BEAVER DEFENSE SHINES LIKE THE SUN

Mike Riley goes to 5-0 in bowl games at OSU.

YOU COULD EXCUSE the Pitt quarterback, running back and entire offensive unit if they came away from the Sun Bowl thinking the color of the sun is orange rather than yellow. A cadre of orange-clad Beaver defenders cut off the daylight on the last day of the year, swarming the Panther offense on a windswept afternoon in El Paso as No. 24 Oregon State belted No. 18 Pitt by a 3-0 score.

Fans of high scoring games may not have enjoyed it but for fans of tension filled, defensive smashmouth football, the 75th Sun Bowl was a treat.

Even when Oregon State tried to help Pittsburgh with penalties and miscues, the Beaver defense refused to yield, closing the matter each time with authority.

In the end, the Beavers held Pitt scoreless for the first time in 12 years, shutting down Pitt All-American running back LeSean McCoy in the process. It was Oregon State's fifth straight bowl game victory.

One of Pitt's best chances came at the start of the fourth quarter. A penalty on a Beaver punt meant a re-kick -- the difference meant the Panthers would start on OSU's 43 yard line rather than their own 11. But the OSU front crunched the middle, defensive end Victor Butler got a sack, forced a fumble and recovered it. And the ball went back to the OSU offense.

The Beavers went three and out but Oregon State had flipped the field to their advantage, something they did the vast majority of the afternoon.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Pitt had a paltry 134 yards of total offense, much of it because of the play of the Beaver front seven including Slade Norris.

But neither offense could move the ball -- especially not in the second half.

The Pitt defense was getting the job done against Oregon State too, backing the Beavs down to 262 yards midway through the final stanza after a couple of sacks. But OSU at least had a spark on occasion, mostly from Sammie Stroughter, with some timely runs by Jeremy Francis.

QB Lyle Moevao was at his sharpest early in the game but other than a 45-yard field goal late in the second quarter by Justin Kahut, OSU could not score again. The Beavs misfired on their two best chances -- a questionable incomplete call wiped out a 10-yard Beaver TD catch by Howard Croom, and was promptly followed up by a Moevao interception. Later, Kahut was wide left on a 32-yard field goal attempt.

Oregon State, with Jacquizz Rodgers and James Rodgers out, continued to stick with the game plan -- pass first. While OSU moved the ball decently at times in the first half, in the second half they found little room to roam. The gust Texas winds didn't help things.

And with Pitt bringing more men than the Beavs could block in the final quarter, Lyle Moevao was hit as he threw and an easy pick gave Pitt another chance with around 8 minutes left.

Not a problem for the Beaver D. Three plays, four yards, punt it again, Pitt.

But the Panther defense forced a three and out and a decent return meant there would be yet another test for the OSU defense with 4:38 left in the game, who had at that point forced a mind numbing six straight three and outs.

Pittsburgh, up close to midfield, yanked their starting quarterback and went Wildcat, two direct snaps to the running back earning Pitt their first first down of the half.

On third and nine, however, with the backup quarterback in, they handed the ball to the nation's leading scorer, McCoy.

The result was the same as it had been all day -- the OSU defense stuffed the play.

Arguably the nation's best field goal kicker, Pitt's Connor Lee, came on to try a 58-yarder to tie it. And missed it by a smidge.

Oregon State came up a yard short and Mike Riley elected to punt it -- Johnny Hekker had a terrific day -- and pinned the Panthers on their own 16-yard line with 52 ticks left.

Pitt provided some late drama, moving the ball out to midfield but Slade Norris and Butler drilled the QB on the final play of the game. Butler was named the Player of the Game, with 11 tackles and 4 sacks. Hekker was named the Special Teams MVP.

We'll have more a little later on.

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