Saturday night was a moment Jermar Jefferson dreamed about as a child.
When Artavis Pierce injured his elbow in the second quarter, Jefferson knew he had to step up.
Boy did he.
The true freshman running back turned in the third-most rushing yards in a single game in Oregon State football history, running through the Southern Utah defense for 238 yards and a school record-tying four rushing touchdowns as the Beavers rolled to a 48-25 win over the Thunderbirds before an announced Reser Stadium crowd of 36,488.
Jefferson deflected the praise.
“It’s great but I’ve got to give it up to me O-line, they did great,” Jefferson said. “They were opening up big holes for me so I could do good stuff in the open field.”
Jefferson finished one yard behind Steven Jackson (239) for the second most yards in a single game. Bill Enyart holds the record with 299.
“I think he’s running with some confidence,” said Jonathan Smith, who earned his first win as head coach. “He did throughout camp have a lot of carries and I thought he was going to be a good player. But sometimes you put him in front of a crowd and he looks a little different. Well, that guy doesn’t blink.
“I did think our offensive line did a nice job blocking for him and then he made some guys miss in space.”
The Beavers hadn’t won since edging Portland State 35-32 on Sept. 2, 2017.
“Wins are hard to come by no matter who the opponent is,” said linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray said. “For this program I think it means a lot to put us in the right place.”
Oregon State scored on its first six possessions in scoring 41 first-half points.
A defense that surrendered 70 points — the other seven came on a fumble recovery in the end zone — to Ohio State, bent at times but didn’t break often.
Conor Blount, who got the start with Jake Luton still recovering from the concussion he suffered on the first series at Ohio State last week, was sensation in the first half.
Blount picked apart the Thunderbirds' defense, completing 15 of 22 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown.
Pierce added 91 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown before leaving the game in the second quarter.
The Beavers finished with 649 totals yards, seventh-best in program history, with 360 coming on the ground.
“I just think we were keeping them off-balanced,” Blount said. “We weren’t getting too pass happy or too run happy. We had some good play calls and we just went out there and executed. That’s really what it is, it comes down to execution. Every single play has an answer and it’s about finding that answer … and then execute.”
While the offense was in high gear in building a 41-7 lead at the half, the defense shined as well.
The Beavers had four three-and-outs in the first half and forced five punts and had a turnover on downs in seven first-half drives.
“I really liked our start, obviously. Both sides of the ball in the first half were really doing some good things,” Smith said. “The balance I thought offensively was great and then the defense holding them to seven points, because that’s a good offense over there. Those guys can score and they will the rest of the year.”
Southern Utah won the toss but elected to defer so the Beavers got the ball first.
Oregon State came out running tempo and proceeded to drive 69 yards on 10 plays but had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Jordan Choukair for a 3-0 lead.
The defense then forced a three-and-out and Trevon Bradford fielded the punt at the 18 and zigzagged across the field for a 46-yard return.
The Beavers converted two fourth-and-shorts on the drive with Jefferson capping the nine-play, 36-yard drive with a 6-yard TD run, the first of his OSU career.
After another three-and-out, Pierce went in from two yards out after his 34-yarder got the Beavers to the 3, for a 17-0 lead with 4:40 left in the opening quarter.
Oregon State made it 24-0 when Jefferson waited for a hole to open, then burst through and to the right sideline for a 32-yard TD that put the Beavers up 24-0 with 10:46 to go in the half.
After yet another three-and-out, Blount capped a four-play, 60-yard drive by connecting with Bradford a 33-yard touchdown pass and a 31-0 lead.
Jefferson had a highlight-reel touchdown on the first play of the next drive, going 62 yards for a 38-0 Beavers lead.
The Thunderbirds finally got on the board on a 43-yard touchdown reception by Frank Harris.
After a turnover on downs gave the Beavers the ball at Thunderbirds 32 with 22 seconds left, Choukair converted from 32 yards out for a 41-7 lead.
Southern Utah attempted to climb back in the game, outscoring the Beavers 9-0 in the third. Manny Berz had a 36-yard field goal and Chris Helbig added a 2-yard run to make it 41-16 after three.
Berz’s 38-yarder made it 41-19 before Jefferson capped his big day with a 7-yard run for a 48-19 lead.
The Thunderbirds finished the scoring on Jay Green’s 21-yard reception.