WSU (4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12) held a 35-14 lead going into the final 15 minutes of play, before surrendering 21 4th quarter points to OSU (3-1, 0-1) including a touchdown with 1:12 to go. The game came down to a dramatic onside kick that had every Coug holding their breath after the ball deflected off of a Coug.
“We just beat a really good Oregon State team. And it wasn’t pretty, it was tough, it was gutsy, it was gritty and this is a players game, period.” Jake Dickert said. “Our guys went out there and executed and made just enough, one more play than they did to win the game.”
For the second time in three weeks, students streamed onto the field after a Cam Ward kneel down to celebrate a second top-20 victory for WSU. The first felt like a statement to the nation that WSU belonged amongst the very best. This game, was another statement to the nation that both these teams belonged after an all-time classic in this northwest land-grant university rivalry. This was the first time WSU and OSU met up both being ranked in the top 25 and both teams proved worthy of their status. Though WSU held the lead for the entire game, most of it by multiple scores, the game never felt over with the threat of an OSU comeback looming.
“It was great to get that win,” Ward said post-game. “To see the emotions from myself, my teammates, my coaches, it was a real gritty win and were excited that we could get the job done.”
WSU’s offense accelerated faster than Butch T. Cougar’s ATV to open the game. On just the second play, Ward hit Kyle Williams all alone down field for a 63-yard touchdown pass to get the Martin Stadium crowd jumping around.
The receivers weren’t done showing out. Josh Kelly kicked off drive number two not needing two hands to reel in this incredible catch.
“The first one handed catch, because that’s what really started getting me going. Once I pulled that one in, I just felt like it was time to go.” Kelly said on his favorite play from the night.
The drive culminated in a Ward QB keeper to put the Cougs up 14-0. Despite the dream start, leading receiver Lincoln Victor appeared to suffer an ankle injury holding the PAT that would put him on crutches for the remainder of the game. Dickert said post-game that there were no breaks or fractures for Victor’s injury and it was “probably just a high-ankle”.
The Beavers wouldn’t let the dam break so easily. Damien Martinez would do a bulk of the damage with four straight carries for 19 yards before passing the torch on to Deshaun Fenwick who gashed through the Cougar defense for a 38-yard rushing touchdown.
Rolling drive number three into the second quarter, Kelly again announced his presence. Catching the ball at the 34, Kelly juked out one Beaver off before channeling his inner Boobie Williams at nearly the same exact spot, spinning out of three more Beavers and sprinting into the end zone to give WSU a 21-7 lead.
Martinez and Fenwick again teamed up to gash the Cougar defense to put the Beavers back in WSU territory with a chance to pull back within a touchdown. Instead, WSU’s ever opportunistic defense put a halt on things. Ron Stone Jr. rushed through the Beaver line with a free shot at QB D.J. Uiagalelei. Uiagalelei’s desperation pass was tipped up into the air and floated into the waiting arms of Sam Lockett for the first turnover of the game. Despite a Ward to Williams 40 yard strike, Jaylen Jenkins put the ball on the turf to hand the ball back to OSU. The Beavers would be the ones to take advantage on a Fenwick touchdown set up by a 50-yard deep strike to Silas Bolden.
Ward coughed up a second straight turnover on the next drive, fumbling the ball back to the Beavers. WSU’s defense came up big with a 4th down sack by Jaden Hicks flying off the edge. With 2:12 remaining and getting the ball in great field position, Ward made up for his earlier miscue with a surgical six play drive lasting 2:02 and ending in Kelly’s second touchdown of the half. OSU had no choice but to kneel out the final seconds as WSU took the 28-14 lead into the locker room.
Coming out of the half down 14, the Beavers tried to get aggressive on the opening possession. Going for it on 4th and 1 from their own 34, Uiagalelei’s pass floated well over the intended Martinez for a turnover on downs and outstanding field position for WSU’s offense. Despite their first half success, Ben Arbuckle’s offense couldn’t move the ball a single yard on three plays and had to trot the typically automatic Dean Janikowski for a 51-yarder that sailed just left of the uprights to keep the score at 28-14.
The Cougar defense would force a punt and the Beaver defense seemed to do the same, until WSU dug into its bag of tricks. A perfect fake punt pass from Nick Haberer to Billy Riviere who followed long snapper Simon Samarzich across the first down marker. Ward again picked apart the Beaver defense and Kelly again dazzled with his second one handed catch and third touchdown of the game.
The Beavers converted two third downs rolling into the fourth quarter before finally being stopped on a 3rd and 4, only getting two yards. Needing to go for it on 4th and short, Uiagalelei took the QB keeper through the front line and past every anthracite jersey for a 26 yard rushing touchdown.
Nakia Watson and Jenkins got the run game going to set the Cougars up in OSU territory. WSU would again count on Janikowski for a 44-yard field goal that he banked in off the left upright and through to push the WSU lead up to three possessions.
With their backs against the wall, the #14 team in the country wouldn’t go down so easily. Uiagalelei orchestrated a 75-yard touchdown drive, aided by two WSU defensive penalties, but it would take the Beavs a lengthy six minutes to pull back within two scores. OSU again got aggressive with an onside kick that would smoothly roll into the hands of Riviere with a little over six minutes to play. On 3rd and 8, Williams took a short pass through the teeth of the Beaver defense inside the 10 and down to the 8. Dylan Paine and John Mateer carried the ball to the OSU 2 on the first three plays, leaving WSU with a choice on 4th down from the two. Arbuckle went for the knockout blow, opting to try and fade to the hot hand of Kelly, but great coverage knocked the ball down to the crimson turf.
Despite the turnover on downs, WSU was still in a great position with a 10 point lead and the Beavers starting at their own two with 3:58 on the clock. The Cougar defense leaned heavily into the bend don’t break mentality, allowing OSU to cover the third and shorts and take the short plays underneath. OSU got the big play they needed when WSU was flagged for a defensive holding call that moved the Beavers to the WSU 38. Uiagalelei followed up the penalty with a 33 yard pass to Anthony Gould to put OSU inside the WSU 5. WSU held OSU out of the end zone for three plays but finally surrendered an open touchdown on 4th down to Jack Velling to set up a game deciding onside kick with WSU’s lead holding at just three points.
Atticus Sappington put the ball on the ground without a tee and kicked it softly to the left side of the field. Initially, the ball looked like it wouldn’t roll the necessary 10 yards before it took a crazy bounce toward Stone Jr. Stone tried to fall on the ball but it deflected off of him into a pile of white and anthracite. An anxious silence fell over the crowd as both Beavers and Cougars pointed in each direction awaiting the official ruling from the officials sporting a similar combo of white and black. After what felt like an eternity, the officials indicated that WSU indeed recovered the onside kick and the crowd of crimson roared a loud sigh of relief. Ward capped off the Cougs second upset win of the young season with a pair of kneel downs to seal the 38-35 victory and the second field rush in three weeks for the crimson faithful.
In an off-season that tried to shove both WSU and OSU out of relevancy, the two land-grant universities put on arguably their greatest game in the twos long history in a prime-time slot on national television. Yet again, WSU came out victorious with the nation watching and looked every part of the top-25 ranking they have earned so far.
“I think it just gives us more motivation. We got a bye week, get everyone healthy going to UCLA, they’re a great team,” Ward said. “I feel like we still have more to prove, I feel like we haven’t done anything yet, still early in the season so we still got to wrinkle out some kinks but were excited for that challenge at UCLA.”
Ward was again on point all game long. He started the game a near perfect 19/20 passing, finishing with 404 passing yards and five total touchdowns.
WSU will look to nurse some of the injuries they sustained in this game with a bye week this week before heading down to the Rose Bowl to play the UCLA Bruins.