OSU shows growth in fending off UW

CORVALLIS — Oregon State had chance after chance after chance to collapse on Saturday. Given the Beavers' lack of success this football season, it wouldn't have been a shock to see Washington deliver a punch to the gut and watch OSU tumble from the lead into another defeat.

More injuries, including one before the game and one to Oregon State's inspirational leader. Costly penalties. Untimely turnovers. The Huskies' top quarterback coming off the bench to engineer a scoring drive.

But, at the tail end of an autumn that has largely been played with a hopeful eye toward the future, the Beavers displayed some of the growth that has occurred as they secured a 38-21 win over the Huskies at Reser Stadium.

"There was a lot of stuff like that today that I was proud of, and that's one of them," OSU head coach Mike Riley said. "Because there were the times, especially after the fumble late (deep in OSU territory with the Beavers leading 31-21) that everybody could have kind of lost their poise and got nervous and not made any more plays.

"Then we come up with two of the biggest plays of the game, right after that."

The fumble came on the kickoff immediately after Washington had driven 85 yards to score. Keith Price, the UW quarterback who had been dinged up to the point that he was expected to take the day off, had come off the bench to put the Huskies back in the ballgame; there was still about seven minutes to play and Washington was only 17 yards from getting within a field goal.

But on the next play, redshirt freshman Ryan Murphy wrestled the ball away from Washington receiver Kasen Williams at the 1-yard line. Still, a safety would also make it a one-possession game.

Two plays later, though, Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion hit streaking Markus Wheaton down the left side for a 52-yard gain that set OSU off on the game-clinching 99-yard drive. Jovan Stevenson capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run — his third touchdown of the fourth quarter — on a burst that helped erase bad memories of when he and Mannion combined for a costly goal-line fumble that all but sealed a loss at California.

"It's never good to fumble on the 1-yard line, so I tried to redeem myself as much as possible," Stevenson said. "I didn't know I was going to get in the game like that, but when I did I had to make the most of it."

The Beavers' adversity started early, as wide receiver Jordan Bishop suffered a broken foot in pregame warmups. Washington then took the opening kickoff and went 70 yards for a quick 7-0 lead to perhaps set the tone for a long afternoon.

By the end of the day, OSU had also seen wide receiver James Rodgers limp off with a sprained ankle, Mannion throw an interception near the goal line and tight end Joe Halahuni fumble the ball in OSU's end of the field after a catch as Oregon State struggled to build a comfortable margin.

On Saturday, though, the Beavers were able to find ways past the obstacles and send their 17 seniors off with a victory in their final home game.

"It feels great to get a win for our team and especially for the seniors," Mannion said. "They have put a lot of work in every season that they've been here, and they are all good role models for me and the other young guys.

"I definitely look up to them and am glad that we could get a win for them today."


RODGERS' RECORD: Before being knocked from the game just before halftime with a sprained ankle, Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown. Despite missing most of last season and the first two games this fall with a knee injury, Rodgers set the OSU record for career receptions; he now has 222 receptions, moving him past Mike Hass (220 receptions, 2002-05).

"Man, James has been through so much," OSU safety Lance Mitchell said. "Coming in with him and being so close with him, it's special, on a day like this for him to get the record is big. I'm proud of him and I know he's going to do big things after Oregon State."

Ironically, Rodgers was hurt while trying to throw a pass rather than catch one. The Huskies had covered his potential targets — Mannion foremost among them — and he was dragged down behind the line of scrimmage.

"My ankle is feeling real good," Rodgers said after the game. "It's just something that happened, my leg was stuck in the ground on the attempt. Other than that, it feels good."

Despite sitting out the second half against Washington, Rodgers felt he'd be able to play in next Saturday's Civil War at Oregon.

"I should be good," Rodgers said. "It's just a little minor ankle sprain, nothing too serious."

Rodgers' 6-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter was the 19th scoring reception of his career, tying him for second on OSU's all-time list with Vern Burke (1962-63). He needs one more to match the school record shared by Hass and James Newson (2000-03).


RUN DOWN: A key to the outcome was the run — Oregon State's ability to execute it when the Beavers had the ball, and to stop it when Washington had the ball — something that was hard to see coming.

OSU was going against one of the conference's top running backs in Curtis Polk, and the Beaver defense had given up an average of 273.7 yards per game on the ground the past three weeks in losses to Utah, Stanford and California. Meanwhile, Oregon State's offense was averaging just 87.8 yards rushing per game this season.

Saturday's numbers? OSU was outgained on the ground, but only 160-145, and Washington ran for just 64 yards in the last three quarters.

"I think the biggest difference was, we played better on the perimeter of our defense," Riley said. "Early on, we made a lot of good plays on the inside but they were hitting us with sweeps and the cracks out there. I thought we just got better containment and more pursuit to the ball outside — that was probably the thing that happened most — and we continued to be fairly strong inside."


MOEVAO REDUX: Mannion provided a flashback to the Beavers' 2008 game against Washington when he delivered a block that helped spring Wheaton for a 56-yard gain late in the first quarter. It brought to mind former OSU quarterback Lyle Moevao's crushing block on UW defensive lineman Grayson Gunheim in that contest at Reser Stadium.

"I just tried to get in the way," Mannion said. "I don't think it was quite Lyle Moevao status."

Does that give him a touch of "street cred" with his teammates for a display of toughness, he was asked?

"No, I don't think so," he smiled. "It shouldn't."


THIS AND THAT: Mannion has now passed for 3,033 yards this season, making him the fifth quarterback in OSU history to pass for at least 3,000 yards in a season. His 2011 stats put him in 10th place on the Beavers' all-time single-season list "… Trevor Romaine's 24-yard field goal on the final play of the first half was the 15th of his career, tying him for ninth place in OSU history.

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