start of the third quarter with OSU leading just 6-3.
The Beavers went 75 yards in 10 plays with Sean Mannion rolling to his right and finding Markus Wheaton in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown.
Then it was the fourth-quarter drive. WSU (2-4, 0-3) had just cut the Beavers’ lead to 13-6 on a 32-yard field goal by Andrew Furney.
Facing a third-and-1 at the 23, Anderson took a quick-hitter up the middle and burst outside for 25 yards, the longest rush for the Beavers this season, and a crucial first down.
With a third-and-11 at its own 47, Mannion hit Brandin Cooks for 13 yards and a first.
Mannion and Cooks teamed up again, this time for 12 yards on third-and-eight from the 25.
After a holding penalty, Mannion hit Wheaton for 22 yards to the 1. Anderson took it in a play later for the 19-6 lead.
Jordan Poyer sealed the game with an interception, his third of the game, moments later.
“Our defense this week picked the team up and made plays and really did the same thing to them,” Riley said. “You have to play the game you’re in and our kids basically fought through it and won.”
It was a struggle for both offenses. Mannion finished 25-for-42 passing for 270 yards and three interceptions.
The Beavers managed just 100 net yards rushing, with Storm Woods collecting 54 yards on 15 carries and Malcolm Agnew 44 on 10 attempts. Wheaton led OSU with nine catches for 95 yards while Cooks added five receptions for 82 yards.
Connor Halliday and Jeff Tuel were a combined 20 for 37 with four interceptions for the Cougars, who had just 20 net yards rushing.
“Defenses for both teams played better than the offenses,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “Oregon State’s defense was more physical than our offense. Their defense got our offense out of timing on a lot of plays.”
The Beavers ended with five takeaways and three sacks, areas Riley said they needed to make an impact with how much the Cougars like to throw the ball.
“We knew they were going to be a primarily a passing team (and) that we should take our opportunities to get sacks,” Riley said. “You’ve got to get sacks, or get knockdowns or interception to turn the game around and we did a little of all that.”
Scott Crichton had the three sacks, including two on the same drive midway through the third quarter that helped OSU keep a 13-3 advantage. The second came when the Beavers rushed just three players on third-and-17 at the OSU 39.
The first half started about as well as the Beavers could have wanted as they got a three-and-out on defense, then drove 41 yards and got a 30-yard field goal by Trevor Romaine.
Poyer gave the Beavers the ball back with an interception at the WSU 32. However, the Beavers failed on fourth down.
OSU’s third drive looked promising until Mannion threw the first of his two first-half interceptions to give the Cougars the ball back at their own 6.
With the exception of two big pass plays, the Cougars had little offense in the first half. The first long completion set up a field goal and the second had the Cougars in field goal range before a penalty and sack by Crichton forced them to try a long field goal at the close of the half. The snap was bad and the Beavers took a 6-3 lead into the break.