CORVALLIS — With 1:31 showing on the clock Saturday afternoon, referee Mike Cannon strode toward midfield, faced Reser Stadium's west sideline, flipped on his microphone and said, "On review, Number 94 touched the ball before "…"
The rest of his words were lost in the roar from the crowd; the fact that Wisconsin placekicker Kyle French had laid a hand on the football before his onside kick had traveled the requisite 10 yards meant Oregon State had secured its 10-7 upset of the 13th-ranked Badgers.
A couple of kneel-downs later, OSU fans scaled the walls at the front of the grandstands and stormed the field.
"'Victory formation' is the best play in football," Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion said. "It felt great. I know it means a lot to this team."
The win was great in and of itself for the Beavers, but knocking off the defending Big Ten champion came at an especially opportune time for OSU's program.
At the end of the 2011 season, the vibes weren't so positive at Reser. The Beavers, after a run of success from 1999-2009, slipped to a 5-7 record in 2010 and skidded to 3-9 in 2011. Much of Beaver Nation spent a winter — and spring and summer — of discontent when it came to the state of its football program.
But by midway through Saturday's second quarter, it felt as though OSU's fans had joined the players and coaches in flushing the negativity that crept in the past two seasons. By the time the Beavers took a 3-0 lead with 13:03 to go in the half, they had outgained the Badgers 180-63; by halftime, it was still just 3-0 but they owned a yardage edge of 238-64 and all was well with the orange-clad world.
After dominating the game, OSU eventually had to hold on for the win over Wisconsin, but by those last few minutes the atmosphere in Reser was far more reminiscent of 2008 and 2009, when the Beavers wrapped up the regular season playing for a Rose Bowl berth. Gone were the unfriendly ghosts of the past two seasons.
"We've had that mentality since last season ended — we put that behind us a long time ago," Mannion said. "To get to start a new season today was tremendously exciting.
"I've never seen an atmosphere like this in my entire life. The fans were awesome all day. I can hardly talk, I was yelling so loud. It's just great to see all these things come together and all that hard work pay off. We definitely put last season behind us and this is just the beginning of a new year."
Freshman running back Storm Woods, suiting up for his first game, said it reminded him of his official visit, when he had been at Reser Stadium for the 2010 Civil War.
"I couldn't hear Sean at the line of scrimmage, but I loved it," Woods said. "This is a dream come true, this I something I watch on TV, when the people rush the field — I've never been a part of that. Seeing that today was just amazing."
"This just goes to show hard work pays off. After we lost to Oregon last year, we busted our butts from that day on "… before we left for Christmas, we had one goal in mind: we're going to make a bowl game. Ever since that day we lost, we've just been grinding and grinding."
THIS ONE'S FOR FRED: OSU captains Mannion, Jordan Poyer, Andrew Seumalo and Markus Wheaton were joined for the pregame coin toss by Cora Wilcots. Her son, Fred Thompson, died of a heart attack in December. A redshirt freshman defensive lineman last season, Thompson would have been playing in his first game against Wisconsin.
"That 'W' is definitely for Fred," Poyer said. "We know he's watching us from above and that was definitely for him."
Redshirting with Thompson last year, Woods said the two grew close.
"We always keep Fred in the back of our head," Woods said. "We break to 'Brick Squad' (Thompson's nickname) every day, and I know Fred would have loved to be here.
"He'd always say, 'You've got to turn on that switch.' A lot of people are going to pull for us, but that win was for Fred today."
Riley said he hadn't talked much with the Beavers about Thompson's death since the funeral.
"Until last night," Riley said. "Just to remind everybody that we lost a family member and that we're going to commemorate it on our helmets (with a sticker reading FT 92).
"To have Cora up here and all the family members was great, although it's still so "… open. It's one of those situations you hope you never go through again."
ONSIDE CHANGE: Some of the new rules for kickoffs at the college level have received a lot of attention, but a lesser-known one involves onside kickoffs. It's long been true that a kick blooped into the air could be fair caught; this year, players may also fair catch a "spike" kick — one the kicker drives into the ground, getting it to take a high hop into the air as it heads toward the receiving team.
"It hasn't been talked about a lot," Riley said. "In the past you would have expected a spike: everybody is going to have to block, one guy is going to catch it. But today, we didn't know what kind of kick we were going to get. You might get the old one where they kick it hard and bounce it twice and jump up in the air, but the dribble was the other option and the kid did a good job of it."
SEPTEMBER SWITCH: During Riley's coaching tenures at Oregon State, the Beavers have often scheduled tough nonconference games in September. The win over Wisconsin reversed a trend that had seen OSU lose at No. 8 Wisconsin 35-0 last season, to No. 7 Texas Christian 30-21 and at No. 3 Boise State 37-24 in 2010, to No. 17 Cincinnati 28-18 in 2009, at No. 22 Penn State 45-14 in 2008, at No. 11 Louisville 63-27 in 2005 and at No. 3 Louisiana State 22-21 in overtime in 2004.
THIS AND THAT: The victory over Wisconsin was OSU's first over a ranked team since beating No. 20 Southern California 36-7 on Nov. 20, 2010 in Corvallis. It was OSU's first win over a ranked nonconference opponent since beating No. 19 Pittsburgh 3-0 in the 2008 Sun Bowl, its first over a Big Ten team since a 17-14 win at Minnesota in 1978, and its first in Corvallis over a Big Ten team since topping Iowa 33-19 in 1971 "… Wisconsin was the highest-ranked nonconference team to play in Corvallis since OSU knocked off No. 13 Brigham Young 24-19 in 1977 "… Prior to Saturday's game, Oregon State honored its 1962 team that won the Liberty Bowl over Villanova 6-0. That Beaver squad finished 9-2 and ranked No. 16 nationally; it was inducted into the OSU Sports Hall of Fame over the weekend. Among those on hand was 1962 Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker "… The game was the first for the new turf at Reser Stadium. The rug provides a couple of new looks: the stylized "Oregon State" lettering in the end zones matches the type used on the Beavers' uniforms and in publications, and the turf extends all the way to the edge of the grandstands, eliminating the asphalt running track that had formerly been around the field "… The game was OSU's first since the end of the 2006 season without either James or Jacquizz Rodgers on the roster. James Rodgers was honored at the end of the first quarter for his record-setting career, which includes school marks for most all-purpose yards and career receptions.