Utes nail first Pac-12 win with 27-8 drubbing of Oregon State
Finally, they got one.
The Utah Utes, whose first-year struggles in a BCS league was reaching ghoulish proportions fit for any Halloween-themed event, blacked out and nearly shut out the Oregon State Beavers Saturday 27-8 in front of 45,012 in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The win was the Utes' first against a Pac-12 opponent, an elusive milestone that few imagined would be so hard to reach.
But all the frustrations over turnovers, a porous offensive line and nonexistent passing game were replaced with one of the Utes' best overall performances of the year.
"We haven't been playing well," safety Brian Blechen said. "That is on us, and we were eager to turn it around. It's a new game, and we had to do it now. We owed it to ourselves, the coaches and the fans with the blackout and everything, and everyone came ready to play."
Oregon State (2-6, 2-3), which seemed to be a team on an upswing, was beaten in virtually every aspect Saturday. The Utes credited their attitude adjustment this week as much as they did their schemes.
"It was a big emotional swing from last week," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of the 34-10 loss to Cal. "That was our poorest performance of the year. We were flat coming out and flat the entire football game and never had a spark, and that was one of the points of emphasis this week, to play with passion and energy, and the guys did a good job of that."
After last week's debacle at Cal, the Utes (4-4, 1-4) all but abandoned the passing game against the Beavers and relied on running back John White to carry the offense.
White, who rushed just 15 times for 39 yards a week ago, finished with 35 carries for 205 yards Saturday to become Utah's first 200-yard rusher since Marty Johnson rushed for 229 yards against Indiana in 2002.
His effectiveness took the pressure off quarterback Jon Hays, who threw three interceptions against the Bears a week ago. Hays was 6-for-14 for just 62 yards Saturday but threw two touchdown passes of 35 and 3 yards to Dres Anderson and DeVonte Christopher, respectively, as the Utes scaled back the offense for him.
"We're not asking the offense to go out and score 40 points but possess the football, score in the red zone and don't put the defense in bad spots," Whittingham said.
As for Hays, Whittingham said he "managed the game well."
"We didn't put too much on his plate," Whittingham said. "We wanted to scale things back after the last couple of weeks and give him less to think about and less reads to make, and it paid off."
Utah's defense, meanwhile, cooled off Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion and the Beavers' defense.
Mannion, who threw four touchdown passes in last week's 44-21 win over Washington State and was the Pac-12's Offensive Player of the Week, was 27-of-49 for 231 yards against the Utes but also threw three interceptions and was sacked six times.
Oregon State's run game was ineffective, totaling just 32 rushing yards on 26 carries.
As good as the stats were for the Utes, the feeling of a win was even more satisfying.
The Utes hadn't lost four straight conference games since 2002, when Utah finished 5-6. A loss Saturday could have continued such a downward slide. Now the Utes head into next week's game at Arizona with a little boost in confidence.
"The feeling right now is completely opposite of last week," Hays said. "I couldn't be prouder of the offense and the way the team responded after last week. We are ready to get the next one."
R In short • The Utes rely on their run game to run over the Beavers for their first league win.
Key moment • Freshman Dres Anderson catches a 35-yard touchdown pass with 7:04 left in the second quarter to put the Utes ahead 10-0.
Key stat • Oregon State is held to 32 yards rushing on 26 carries.
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