No. 11 Oregon State’s Pac-12 title hopes took a massive hit on Saturday night in Tucson.
The Beavers were trying to keep pace with the rest of the one-loss teams in the conference title race, but Arizona had other ideas. The Wildcats nearly upset Washington and USC earlier this season. This time around, they got it done by knocking off the Beavers 27-24.
It was a back and forth game, but Arizona made the plays down the stretch to emerge victorious. Oregon State took a 17-13 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but Arizona controlled play the rest of the way.
Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita found Michael Wiley out of the backfield for a 40-yard go-ahead touchdown with 8:46 to play. The Wildcats then quickly forced Oregon State to go three-and-out and put together an upset-sealing drive.
Oregon State is known for its physicality up front and the powerful run game that comes with it. Arizona gave the Beavers a taste of their own medicine with a heavy dose of the run game to eat up much of the remaining clock. On a 10-play, 55-yard touchdown drive, Arizona ran the ball eight times, took 5:20 off the clock and finished it off with a three-yard touchdown pass from Fifita to Wiley to extend the lead to 27-17 with 2:22 to play.
Oregon State would respond with a touchdown at the 1:38 mark, but the subsequent onside kick was recovered by Arizona. From there, the Wildcats ran out the rest of the clock to close out the win.
Arizona running backs combined for 112 rushing yards in the game, and 40 of them came on that drive. But before the Beavers finally got the running game going late, Fifita put together another excellent performance. Making his fourth start in place of the injured Jayden de Laura, the redshirt freshman completed 25-of-32 passes for 275 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
In the first half, he found Tetairoa McMillan for a seven-yard score to give Arizona a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. The Beavers would then tie the score with a field goal and had a chance to go ahead before halftime after Fifita’s first interception of the season.
That’s when Oregon State’s coaches made a curious decision, calling a fake field goal with just three seconds left in the half.
The handoff to kicker Atticus Sappington gained nine yards, but the line of scrimmage was the 16. Sappington didn’t even come close to reaching the end zone. He didn’t even get a first down. And with only a few seconds left in the half when the play was called, time expired in the second quarter and the Beavers came up empty to send the game to halftime at 10-10.
Those three points sure would have come in handy in the second half with the final margin of victory ending up being just three points.
What’s next for Oregon State, Arizona?
Oregon State fell to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in Pac-12 play with the loss. The Beavers will travel to Colorado next week and then host Stanford before closing out the regular season against the top two teams in the conference — Washington and Oregon.
With those teams on the schedule, Oregon State’s dream of a Pac-12 championship is not out of the question. But it is now a much steeper climb.
On the other side, Arizona improved to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in league play. The Wildcats went winless in 2020 and then were 1-11 in 2021, Jedd Fisch’s first season. Now they are just one win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2017.
Next on the schedule is another big home game, this time vs. No. 23 UCLA. From there, the Wildcats will play out the season at Colorado, vs. Utah and then at rival Arizona State.