Beavers become first victim in Pac-12 of the Utes

SALT LAKE CITY — This wasn't a Gatorade-bath type of win. But Utah's first Pac-12 Conference victory was a watershed moment for a program that was facing mounting criticism after stepping up to the BCS leagues.

"We've been losing a lot and were sick of it," said linebacker Brian Blechen, who had one of Utah's six sacks in Saturday's dominating 27-8 win over Oregon State.

Credit Utah's defense, which intercepted Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion three times and sacked him six times just a week after his four-touchdown performance earned him Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors.

Credit diminutive running back John White, who had a career-high 205 yards on 35 carries, breaking tackles, juking defenders and giving Utah's offense momentum.

And credit embattled quarterback Jon Hays. He'd finish with a meager 62 yards passing, but he tossed two touchdown passes and didn't commit a turnover.

"He managed the game," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of Hays, a junior-college transfer who had tossed seven interceptions since replacing the injured Jordan Wynn a month ago.

"We're not asking our offense to go out and score 40 points."

But he felt the Utes might have notched their first shutout since 2007 if not for a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a second-half field goal attempt. With 14:55 left, Mannion threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton two plays later, and the Beavers scored on a safety with 12:02 left after the Utes were called for holding in the end zone.

"We knew they were going to bring a lot of pressure," said Oregon State running back James Rodgers. "We knew what they were going to do coming in. We just couldn't stop it."

And Oregon State's defense had no answers for White, whose 205 yards were the most for a Ute since Marty Johnson had 229 in a victory against Indiana in 2002.

"He was huge," Whittingham said of the 5-foot-8 White. "Credit the offensive line as well."

Utah (4-4, 1-4) busted open a close game with 21 points in a 7-minute span of the second quarter, starting with Hays' 35-yard touchdown pass to Dres Anderson.

White added a 6-yard scoring run four minutes later and Hays put Utah ahead 24-0 with a 3-yard TD pass to DeVonte Christopher, still not 100 percent but back after missing two games with an ankle injury.

Mannion finished 27 of 49 for 231 yards.

"I was waiting for guys to get open and I ended up holding onto the ball too long," he said. "They did a lot of good stuff as a defense."

Tevita Finau, who came into the game with no career sacks, had three Saturday for losses of 29 yards.

"I was just in the right place, right time to get all those sacks," Finau said. "The other D-linemen were getting to the quarterback and I was the cleanup guy."

The Utes also had their first three-interception game this season, with Ryan Lacy, Mo Lee and Matt Martinez making the plays on defense.

The Beavers (2-6, 2-3) still haven't won back-to-back road games since 2008.

The game was a defensive struggle early, with twice as many punts as points the first 22 minutes.

Coleman Petersen's career-long 48-yard field goal accounted for the only points until Hays' scoring strike with 7:04 left in the second quarter to Anderson, who split Oregon State's two-deep zone.

"I knew it was coming to me," Anderson said. "I was the first option on that play and I had all the confidence in the world that Jon was going to put it on the money."

Lee followed with his first career interception to set up Utah's second touchdown. Lee jumped a route by Wheaton and returned the interception to Oregon State's 18-yard line. White scored on a 6-yard run, reversing direction on the toss right.

White ripped off a 60-yard run on Utah's next possession to set up Hays' second touchdown pass.

While Utah was trying to show it could make the step up to a BCS conference, White was trying to show he could run against a Pac-12 defense.

White had run for 150 yards against Montana State, 174 against Brigham Young and 171 against Pitt — all wins.

But in Pac-12 play, he had struggled, gaining 56 against USC, 35 against Washington, 85 against Arizona State and just 39 last week against Cal.

Now that Utah has that initial win, the Utes have to keep the momentum going to extend their streak of eight straight bowl appearances. They finish up with games against Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado — all second-tier teams in the Pac-12 this year.

"We had all decided we really needed to get a Pac-12 win and everything finally came together for us," Finau said. "It means a lot to do it at home. These fans, they deserve to see us play our best and this win was for our fans."

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