TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—Oregon State placekicker Justin Kahut said he was “in disbelief” after missing the potential tying extra point late in the fourth quarter.
Imagine how the Arizona Wildcats felt a few minutes later, when Kahut calmly nailed a 24-yard field goal as time expired to seal an improbable 19-17 victory on Saturday night, leaving the Beavers one win away from their first Rose Bowl trip since 1965.
Kahut, a sophomore from Portland, said he prayed for a shot at redemption after hooking the extra point to the left with the Beavers trailing 17-16 with 3:58 remaining.
“I didn’t feel like that was supposed to be the way that our season was going to go down,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be where I lost the game for the team. They worked so hard, and we deserved that win, and I’m just so grateful for that second opportunity.”
The game was a microcosm of Oregon State’s season. The Beavers started 2-3, including a 45-14 shelling at No. 19 Penn State on Sept. 6, and have now won six straight.
Against Arizona, the Beavers had to go without starting quarterback Lyle Moevao, sidelined by a shoulder injury. Then they lost tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, the Pac-10’s leading rusher, to a shoulder injury on their second possession.
Then Oregon State fell behind 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter as a red-clad Arizona Stadium crowd of 48,503 howled for the Wildcats’ seventh upset of a Top 25 team in coach Mike Stoops’ five seasons.
But these Beavers don’t faze easily. They don’t faze at all.
“I think that’s how our season has been going,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said as a throng of orange-and-black-clad fans chanted “Let’s go Beavs!.” “The main thing is that we would not be denied.”
The Beavers (8-3, 7-1 Pac-10) can clinch a trip to Pasadena, Calif.,—and a likely rematch with Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions—with a victory over No. 24 Oregon in the Civil War on Nov. 29.
Oregon State moved into a first-place tie with No. 6 USC, which was idle. The Beavers hold the tiebreaker because they upset then-No. 1 USC in Corvallis on Sept. 25.
The Trojans still can draw an at-large berth to a Bowl Championship Series game. But they would have controlled the Rose Bowl race if Arizona had hung on.
“I don’t think we made Pete Carroll’s night tonight,” Stoops said.
The crestfallen Stoops tried to look on the bright side: the Wildcats (6-5, 4-4) are still headed for a bowl game for the first time since 1998. Keola Antolin rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown for Arizona, while Willie Tuitama threw for 158 yards and a score.
“That’s a tough loss to take, but I can’t help but be encouraged by this football team,” Stoops said.
But the Beavers were the better team—barely—on a 76-degree in the desert.
Trailing 17-16 with 1:19 to play, the Beavers took over at their 20 with no timeouts left.
On the third play of the drive, quarterback Sean Canfield, who started in place of Moevao, found Sammie Stroughter alone behind the Wildcats secondary for a 47-yard gain to the Arizona 7.
“We run two-minute (drill) every day in practice,” Canfield said. “It’s just another routine thing for us.”
Canfield completed 20-of-32 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown, and he didn’t throw an interception. He’s started two games and won them both.
Four plays later, Kahut came on and calmly nailed a 24-yard field goal, splitting the same uprights that he’d missed a few minutes earlier.
With the score tied at 10-10 early in the fourth quarter, Riley went for it twice on fourth down near midfield. The first one worked and the second didn’t, and it proved costly.
After backup tailback Ryan McCants lost a yard on fourth-and-1 at Arizona’s 49, the Wildcats went on an eight-play march capped by a 9-yard touchdown run by Antolin to give Arizona a 17-10 lead.
Oregon State responded with a 10-play, 80-yard march for a touchdown, but even that had a measure of unwanted drama when a wide-open James Rodgers dropped a certain touchdown pass.
Asked if Rodgers had said anything when he returned to the huddle, Canfield grinned and replied, “He said ‘Sorry.’ But hey, we didn’t blink.”
Indeed, Canfield hit Stroughter for a 7-yard score five plays later.
That’s when Kahut shanked the conversion, leaving the Beavers down by a point with 3:58 to play.
But the Beavers didn’t blink again.
“The comeback was big,” Canfield said. “We knew what we had to do and everyone chipped in and we never backed down.”