Defense carries Oregon State to another win

By Andrew Kilstrom

Defense carries Oregon State to another win

After two straight losing seasons in which Oregon State failed to qualify for postseason play, the Beavers are bowl eligible after knocking off Utah 21-7 in Corvallis Saturday night to remain undefeated in 2012.

Considering Oregon State (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12) was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North at the conference media day before the season, the fact that the Beavers have essentially locked up a bowl bid is beyond surprising.

“It’s kind of our first goal is to reach bowl eligibility,” said head coach Mike Riley after the game. “You want to do it as fast as you can and then you want to go to the best bowl that you can, so we’ve got one part of that done. We’ll just see where else we can go with it.”

Much like Oregon State’s first two home games this season, it was the defense that dominated, carrying a struggling OSU offense to the win.

“It might have been an ugly offensive game, but the defense stepped up,” said sophomore receiver Brandin Cooks. “The defense had a great game, and we came out with a ‘W’ and that’s all we wanted to get out of this week.”

Oregon State managed to win by two touchdowns despite being outgained by Utah (2-5, 0-4) 307 total yards to 226. Though the offense struggled mightily to move the ball consistently, the unit capitalized on starting field position. Redshirt freshman running back Storm Woods scored twice on short runs, after the offense started inside the red zone, to grab an early 14-0 lead.

The defense were the instigators on the prime field position, thanks to a Michael Doctor interception and a Rudolf Fifita forced fumble that was recovered by Dylan Wynn.

“We know that [the offense’s] job is hard, just as hard as our job,” Wynn said. “As a defense, our job is completely to give the offense the ball and give them those opportunities they need to score. If they need 100 [turnovers], we’ll give them 100. So it definitely felt good that our offense was able to capitalize on the opportunities.”

The difference in the game was the turnover battle. The Beavers showed why they have the best turnover margin in the Pac-12, recording four takeaways while giving away none.

“It was hard, and the turnovers were probably the difference in the game,” Riley said.

Another reason Oregon State was able to hold Utah to only seven points was their play against the run. The Utes managed what would seem like a decent 135 yards on the ground, but it took them a hefty 45 carries to get there.

“We knew they had a very strong offense,” Wynn said. “It’s definitely a hard-hitting offense, a lot like last year. They changed their scheme a little bit, [running] some options some more, but they gave us a pretty good game. I thought they definitely came out to play.”

While the OSU defense was lights out once again at home, the offense struggled to do anything, accumulating only 224 yards of offense, making it their lowest total this season.

The superb play of the defense, and shaky play of the offense, is becoming something of a trend at Reser Stadium.

“The offense needs to come out and [play] better,” Cooks said. “We have to be consistent, we can’t have one game good, and the next game where you’re kind of low. We have to stay consistent and that’s what we have to take out of this game.”

Despite the inability to put together a complete game this season, Oregon State continues to find ways to win.

“Every one of our games have gone into the fourth quarter to be decided, but I think it’s a good sign of mental toughness to find a way to finish it out,” Riley said.

The win came during Oregon State’s first night game at home since Nov. 20, 2010, and in front of a sold out Reser Stadium crowd.

Though the game could have been called sloppy and even boring at times, the Oregon State faithful were in the game for its entirety, and provided an atmosphere unparalleled in the last couple of seasons.

“I think we feed off the fans, and every week we’re just picking it up as a unit,” said junior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds. “It showed here tonight.”

“It was electric,” added Cooks. “It was my first night game and it was incredible. The fans were crazy tonight.”

Oregon State will put its undefeated record on the line once again next Saturday, with another tough Pac-12 road game in Seattle, Wash., where they will take on Washington at CenturyLink Stadium.

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