TUCSON, Ariz. — Jake Luton, Artavis Pierce, Isaiah Hodgins, Jermar Jefferson and Noah Togiai, among others, made life difficult for new Arizona defensive coordinator Chick Cecil from the start on Saturday afternoon.
Oregon State’s offensive stars put together one of the Beavers best performances this season in the first half en route to a 56-38 Pac-12 win at Wildcat Stadium.
The Beavers, who had a bye last week, have won their last two games and three of four — all three have been on the road — and need two wins to become bowl eligible.
And while Arizona was able to keep it close in the second half, the Beavers were able to hang on.
Next up is a Friday night showdown with reeling Washington, who lost 33-28 at home to No. 9 Utah on Saturday.
The Beavers (4-4, 3-2) finished the game with 572 total yards of offense with Luton finishing 20 of 26 for 328 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
"We were rolling," Luton said. "I thought in all phases of the game we were doing really good things. The offensive line did a really good job both in the run game and gave me time to make things happen."
Pierce rushed 15 times for 114 yards and one score and Jefferson added 105 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns in his first action since the UCLA game on Oct. 5.
Hodgins continued his torrid season with seven receptions for 150 yards and two scored and Togiai had five for 69 yards and a score.
“Offensively I thought we were really efficient and executed at a high level,” coach Jonathan Smith said. “Third down and converting and getting scores in the red zone. We’ve got a big time quarterback and the run game was there so we played really balanced. Excited about that effort.”
The Beavers did give up 526 total yards on defense with 378 coming through the air. Grant Gunnell was 19 for 29 for 269 yards and two scores and Khalil Tate was 7 for 12 for 109 yards.
J.J. Taylor had just 78 rushing yards and two scores as the Wildcats (4-5, 2-4) were limited to 148 on the ground.
“On the flip side we’ve got some work to do, play a little more disciplined,” Smith said. “But any time you can come down here and get a win we are fired up about it.”
Oregon State piled up 385 total yards of offense in the first half and scored on five of its six possessions. Four of the TD drives went for 75 yards and the final, and most devastating, was a 92-yarder in the closing minute of the first half.
Luton was 13 for 19 in the first half for 244 yards and two scores while Pierce had 76 yards and a score, Jefferson had 48 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Hodgins had four catches for 96 yards and a score, and Togiai added his five receptions for 69 yards and a score.
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The Beavers started fast in the opening possession, going 75 yards in nine plays with Luton teaming with Hodgins for a 21-yard touchdown, his 11th of the season, for a 7-0 lead with 11:22 left in the opening quarter.
The Wildcats answered with a 23-yard field goal with 6:23 left to make it 7-3 after Taylor had a 3-yard touchdown run wiped out by a holding penalty. It was a 14-play, 70-yard drive that ate up 5:04 off the clock.
Arizona used a 41-yard pass play to get to the 13 on its next possession but once again the Beavers’ defense held and forced a 27-yard field goal to keep a 7-6 lead with 2:33 left in the first.
Luton started the second quarter by hitting Hodgins for 27 yards to the 5 and Jefferson made it 14-6 with 14:04 left in the half on a 1-yard run on third down.
The Wildcats stormed back thanks to the help of a defensive pass interference and defensive holding call. Gunnell hit Gary Brightwell for a short pass and he eluded JoJo Forest and went 38 yards for the touchdown.
After offsetting penalties on the 2-point try, Doug Taumoelau knocked down the second attempt and the Beavers remained in the lead at 14-12 with 13:03 left in the half.
A 39-yard pass from Luton to Hodgins gave the Beavers first-and-goal at the 3 on their next drive. Two plays later, Jefferson took it in from the 5 and the Beavers led 21-12 with 9:02 left in the half.
Two questionable roughing the passer calls and two legitimate facemask calls helped the Wildcats into the end zone. Taylor made it a 21-19 game with a 3-yard run with 5:41 left before the half.
Once again the Beavers countered as Luton found Jesiah Irish for a 43-yard pass play on third down to get to the 18. It was just the third catch for Irish this season.
Pierce then went 14 yards and 4 more for the touchdown and a 28-19 lead with 2:31 left in the half.
After a defensive stop thanks to a pair of sacks from Hamilcar Rashed Jr., the Beavers went 92 yards in seven plays and needed just 54 seconds to take a 35-19 lead into the half.
Luton connected with Togiai from 23 yards out to cap the drive. Togiai also had catches of 12 and 20 yards on the drive as well.
The Beavers picked up where they left off in the second half as the defense forced a three-and-out and the offense went 65 yards for a score, capped by Jefferson’s 5-yard run and third TD of the game, with 10:33 left in the third for a 42-19 lead.
The Wildcats ended Oregon State’s run of 21 straight points with a 35-yard touchdown pass but failed again on a 2-point try and the Beavers had a 42-25 lead with 8:42 left in the third.
The Beavers went three and out and Arizona scored again as Brightwell went in from 11 yards out but the Wildcats missed the PAT and Oregon State led 42-31 with 3:20 left in the third.
Arizona had a chance to get even closer but a missed field goal kept it an 11-point game. That was until the Beavers took the next drive and scored on a 25-yard Luton to Hodgins touchdown pass to make it 49-31 with 7:58 to play.
Arizona scored again to make it 48-39 but the onside kick went out of bounds and the Beavers broke the 50-point barrier in Tyjon Lindsey’s 24-yard run.