GAME COLUMN: Arizona was the test OSU passed

WELL, THAT WAS a doozy. Mike Riley's title as the most successful coach in Oregon State football history was not served on a silver platter on Saturday night. A Connor Hamlett touchdown snag gave OSU a late lead – a lead which they toyed with, even on into the final seconds of the game...

Just shy of edging into Beaver territory with less than a minute on the clock, Arizona looked like they had a chance to best the Beavs through the air. OSU needed an interception to close it out, nothing less.

Enter Rashaad Reynolds.

This guy needs a nickname.

In the end, Arizona was the test – and OSU passed.

Wisconsin AND UCLA were one thing – tough matchups against tough opponents, yada yada yada. But we talked this week about how the diversity of playmakers for Arizona's offense would be the primary challenge for a Beaver defense that came into the game still Jonesing' from the high of essentially shutting down the aforementioned opponents.

We talked about how guys like Dan Buckner, Austin Hill and Tyler Slavin were capable of giving the top-ranked Beaver D a run for their money.

In case you didn't notice – we weren't wrong.

THE FIRST HALF left all signs pointing toward an OSU victory after the final whistle blew in the second quarter.

Mike Riley's offense controlled the run game well, aired it out even better, and the Beaver defenders contained Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey with relative ease.

Sean Mannion and Co. proved that they could take advantage of weaknesses on the Arizona defense early. After starting defensive back Jared Tevis went out with an injury, Riley made sure to attack the belly of the Arizona defense and pick up solid yardage on the ground with Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew.

Mannion had a bead on Markus Wheaton for the majority of the first half too – picking up big chunks of yardage with the aerial attack on numerous play-action fakes and crisp slant routes designed around the Beavers early success with the running attack. That No. 18 ranking sure looked safe - prior to the start of the second half.

Tevis returned. And enter Matt Scott and an electric Wildcat offense. Arizona did not roll over. In fact, they rolled right through OSU during the first half of the third quarter. This victory on the road did not come easy.

OVER AT BEAVER NATION, grown men went silent and started gnawing at cuticles that hadn't been touched since the onside kick at the end of the Wisconsin game. Matt Scott, Ka'Deem Carey and the Wildcat offense marched down the field, eating up the clock and posting 21 points in the third quarter. ‘Zona managed to score three times in that stanza, succeeding where both Wisconsin and UCLA failed in OSU's last two matchups.

A role reversal took place then, as the Wildcats commanded the clock, the tempo, and the score in the third. OSU grabbed a little momentum, but Arizona in the end owned that quarter. There's no disputing that.

And whether the Beaver's got cocky or tired heading into the second half is anyone's guess – regardless, they did not look like the high caliber defensive squad pollsters made them out to be prior to the starting whistle being blown.

Scott ran all over the OSU front seven, as did Carey, who posted a touchdown and reeled off some nice receptions to help the Wildcats. Scott connected for six on two separate occasions – once on a three yard bullet to Hill and again on a 16-yard air raid to Buckner as the quarter drew to a close.

So pardon Beaver Nation if they got a little nervous as the third quarter ticked away, leaving the orange and black trailing by a score of 28-24 in a game they led 17-0 at one point.

THE FOURTH QUARTER was anyone's game – a jousting match down to the bitter end, where Arizona got knocked off its victory horse by the Reynolds interception. But that was only half the story for Beaver fans sitting on the edge of their seats.

Where were Dylan Wynn, Scott Crichton, Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai in the second half? Sure, they were nails during the first 30 minutes but what the heck happened after that?

Scott had ample time to make decisions in the passing game for Arizona - he was able to find his rhythm, something he struggled with in the former half of the game. The lack of constant pressure in the offensive backfield during the second half was primarily responsible for Scott compiling a grand total of 403 yards and three TD passes.

Overall, and sans the two interceptions courtesy of Reynolds and Jordan Poyer, this tilt in Tucson marked arguably the sloppiest defensive performance to date for the 2012 Beavs.

Not that we're cynical or anything after the past couple of seasons. Okay – yes we are.

Who would have thought, that in a game dominated by predictable but consistently successful "run - play action - run again or throw to Wheaton" type of drives on behalf of the OSU offensive, that the game would be decided by a nine yard bullet to the seldom mentioned H-back Hamlett?

Even more interesting is the fact that, in a game where defense was thought to be the key to success for the Beavers, the offense prevailed in the clutch.

Woods notched 29 carries for 161 yards and a TD, his best performance at this juncture – aiding in shedding some much needed light on an OSU rushing attack that got off to a slow start this season.

Mannion posted three touchdowns for 433 yards on 29-45 through the air. He even moved around in the pocket to open up some deep throws . Learning you are, young padawan.

And when it gets down to the nitty gritty, this was just a damned fun game to watch. Both teams went at it tooth and nail, OSU inevitably coming out on top by a three point margin and claiming its first 3-0 start in a long, long time.

The 2012 Oregon State Beavers.

Whatever might happen next…?

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