CORVALLIS — There was no full moon winking through the overcast sky above Reser Stadium on Saturday night. Halloween was already three days past.
Yet freakish twists filled No. 11 Oregon State's 36-26 win over Arizona State in Pacific-12 football — particularly in the first half, when OSU survived fright after fright to somehow keep itself in a 19-19 tie at intermission.
In the first 30 minutes alone, the Beavers:
Given that series of unfortunate events, the Beavers could have been haunted by the notion they'd already let slip any ghost of a chance of beating the Sun Devils. Yet Oregon State found itself tying the game on the final play of the half when Trevor Romaine banged through a 45-yard field goal.
Almost as outlandishly, OSU had outgained Arizona State 184-145 in total yards to that point.
Chalk it up to Oregon State's defense reestablishing its stinginess after OSU fell behind 14-3 less than seven minutes into the game.
After Beaver quarterback Cody Vaz fumbled on OSU's third play of the game and ASU's Junior Onyeali carried it in from the 1-yard line, Oregon State responded with a drive for a Romaine 41-yard goal.
Arizona State — running the no-huddle, read-option offense that has given the Beaver defense fits over the past several seasons — then marched 75 yards in nine plays, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty. Of ASU's 48 scoring drives this season to that point, it was the 33rd that had taken three minutes or less.
Again the Beavers answered, with Vaz hooking up with Markus Wheaton on a 50-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-10.
By the Sun Devils' next possession, Oregon State's defense had settled in and found ways to slow or stop ASU. The Beavers generally kept plays in front of them, pressured ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly, made sure tackles, and limited Arizona State to less than 100 yards over the final 23 minutes of the half.
TWO BANGED UP, ONE'S JUST FINE: Oregon State had three players whose participation was in doubt entering the game due to injuries: cornerback/punt returner Jordan Poyer, running back Storm Woods and wide receiver Markus Wheaton.
Poyer was listed as a starter on the pre-game lineups but was scratched just before kickoff and did not play. Woods played the Beavers' first series and then spent the rest of the game on the bench; there was no word during the game on whether he was hurt.
Wheaton, who had been knocked from last week's loss at Washington by a blow to the head in the first half, was just fine, though.
In the first half alone, Wheaton rushed for 35 yards on a fly sweep and also caught a 50-yard scoring pass, making a nifty grab in traffic and then threading his way through defenders to the end zone. Early in the third quarter, Wheaton added a one-handed catch for a 17-yard touchdown from Vaz that gave the Beavers their first lead at 26-19.
Wheaton finished with four catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns, adding three carries for 57 yards. In addition, he provided a sure-handed substitute for Poyer as the punt returner, usually opting for fair catches but taking his only return for 15 yards.
In Woods' absence, Terron Ward rushed for 146 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. Ward's touchdown was a 53-yard burst up the middle that drew OSU within 19-16 early in the second quarter.
NO. 1 VS. NO. 2: The game was a matchup of the Pac-12's top two defenses, as ASU was allowing 322 total yards per game and OSU 344 per game. The Beavers got the better of the matchup on Saturday, holding the Sun Devils to 303 yards total offense — 77 yards of that coming on the Sun Devils' final drive with the game decided — while the OSU offense rolled up 424. ASU had allowed more than 24 points in a game just once this season in winning five of its first eight games.
CHANGE IN STYLE: The game was a shift from how the Beavers have spent most of the 2012 season. Generally, home games have meant a defensive contest with the average score for the season's first three games at Reser Stadium being 16.7-6.7 in OSU's favor. Saturday's 36-26 final was more reminiscent of the season's road games, where the average score has had the Beavers winning 31.0-22.3.
THE GALES OF NOVEMBER NOT GLOOMY: Oregon State had its late-season difficulties the past two seasons, but Saturday was a chance to try to get back on the right track in that department. From 2003-09, the Beavers were 29-13 in the months of November and December.
FROM BUMMER TO BOWL: Oregon State assured itself of bowl eligibility with its sixth win of the season when it beat Utah on Oct. 20. According to research done by sportswriter John Hunt of The Oregonian, no team in the Pacific-8/Pacific-10/Pacific-12 has had a record as bad as OSU did in 2011 (3-9) and played in a bowl game the next season.
THIS AND THAT: Oregon State has opened the season with a 7-1 record for the first time since 2001, when the Beavers finished the season 11-1. The Beavers' 6-1 record entering the game was their best-ever start under head coach Mike Riley. According to OSU officials, since joining an "official league" (the Pacific Coast Conference) for the 1925 season, OSU has had five other teams at 6-1: 2000 (head coach Dennis Erickson), 1964 (Tommy Prothro), 1939 (Lon Stiner), 1926 (Paul Schissler) and 1925 (Paul Schissler) "… OSU is off to a 5-1 start in conference play for the first time since 2001, when the Beavers won the Pacific-10 co-championship with a 7-1 record "… Arizona State holds a 25-13-1 lead in the all-time series, but Oregon State has won four of the last five meetings and five of the last seven "… OSU won its fifth straight home game, the longest streak since the Beavers won six in a row at Reser Stadium across the 2009 and 2010 seasons "… Oregon State earned its fourth straight home win over ASU; the only other time the Beavers had beaten the Sun Devils in consecutive "home" games came in 1968 and 1971, when the schools met in nonconference games in Portland "… This is Dad's Weekend at Oregon State, with many paternal parents of OSU students among the sellout crowd of 45,979.