Oregon State was facing a fourth-and-2 at the Colorado 8 midway through the third quarter last Saturday, trailing the Buffaloes 31-3.
With nothing to lose, the Beavers decided to go for it.
Oregon State called a run-pass option with the potential for a fade pattern to the end zone.
When Isaiah Hodgins looked over at quarterback Jake Luton, all it took was a slight nod for him to have a pretty good idea he could expect the ball to come his way.
Luton lofted the ball his way and Hodgins went up and made a one-handed grab for the touchdown.
It was the beginning of what turned out to be the biggest comeback in program history.
Luton admitted he didn’t see the actual catch until he watched the replay on the Jumbotron when he returned to the sideline.
“I saw it and I looked at Isaiah and said, ‘dude you’re going to be SC (SportsCenter) No. 1. That was crazy,’” Luton said Tuesday. “… That was an amazing catch.”
Hodgins and Luton were both big parts of comeback. Luton came off the bench at halftime after missing four games to pass for 310 yards and three touchdowns, while Hodgins finished with 11 catches for 146 yards and two scores. Ten of those catches and 139 yards came with Luton in the game.
“We have to be ready for whatever quarterback comes in but I definitely love having Jake in there and have been waiting for him and pushing for him to be healthy and be back out there because we definitely have a lot of chemistry,” Hodgins said.
All that hard work after practice working together on various routes has certainly paid off.
With Luton behind center, Hodgins has 19 catches for 372 yards and all four of his touchdowns. Luton has been limited to what amounts to about a game and a half of action.
He has just 18 receptions for 160 with someone other than Luton behind center.
“I feel like he knows the offense very well and trusts his receivers,” Hodgins said. “He just does a great job of giving the ball to us and letting us make plays.”
Luton credits Hodgins for getting open and being willing to go after each pass.
“I was able to put the ball in his general vicinity and he made some great plays,” Luton said. “… He’s the kind of a guy I feel like your chances are better than 50-50 if you give him a shot. He usually comes down with them.”
Hodgins may have gotten the bulk of the catches but he wasn’t alone. Timmy Hernandez finished with seven for 76 yards and Trevon Bradford added five for 36 and the game-tying touchdown.
Throw in freshman running back Jermar Jefferson’s six catches for 49 yards and two more (for 26 yards) from Champ Flemings and the Beavers showcased a strong arsenal of pass catchers.
“I felt like he was distributing it very well and a lot of people were making plays,” Hodgins said. “I didn’t feel like it was just me or Timmy out there. Jermar was making plays and Trevon had some big catches. It felt good as a team out there.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said he could sense a little more excitement from the receiving group when Luton took the field in the third quarter.
“You could see the confidence and excitement in the receivers really on that first drive when Jake got out there that they knew they would get some opportunities to go make some plays,” he said.
Coach Jonathan Smith on Monday did not go as far as to name Luton, who has completed 56 of 84 passes for 684 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, the starter for Saturday’s home game against USC.
Conor Blount, who had started six games in a row before missing last week as he recovered from a concussion, did practice and took reps with the ones and the twos on Tuesday. Lindgren said the Beavers hope he is available for this week’s game.
However, if Luton, who was named the starter after fall camp, is ready to go, there’s little doubt he will get the start.
“You saw on Saturday the reasons why and that’s kind of what we saw early in the season and parts of the Nevada game as well,” Lindgren said.