Even up 17 points in the closing seconds, the Oregon State defense did not want to allow any more points to UCLA last Saturday night.
The Beavers held the Bruins off the scoreboard and walked out of the Rose Bowl with a 48-31 Pac-12 win.
It was the second time the Beavers (2-3, 1-1) closed a half not allowing UCLA to score. The Bruins reached the OSU 47 before Shemar Smith picked up a sack to send the game to the intermission.
It was a key stop for Oregon State, which led 27-10 at the time. UCLA got the ball to start the third quarter and scored, making that stop even more important.
“To come away and not allow any points with those was big for us for some growth,” defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar said.
The Beavers had struggled in that situation, giving up a late touchdown at the end of the first half against Hawaii in Week 2 and then allowing Stanford to drive for the game-winning field goal two weeks ago.
Oregon State lost both games by three points.
“So to have success in both of those situations gives those guys some confidence to go out there and do it again,” Tibesar said.
The ability to make stops in those situation could come in handy again this week when the Beavers host No. 15 Utah for a 5 p.m. kickoff inside Reser Stadium on Homecoming.
The Utes (4-1, 1-1) will likely provide the Beavers their toughest challenge of the season.
Utah allows just 53.8 rushing yards a game, best in the Pac-12, and 282.4 total yards a game, second behind Oregon (261.4).
"Their front is one of the most talented in country," OSU offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. "That defensive line can get after you and they were able to get pressure rushing three and sometimes four guys and playing coverage, that just makes it a challenge."
Offensively, Utah leads the conference with 223.4 rushing yards per game and 460.2 total yards (fourth).
“They do what they do and they do it well,” OSU linebackers coach Trent Bray said. “They’re going to run the ball and they’ve got a great offensive line and great running backs so we expect that. So we’ve got to be great against the run and when they drop back and pass we’ve got to be in the right fits and on the right people.”
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Running back Zack Moss was still questionable on Thursday after missing the last game against Washington State two weeks ago. The Utes had a bye last week.
Quarterback Tyler Huntley can run and pass and provides the Utes a dual threat. He’s completing close to 75 percent of his passes, is averaging 229.2 passing yards per game and has yet to toss an interception.
“When we have guys with zone eyes they’ve got to do a great job of seeing the quarterback and when he takes off being able to rally,” Bray said. “We’ve got to do a good job in our rush lanes and make sure we don’t give him those big escape lanes to get through.”
Huntley has been sacked only four times this season, in part to his ability to escape pressure, but all four have come against Pac-12 teams (USC and Washington State).
That’s an area the Beavers have improved this season and Hamilcar Rashed Jr. is leading the conference with six sacks.
“He’s making plays so he’s been very productive,” Bray said. “When you get that kind of production in the backfield it’s really helped our defense as a whole.”
Like Utah, the Beavers have allowed a low number of sacks (seven) as the offense line has played well and quarterback Jake Luton, the reigning Pac-12 offensive player of the week, has been able to avoid some potential sacks with his legs.
“Our offensive line has been great,” Luton said. “They’ve been awesome all year long in keeping me upright. The receivers have been getting open so I’m able to get through my reads pretty quickly and get the ball out."
Like Huntley, Luton has yet to throw an interception, although he’s not going to be fazed if and when he eventual does.
“I’m going to go out and throw the ball around the yard and if it happens then it’s one snap and clear like coach Lindgren always says,” Luton said. “It is what it is.”
While the Beavers are double-digit underdogs, they will take plenty of confidence into the game coming off the road win at UCLA, a game in which they played a complete four quarters.
“We’ve got a really, really good football team coming in here and I think we’re a really, really good football team,” Luton said. “I think some people might not be giving us that respect because our record might not show it right now, but I think we’re right on the cusp and we know it in the locker room we’re a really good football team.
“So we’re going to be ready for them and hopefully we’ll have the students and the fans out there fired up for homecoming and be able to put a good game out there.”