So far this season, ASU’s opponents have not started off on the right note.
They have also responded well to ASU’s (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12) early success. No. 11 Oregon State was not a different story when it rebounded after a dismal start to beat ASU 36-26.
“That was a really good win,” Beavers coach Mike Riley said. “We have a lot of respect for that football team and the way that they have been playing.”
ASU had confidence going into the game because star defensive tackle Will Sutton was back in the lineup. The Sun Devils gained even more confidence when Sutton caused a fumble that was returned for an ASU touchdown on Oregon State’s (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) first drive.
The ASU offense then took that momentum and scored on the first drive. Before Cody Vaz and the rest of the Oregon State offense knew what hit them, they were down 14-3.
After the struggles in the first quarter, the Beavers were able to stay calm.
“The kids kept their composure and no one really panicked or blinked,” Riley said. “We made some major mistakes that were our doing, but they also made some sacks. … Our guys got stronger as the game went on and played smart.”
Sutton did have a strong game for ASU coming off of an injury.
Oregon State senior receiver Markus Wheaton also was coming off an injury. When the Beavers were down 11 points, he gave them the spark that they needed — a 50-yard touchdown catch by Wheaton from Vaz.
Wheaton was not done after the catch. The Chandler High School product torched his in-state university for 108 yards and another touchdown.
“I was excited to get back because it stunk missing the last game,” Wheaton said. “Playing football is what I do, so it didn’t take too much at all.”
After the Wheaton catch, the game was a seesaw battle the rest of the first half. At the end of the second quarter, the teams remained deadlocked at 19-19.
Unlike the start of the game, it was the Beavers that came out fast in the second half, not the Sun Devils.
On the first drive of the half, Vaz threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Wheaton. From that point on, they scored 17 unanswered points to put the game out of reach for ASU.
Coming off an injury, Wheaten stepped up huge for the receivers. In the backfield, sophomore running back Terron Ward filled in for the injured redshirt freshman Storm Woods.
While Woods was on the sidelines, Ward gained 146 yards and a rushing touchdown.
“That’s the definition of our team right there,” Ward said. “When one guy goes down, you have to pick up the pieces and keep going. I wasn’t even thinking about how many carries I would get tonight. I just wanted to come in. … They put me in and I made the best of my opportunity.”
The win helps Oregon State in its search for a Pac-12 North title, but it also has even bigger implications. The Beavers now sit with an impressive 7-1 record, and their hopes for a BCS at-large bid are still very much alive.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org