PASADENA, Calif. — It would have been natural for the Oregon State football team to have a bit of a letdown after jumping out to a 21-0 lead six minutes into Saturday’s Pac-12 game against UCLA inside the Rose Bowl.
But the Beavers knew there was still so much time left and they had yet to put together a full four quarters of football this season.
And that had cost them in 31-28 losses to both Hawaii and Stanford.
“There was a lot of energy but people kept reiterating we have to finish and we can’t (lose focus) and do what we did in previous weeks and just play a complete a game,” junior receiver Isaiah Hodgins said.
Added coach Jonathan Smith, who grew up in Pasadena: “We knew that 21 wasn’t going to win the game, so we’d have to continue to score. We knew those guys had some talent on the other side and they were going to score. You’d love to start that way, but we knew there was a ton of football left.”
There would be no letdown this time around as the Beavers made play after play and never allowed UCLA to get closer than 10 points the rest of the game in a 48-31 victory.
“We’ve been so close for so long so it felt good to finally get one,” linebacker Avery Roberts said.
It’s just the second Pac-12 win in the last 20 for the Beavers, who are now 2-3 overall on the season and 1-1 in conference play, tied with Stanford for second place in the North Division.
“It’s satisfying for sure,” Smith said. “Especially going back to how hard these kids are working and staying on it and trusting us and trusting the process, and still believing in the things and I think that it showed tonight. We’ve been talking about responses and each side picking each other up and I thought we did that tonight.”
Quarterback Jake Luton had one of the better games of his Oregon State career, finishing with five passing touchdowns — three to Hodgins — and rushing for a six on a closing drive that sealed the win. He was named the College Football Performance Awards national player of the week.
“He was playing with some great confidence and seeing it well,” Smith said of Luton, who finished 18-for-26 passing for 285 yards and no interceptions. “He was accurate with the ball. ... He has just grown, and he played lights out tonight.”
The Bruins twice cut the deficit to 10 in the second half and each time the Beavers responded.
The first came on a third-and-2 at the OSU 47. The Beavers rushed to the line of scrimmage and appeared to be lined up for a run play. Instead, Luton dropped back to pass and Tyjon Lindsey got behind the defense for a 53-yard score.
“Sometimes when you get a guy wide open that’s not always the easiest throw and Jake put a great ball on him and Tyjon scored,” Smith said. “To be honest with you we were going to go for it on fourth down and so that was something to take a shot.”
Added Luton: "We’ve had that one in the playbook since the coaching staff got here and never really had the chance for the right opportunity to run it. It worked out well, we kind of hustled up to the line and we had a pretty good idea it was going to be.”
Then the Beavers converted a fourth-and-6 at the UCLA 29 on their next possession. Luton found Kolby Taylor for seven yards and one play later hit Hodgins on a double move for a touchdown.
“We threw the outbreak to him early in the game and set that up nicely,” Smith said of Taylor’s catch. “(He) sold the flat route and comes back inside and he really, I think, he caught it just short and dives for it.”
The 21-0 lead was not only good for the offense but took some pressure off the defense.
As soon as we got up we knew our offense was going to keep scoring so we just had to do our part,” Roberts said.
The Beavers did give up 492 total yards of offense but only 5.5 yards per play; the Beavers had 7.7 on offense.
If you take out the one 75-yard touchdown run, the average per play would have been 4.7 per play.
“I do think we made them earn it,” Smith said. “They put long possessions together. I think the one long run they got we had 10 guys on the field to start and we were getting a guy out late and that didn’t help.”
While the win was exciting and the players enjoyed celebrating on the field and in the locker room, there is still a lot of football to be played, beginning Saturday at home against a Utah team that some felt could challenge for a College Football Playoff berth at the start of the season.
“Any time you win it’s huge, that’s what you’re trying to do,” Smith said. “We know we have a tough task ahead of us and each week is going to be tough but I think it helps for sure the morale. The culture is great around our place. These guys have worked hard and got the score where we want it.”