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Dreams come true for OSU

CORVALLIS — Ranking his football thrills, Rejzohn Wright figured Oregon State’s last-play, 27-24 win over Washington in Pac-12 football Saturday night was right up there with last season’s victory over Oregon — with one big difference.

“That’s what you dream about, playing college football,” the junior cornerback said. “I always wanted to do this, I always wanted to be on a team that’s rushing the field.”

That didn’t happen after beating the Ducks during the fan-free pandemic season of 2020. And, to be exact, it was the Oregon State fans rushing the Reser Stadium turf after the Beavers — who looked cooked with about 10 minutes left — scored 10 points in the final 6:35 to end a nine-game losing streak to the Huskies.

That came after the Beavers trailed 24-17 after Washington scored a pair of touchdowns in a span of 17 seconds, the second score aided by recovering OSU quarterback Chance Nolan’s fumble at the Oregon State 6-yard line on the first play after the kickoff.

The momentum was all Washington’s, and OSU’s offense — so potent last week in winning at Southern California for the first time since 1960 — had been stagnant much of the night.

“It’s always going to be back and forth,” Oregon State junior defensive back Jaydon Grant said. “But going into every game, the main message we say is, it’s going to be a four-quarter fight. College football is a long, long game. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. You’ve got to stay right here in the middle, live right here.

“It’s such a hard-fought game. Back and forth, you focus series by series, snap by snap. It’s all about execution and fortunately we came out with a win.”

The Beavers didn’t wilt. The offense clawed its way back to productivity in the final six minutes of the game, the defense came up with a game-changing stop on a fourth-and-one play, and OSU moved into sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 North Division.

Sticking together in tough times helps. OSU players talk of having a tight-knit team, and Grant called that “a testament to the culture we’ve built here at Oregon State.”

“There are probably 20 different guys that I’d say people on this team people would call and look up to as leaders,” Grant said. “Everybody is just so on the same page. I think one of the biggest things for us — not even this season, but during the COVID season when we weren’t playing football, guys really took the time to try to understand one another and we got closer because we didn’t have any football.

“I can’t be more happy and I can’t be more proud to be part of this team.”

In the four years since Gary Andersen stepped down as head coach in the middle off the 2017 season, Oregon State has moved toward being competitive — and now winning.

“I’ve been through a lot here,” Grant said. “I’ve taken a lot of L’s (losses) being here in my time. I took a lot of close, heartbreaking losses, so to be on the flip side, it means everything. Not to say that we couldn’t have done the flip side in the past, but now that we’re on the winning side, and in order to keep this momentum … We can’t be complacent.

“Now it’s not as much how do you bounce back, but how do you handle success. Our coaches and our leaders on the team and the entire culture of the program does a great job keeping us humble. So just moving forward and looking to win next week. We’ll celebrate tonight, we’ll clean things up tomorrow and go back to work.”

GOULD TIMING: Through three quarters, Oregon State — which had total offense yardage figures of 535, 438 and 558 in its three previous wins — had been limited to 174 yards. And when OSU got the ball back, down 24-17 with 10 minutes to play, the Beavers’ longest play from scrimmage all night had gone for 12 yards.

On Oregon State’s second play of its next drive, Anthony Gould took a fly sweep to the left side for 19 yards. Two plays later, Gould hauled in a pass from Nolan for 22 more, jump-starting the Beaver offense toward its two late scores.

Gould, a redshirt freshman receiver, hadn’t touched the ball since racking up seven catches for 119 yards and a touchdown against Hawaii three weeks ago while playing for an injured Tyjon Lindsey.

“He was ready when his number was called,” OSU head coach Jonathan Smith said. “He had the monster game a couple weeks ago. Last week, a lot of that stuff Tyjon was getting is a similar role to Anthony, so he didn’t bat an eye and he went back to work and he totally was ready. Because he wasn’t getting a ton of snaps even in the first half, he wasn’t running around out there that much. But when his number was called in a critical situation he was ready.”

Nolan, extremely effective in guiding OSU’s offense since relieving Sam Noyer in the second half of the season-opener at Purdue, struggled against the Huskies to a 7-for-15 passing night for 48 yards with one interception.

“He’s competitive, he’s battling out there,” Smith said. “He didn’t throw it overly accurate tonight, I don’t think he solved the coverage all that well today. That was not a good play to fumble and give them the ball wherever it was, but the kid responded and we needed to answer and he got in there and threw a strike to Anthony. He did not have his ‘A’ game but at the end of it he found a way to help us win.”

Beaver junior B.J. Baylor rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, including a 27-yard touchdown that tied the game at 24-24 with 6:35 left. He said OSU didn’t panic when down by a touchdown and struggling with 10 minutes left.

“We just told everybody to stay together and keep pushing,” Baylor said. “We knew it was going to be a four-quarter fight and we just had to keep doing what we were doing.”

THE KICK IS UP: Oregon State sophomore placekicker Everett Hayes said he’d never been in the situation to win a game on the last kick of the game before, but he was calm when called on with three seconds left and OSU tied with Washington.

“I just trust my preparation,” Hayes said. “I’ve been through it all the time in practice. I know Dylan’s going to give me a great snap, Luke is going to give me a great hold out there, and I’m just confident I can make it.”

With about 1:30 to go, it became apparent the Beavers were playing for a field goal on the final play.

“I was on the sideline just trying to kick into the net, focus, tell myself keep trusting yourself, keep doing what you’re doing,” Hayes said. “I missed one earlier in the day so I just wanted to make up for that one, to be honest. Other than that, Chance and the offense ran the ball down the field, got me extremely close and that made it easier on me.”

TAKING IT PERSONALLY: Smith was asked if the win meant more to him personally because of the four years he spent coaching at Washington.

“I’m quick to say no, but yeah,” Smith said. “All these wins mean something. And I’ll say this: pre- and post-game, seeing a lot of people from that university that are big-time people — coaches, off-the-field staff, football ops, strength staff — you just know a lot of people over there and I’ve got a lot of respect for them and it’s definitely nice to beat those guys.”

The victory gave Oregon State its first four-game win streak since the Beavers had a six-gamer in 2013, which was also the last time OSU has won its first two Pac-12 games.

Oregon State running back Deshaun Fenwick (5) is brought down by Washington's Edefuan Ulofoshio, left, and Cameron Williams during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)