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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Oregon State executes plan to score, win against Arizona

Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Oregon State head coach Mike Riley had been saving the play all night, waiting for the perfect moment to pull the trigger.

“It came out differently than it ever has, but that’s how we want it,” Riley said after the Beavers defeated the UA 38-35 in Arizona Stadium Saturday night.

Beaver tight end Connor Hamlett was in the right place at the right time, sneaking behind Arizona linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson and catching Sean Mannion’s final touchdown throw of the night in front of Wildcat safety Patrick Onwuasor.

With one flick of Mannion’s wrist, Riley became the all-time leader in wins as an Oregon State head coach with 74 in 12 years.

Mannion and Riley knew that final play would work, because they had already executed it to success earlier in the game.

Trailing the Wildcats 28-24 midway through the fourth quarter, Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton slipped between UA corner Jonathan McKnight and safety Jourdon Grandon, catching his second touchdown of the game.

“The first look is Markus, but we ran that play a little tighter down (in the red zone) than we normally would,” Riley said of his decision to run the play a second time. “I actually screwed it up. I wanted it out a little higher, but then we had a good gain, so we called it anyway.

“I gave them the play call and said ‘Let’s go score.’”

It should be no surprise that the Beavers were able to score two times on the same play, in essentially the same spot. Mannion and OSU’s receivers were in sync all night, as Wheaton and Brandin Cooks combined for 315 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Mannion passed for a career high 433 yards and three scores, and found his targets wide-open all night for completions of 57, 51 and 38 yards against a pass defense that currently ranks 103rd in the nation.

“They had a lot of guys wide open,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “When we blitzed, we couldn’t get to the quarterback, and that makes it really tough on our defensive backs.

“They give up a lot of yards and a lot of points, but they try as hard as they can.”

Mannion and the Beavers’ offense had sputtered to start the second half after taking a 17-7 halftime lead, but stuck with the run game, although Arizona had battled back to take the lead, 21-17.

“I’m so hopeful and happy to see that,” said Riley of his running game, which racked up 180 yards led by Storm Woods’ 161. “It’s been a while. When we play like that and we have balance, it changes everything.”

The success of the run game led to the Wildcats’ susceptibility on play-action passes, which is what led Mannion and Riley to use the same play for touchdowns eight minutes apart in the fourth quarter. Both scores gave the Beavers the lead over Arizona.

“We had done a good job running the ball, so we got some good action on it,” Mannion said. “Everyone knew we had moved the ball on them pretty much the whole game. We said ‘We can move it on them, so let’s go do it.’”

The Beavers needed only 4 minutes, 25 seconds to march 75 yards in 10 plays to take the final lead of the game, but never strayed from the balanced approach that kept them in the game in the second half. On Oregon State’s final drive, four of the ten plays were rushes for 23 yards and two first downs.

“We had plenty of time there to do what we wanted to do,” Riley said. “I’m glad we could run the ball and keep them off balance.

We didn’t quit — we didn’t hang our heads. [Mannion] showed a lot of poise, as did the rest of our team tonight.”

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