Oregon State’s sometimes slim margin for error has taken a few big hits early in the season with an assist from the Beavers’ own mistakes.
A week ago it was a bad punt snap that changed field position and the momentum for good in a 35-7 loss at Michigan.
Saturday night, the Beavers gave away some short fields then took advantage of one of their own in a 35-21 win against San Jose State at Reser Stadium.
The game switched directions quickly in the third quarter, starting with OSU’s Jordan Villamin’s 31-yard touchdown reception from Seth Collins to cap a six-play, 88-yard drive and get the score to 21-all.
The Beavers defense forced a three-and-out drive, and Spartans punter Michael Carrizosa couldn’t handle a punt snap. Carrizosa was tackled at his own 15.
Collins then ran the ball twice, first for 5 yards and then 10 more for a touchdown to give the Beavers their first lead at 28-21.
San Jose State was reeling but the damage wasn’t done.
Three plays later, OSU linebacker Caleb Saulo dropped into coverage and picked off Spartans reserve quarterback Joe Gray in the left flat, returning it 41 yards for a touchdown with 3:35 left in the third.
Saulo said the interception felt like a dream at first.
“After I made the first move my legs started to gas out on me,” he said. He needed his blockers to help him get the score and they were there."
Rommel Mageo, a defensive standout for the Beavers early in the season, came with the pressure that forced Gray into the hurried throw.
In just under four minutes, Oregon State went from down seven to up 14 and all the momentum in their favor.
“Football is a game of momentum, and that’s what we had. As soon as we had the momentum after his pick-6 we felt it,” Mageo said. “We felt like, we’re going to go after them. We’re going to keep taking it to them, and that’s what we did.”
Added Saulo: “It was a team pick, we all did it together. It was great to see everyone out there just respond and see the fans getting excited after that.”
The Spartans were set up with two short-field opportunities in the first half after OSU's troubles on special teams and offense.
Beavers head coach Gary Andersen said “adversity hit us right in the face.”
Oregon State’s first big miscue came early in the second quarter after the Beavers defense forced a three-and-out and Carrizosa went back to punt.
Rahmel Dockery tried to field the kick deep in his own territory but couldn’t grab it cleanly. San Jose State’s Shane Smith jumped on the ball at the Beavers 6.
One play later, Tyler Ervin found the end zone on a 6-yard run. The point-after kick put the Spartans ahead 14-7.
OSU got the score back to even before the visitors had another short-field opportunity.
Collins rolled to his right on a first-down play from the OSU 19, trying to get the ball to Hunter Jarmon in front of the Oregon State bench.
But cornerback Cleveland Wallace III broke and picked the ball, getting one foot down before going out of bounds. A review confirmed the interception, and the Spartans had the ball at the OSU 26.
On the ensuing drive, San Jose State would convert a fourth-and-1 play, with Jarrod Lawson getting the first down by the length of a football on a dive. The Spartans scored three plays later when Gray found Tyler Winston in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass and a 21-14 lead with 3:08 left in the half.
Fortunately for the Beavers, there were two more quarters to play.
“The first half we weren’t really fazed when we hit a bunch of adversity,” Andersen said. “They kept playing through it. That was great to see.”
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