CORVALLIS — Jovan Stevenson broke to the outside and sprinted 15 yards untouched to the end zone early in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
The scoring run was his second in less than 30 seconds of game time and put Oregon State up 31-14 over Northwest rival Washington in Reser Stadium.
And just like that, an unbelievably difficult season appeared to get a little bit better.
Playing inspired in their final home game of the season, the Beavers put a walloping on the Huskies, who looked nothing like a program on the rise after a 38-21 Pac-12 loss.
After sacking Washington quarterback Nick Montana on fourth down with less than a minute left, the Beavers simply had to kneel down twice, much to the delight of the announced crowd of 42,766.
“It feels great to get a win for our team and especially for the seniors,” redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion said. “They have put a lot of work in every season that they have been here. They are all good role models for me and the other young guys. I definitely look up to them and I am glad that we could get a win for them today.”
In a game of big plays and missed opportunities, the Beavers (3-8, 3-5) made more and missed less than the Huskies (6-5, 4-4), who have now lost four of their last five after a promising start that saw them ranked in the top-25 poll.
“The best way to describe that game and how I feel right now is frustrated,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “It was a frustrating, frustrating game. So many opportunities to make plays and to get off the field defensively ... that didn’t happen. Some opportunities, obviously, offensively to create some big plays that could have potentially swung the game and gotten the momentum back in our favor that didn’t happen.”
While Stevenson’s two quick touchdowns appeared to put the game away, the Huskies turned to Keith Price, the starter all season who has been battling sore knees, at quarterback. He led them on a 10-play, 85-yard drive and hit Devin Aguilar for a 20-yard TD on fourth down to make it 31-21 with 7:50 left.
The Beavers fumbled the kickoff and UW recovered, but Ryan Murphy came up with an interception at the 1 to regain possession for the Beavers.
“Man, he saved my butt because I gave up the first touchdown the drive before,’ senior safety Lance Mitchell said. “I know what kind of player Ryan is. He’s going to make a lot of plays in his career here. I think that might have been the biggest play of the game right there.”
If not, it could be two plays later when Mannion and Markus Wheaton teamed up for a 52-yard pass play to get the Beavers out of the shadow of their own end zone.
“I was kind of nervous when we made that call because we were backed up (near) the end zone,” Wheaton admitted. “But we had the coverage we wanted and I gave him an outside move and he bit.”
The catch helped the Beavers jumpstart a 12-play, 99-yard drive that Stevenson capped with a 1-yard run with 2:12 left.
It was a rebound game for Stevenson, who fumbled inside the 5 last week at Cal in a 23-6 loss. Stevenson finished with 41 yards rushing on 10 carries and the three TDs.
“It’s never good to fumble on the 1-yard line so I was trying to redeem myself as much as possible,” Stevenson said. “I didn’t know I was going to get in the game like that but when I did I had to make the most of it.”
While the Beavers were making big plays, the Huskies were missing opportunities, especially in the third quarter. Down 17-14 at half, UW had plenty of chances to take the lead in the third — none bigger than the one late in the quarter. Standout tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was all alone down the sideline but dropped Montana’s pass that would likely have gone for a touchdown to put the Huskies up 21-17.
“Big players make big-time plays and I didn’t make that play,” said Seferian-Jenkins, who caught two first-half touchdowns. “I’m disappointed in myself and let down my team. It’s really hard to deal with right now but (I’ve) got to move on.”
The Huskies squandered another opportunity minutes later when Erik Folk missed a 39-yard field at the end of the quarter after a fumble recovery set the Huskies up in Beavers territory. It was the first field goal Folk missed from under 40 yards.
The Beavers then took control with a seven-play, 79-yard drive capped by Stevenson’s 3-yard run. OSU sacked Montana, who fumbled, and recovered at the 15. Stevenson scored on the first play and it was 31-14.
With Montana getting his first start, the Huskies turned to Polk to get the offense going. He did on the first drive, rushing for 39 yards on seven carries and setting up Montana’s 4-yard TD pass to Seferian-Jenkins for a quick 7-0 lead.
The Beavers answered back as Mannion connected with James Rodgers for a 6-yard scoring play. Rodgers tied Mike Hass’ career receptions record at OSU on the play and is now one behind James Newson for the career TD receptions record with 19. Newson scored 20 from 2000-03.
Rodgers later broke Hass’ mark of 220 and now has 222.
Jordan Poyer intercepted Montana on the next possession and Mannion capped the drive with a 6-yard pass to Micah Hatfield, his first career catch at OSU.
“It was funny when he was coming out of the huddle I told him, ‘Let’s get this touchdown,’ ” said Rodgers, who had to leave the game with a sprained ankle just before the half. “I knew he was going to get it. We got them on the same route last year and scored a touchdown.”
Mannion finished 26 for 37 with 339 yards and two TDs. The Beavers found enough of a run game, finishing with 145 yards with Stevenson and Terron Ward sharing time in the backfield. Wheaton also chipped in with 66 yards.
The Beavers held the Huskies to 155 yards passing, with 76 coming on the drive that Price led in the fourth quarter. They also kept Polk in check as he finished with 109 yards on 25 carries.
“I think we just executed real well,” Mannion said. “We made some big plays, a couple long runs on the reverse to Markus and Obum (Gwacham) on the shallow cross we turned up field. I think across the board we did a good job, just kind of chipping away, we kept executing and I think it was a pretty well-played game.”
Not a bad way to leave Reser after such a rough season.