Beavs vanquish ghosts past in 27-25 thriller

OREGON STATE MADE the other guy blink first this time. The Beavs' starting quarterback was knocked out of the game in the first half. ASU took the lead -- and the momentum -- in the third quarter. Oregon State's response? Roger that. Or more accurately, Rodgers that -- as in Jacquizz and James. That left it to Victor Butler and the OSU D to stamp out ASU's final hopes in the 27-25 win.

Not another Utah. It couldn't happen twice. Could it?

With seconds remaining, defensive ends Slade Norris, who had been quiet much of the game, and Victor Butler, who most decidedly had not been, chased down Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter. Norris got there first, Butler a heartbeat later.

They had just done the same thing just moments earlier. That earlier sack resulted in a fourth-and-27, with under 4:00 remaining. The Devils punted, the Beavs led 27-19. That had felt like Game Over back then. Nope.

And now, the latest Beaver d-end combo sack still left ASU with 37 seconds -- and Arizona State was down by eight. It was second-and-24 on the Beavers' 30 yard line. ASU hit a 27-yard pass and got their touchdown two plays later. That damn 2-point try loomed. And Beaver fans were surely dreaming of the carnage at Utah.

But Greg Laybourn, who many believe victimized at Utah on a phantom pass interference call, blitzed hard and smart on the delay and QB Rudy Carpenter, going down in Laybourn's grasp, heaved it into the end zone. Butler, who had peeled off his rush, leapt high and picked it off.

Good thing. Because had Butler not done so, that 2-point desperation try, that one had a chance. A good chance. But Butler did grab it, and after his 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, this time it really was Game Over. OSU recovered the onsides kick and the ghosts of Utah, as much as they can be after the fact, were vanquished.

But it was not easy. And it was not crisp.

What it was, was a victorious Pac-10 battle against a team that is better than their record, and it was great theater. And it was a test in overcoming adversity -- a stern test all would-ne great teams face in a season -- when the Beavs did not have their "A game" for a good portion of the night. And OSU won, and they remain in control of their own destiny in the race for the Pac-10 crown.

And that's not bad. Not bad at all.

UNOFFICIALLY, THE STAT book will show Jacquizz Rodgers rushing for 143 yards, with another 55 receiving hashes. James Rodgers was the game's leading receiver and went over the century mark with 102 yards. What it won't show is just how crucial every one of them were.

Indeed, the Rodgers brothers, along with a suddenly energized o-line and Sean Canfield, brought the Beavers back in the third quarter -- each time ASU made a statement, Oregon State answered.

The OSU defense bent, but Butler, Steven Paea, Brandon Hughes, Keaton Kristick and crew did not yield a touchdown until the final seconds -- the one time ASU crossed the goal line the first 59:39 was not against the Beaver stop corps, it was on an interception return.

And Canfield threw that pick. But Canfield overcame adversity and a year's worth of rust to make good on more than a few occasions in a tight Pac-10 tilt and when it counted. He threw for 218 yards on 19-for-28 passing with two touchdowns, the last a picture perfect strike to Stroughter. And Justin Kahut, a late miss notwithstanding, re-discovered his kicking mojo.

OREGON STATE CAME out primed, forcing ASU into a three-and-out. Sammie Stroughter promptly broke off a long punt return and Lyle Moevao hit Shane Morales on a touchdown strike -- and it felt for all the world like OSU was about to put some early distance between themselves and ASU, who came in staggering on the belly a five game losing streak.

But Oregon State stalled on offense and they were uneven on defense -- the Sun Devils found some answers and some confidence against the Beaver D -- run to the left side and look for the pass matchups against the safeties.

It wasn't that Oregon State was playing badly -- they just weren't playing great. And losing Moevao, who came out early in the second quarter and did not return after landing awkwardly on his throwing shoulder, made steeper the the challenge.

INJURIES THIS SEASON for the men in black and orange have been light -- and manageable -- for the most part. But losing Moevao and then Keenan Lewis (for a time), hurt. Still, Oregon State clung to a 7-6 lead at half. It could have easily been a 13-7 deficit.

The Beaver special teams were anything but in the first half, allowing 58- and 23- yard punt returns. But ASU dropped a sure touchdown catch and misfired on what should have been an automatic field goal try and the Beavs held the lead at the break.

Early in the third quarter, the gift interception by Canfield put OSU in a 13-7 hole. With ASU seizing the game's momentum, the Beaver fortunes felt like the mottled nighttime Corvallis sky looked -- darkened and spitting rain.

Opinion and critical observation
The offensive line generally provided good pass protection with a few exceptions, but ASU won most of the early battles in the running game. On balance, you have to like the OSU line headed into the final four regular season games.

The defensive line and front seven was stout, but ASU did catch the Beavs in some blitz situations where they had the right play called at the right time, and some where a few of the Beaver stop corps simply didn't react quickly enough. Sun Devil RB Shaun DeWitty had a 54-yard run against the Beavs that paced his 111-yard rushing night. But Booth was big, as was Kristick. And Butler, well, he was a beast.

Rudy Carpenter threw for 217 yards but it seemed like most of them came in critical situations against the Beaver safeties. They didn't of course, but Laybourn and others will need to tighten up their pass defense. But also give Laybourn credit -- His read and react on the 2-point conversion, that may well have been the difference between a win and overtime with ASU recapturing all the momentum and sucking the very life out of Reser.

Afalava was solid, and Norris came huge out on the edge after ASU had employed an effective plan on him for much of the game. Canfield was about as fired up as could be -- something a segment of Beaver fans have been vocal about waiting to see -- and he looked like a leader out there. And he may well have to be, for there was no official word on Moevao's injury post game. At first glance, it looked for all the world like a possible sprained AC joint based on the way he landed but there's really no way to know for sure until word on the MRI results comes from OSU. For what it's worth, Mike Riley was optimistic; "I don't know how bad he is hurt but it shouldn't be that bad. That may be wishful thinking, but I don't think so." BF.C will keep you updated on the latest official reports and also throughout the coming week.

But a little over four minutes later, though, the Beavs answered, and Canfield was the biggest part of the reason why. Canfield hit Sammie Stroughter on a critical third down. He connected twice more with James Rodgers. Quizz mixed in some rushes before Canfield deftly hit Morales for his second TD of the night.

BACK AND FORTH IT went. ASU grabbed the lead on a field goal from 44-yards out. Kahut was true from 45-yards, giving the Beavs a 17-16 lead.

And then, the Beaver defense held and that's when ASU blinked. Because that's when Quizz, who had already started to heat up, really went to work, gaining 49 and 33 rushing and receiving yards from that point on. And that, in the end, spelled the difference.

ASU RAN AWAY from his side much of the time but DE Victor Butler was a puzzle throughout to the Sun Devils, one they never solved. And DT Pernnell Booth beat his man with regularity.LB Keaton Kristick, even when he didn't take the 100 percent angle on a delayed blitz, still got the sack -- that's what speed can do.

The Beavs with Canfield in the game tried to play to the lefty's strengths -- stretching the field. The timing, however, was not quite there in the first half, as long bombs for Stroughter went begging. Worse, Canfield wasn't used to game speed and held the ball a beat or two too long -- understandable given his long road back from shoulder surgery and not being in a tight game until now. But that still meant sacks, incompletions and hard hits on the backup Beaver QB.

The interception return for a touchdown seemed to spark the Beavers. Canfield found his rhythm on the crossing routes over the middle and medium range sideline outs, and Quizz, who had not received a healthy number of carries to that point, began to rip off good sized chunks of green.

It all set up some thrill-ride Pac-10 theater late and heroics on Saturday night. And the Beavs won a nailbiter. And they remained in control of their own destiny. Not bad. Not bad at all.

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