Defense helps Oregon State move to No. 7

The defense came to the rescue again for Oregon State.

Utah’s four turnovers – two lost fumbles and two interceptions –

were the difference in the Beavers’ 21-7 win over the Utes in a

cold, drizzly game Saturday night.

The reward was that Oregon State (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12) became bowl

eligible and the next day popped up a place in the rankings to No.

7. The Beavers also moved to No. 7 in the BCS standings.

”When you look at why you win, turnovers can be great

indicators. … (Utah) ran the ball better than we did, but they

turned the ball over in very bad field position,” Oregon State

coach Mike Riley said.

Turnovers were killer for the Utes (2-5, 0-4). The first two – a

Michael Doctor interception and a Dylan Wynn fumble recovery – set

up the Beavers for easy touchdown drives deep in Utah territory.

The third – a fumbled pitch at the Beavers 3-yard line – killed a

promising scoring drive. Finally, a frantic Utah rally in the final

minutes ended when quarterback Travis Wilson was picked off by Sean

Martin.

”The biggest disappointment offensively was turning the ball

over four times and scoring one touchdown,” Utah coach Kyle

Whittingham said. ”You’re going to win exactly zero games doing

that.”

In contrast, the Beavers committed no turnovers. Oregon State

has forced 16 turnovers this year while committing only six, giving

the Beavers the best turnover margin (1.67) in the conference and

eighth best in the nation. Last season, while stumbling to a 3-9

record, the Beavers committed 31 turnovers while opponents had only

23.

Led for the second straight game by backup quarterback Cody Vaz,

the Beavers’ offense managed a paltry 230 yards on offense compared

to Utah’s 307. Vaz overthrew some receivers and was not as

impressive as in his 332-yard debut passing performance against

BYU, which earned him Pac-12 player of the week honors.

However, Vaz managed the game well. He didn’t force throws –

relying mostly on short passes – and avoided major mistakes. Riley

employed a conservative strategy, punting several times on

fourth-and-short situations, and putting the game in the hands of

the defense.

That defense put the focus on Utah quarterback Wilson, a true

freshman who took over last month when Jordan Wynn suffered a

career-ending injury. The Beavers believed if they were aggressive

they could rattle Wilson and cause mistakes. They were right.

”Coverage and pressure go together,” said safety Ryan Murphy.

”The guys on the D-Line did what they had to do and the secondary

did what we had to do also. That’s all that matters.”

Curiously, the Beavers have been much better offensively in road

games than at Reser Stadium and have had to rely on the defense to

pull out the victories in each of their three home wins, 10-7 over

Wisconsin, 19-6 win over Washington State, and this game.

Starting quarterback Sean Mannion could return for the Beavers

when they travel this weekend to Washington, though Riley refused

to say when he would decide. Mannion missed two games after

undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, but he

returned to practice late last week.

The Huskies (3-4, 1-3) lost 52-17 to Arizona on Saturday. The

Beavers will attempt to go 7-0 for the first time in school

history.

”I think the sky is the limit for us,” running back Storm

Woods said. ”We have to keep going, respecting ourselves and

staying humble.”