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In first start, QB Vaz leads Oregon State over BYU, 42-24

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PROVO, Utah -- BYU had gone 13 quarters (197 game minutes) without giving up a touchdown while its defense was on the field.

So what does Oregon State go and do? Score 14 points on two of its first three drives and leave with a 42-24 road win.

It was that kind of weird, dreary Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium for BYU, where the No. 10 Beavers did more than enough to justify their high ranking despite playing with an inexperienced backup quarterback.

A tipped pass for a touchdown and a slew of long balls against what had been a vacuum-packed Cougar defense eliminated any questions about how much OSU would suffer because of a sudden change in personnel.

"I don't think anybody in our locker room was particularly surprised Cody played well," OSU coach Mike Riley said after Cody Vaz completed 20-of-32 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns, including a sizzling fourth quarter in which he looked like much more than a sophomore who had never started (or thrown an interception) before this game. "I think they've had faith in him as a teammate for a long time. I knew this was going to be a hard venue to step into. But I thought guys helped him out and made plays."

OSU led 28-24 in the fourth quarter and then scored a touchdown on a 77-yard drive, capitalizing on a couple of pass-interference calls after facing second-and-long from near midfield with about six minutes left.

"We had to throw the ball downfield," Riley said. "You can't just plan on throwing the same plays at BYU's front line."

The last time BYU allowed over 300 yards was in last year's 38-28 win at OSU, a span of 14 games.

"They were improved from last year," said BYU receiver Cody Hoffman. "They had a really good game plan against us that kept everything in front. We put a few new plays in there, trying to get the ball deep. But they were ready for them."

The Cougars had the game turn for good, emotionally, early in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy tipped a Vaz pass at the line of scrimmage, but it turned into a 5-yard touchdown to Colby Prince. He boxed out three Cougars in the front of the end zone (they tried to go around him rather than knock him down, which would have been acceptable because of the tip).

"That's sports sometimes. It's why you hate the game and why you love the game," BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley said. "It was a break that didn't go our way. It was tough."

BYU never led but pulled within 28-24 on a field goal with 8:55 left.

Oregon State, which went three-and-out on its previous possession, showed this isn't quite the Riley-coached team that has ended with losing seasons the last two years, including 3-9 last fall.

Starting at its 23, OSU had plays of 11 and 30 yards. A false-start call and a holding left the visitors needing 16 yards on second down. They got two straight 15-yard penalties on BYU's secondary near the end zone. An 11-yard reverse produced a 35-24 lead.

Then Jordan Poyer -- who had a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown last year against BYU -- got one from 49 yards when Cougar receiver Ross Apo couldn't secure the ball on the soggy field.

The score was tied at 14 in the first half. BYU had a major time-of-possession advantage (nearly 19 of the 30 minutes), but OSU countered with an electric passing attack that was the best BYU's vaunted defense had faced this season. The Cougars enjoyed a lot of success in recent weeks against Hawaii, Utah State and Boise State.

This was a different case, big time.

BYU fans were hard on the offense when it was ineffective. But the defense surrendered five scoring drives -- all of which went no less than 67 yards, including a couple that the Beavers marched 77 in the fourth quarter.

"We just kept plugging," Riley said.

The Beavers had touchdown passes of 11 and 24 yards but also completed throws of 18 and 29 yards on their first drive that led to a score. Vaz threw a 43-yarder on the way to giving the Beavers a 14-7 lead.

Riley Nelson rallied BYU early, taking advantage of a short field late in the first half. The Cougars were given the ball at OSU's 30 after a punt return and a penalty (an OSU player continued to participate in the play despite losing his helmet, the new rule being enforced and costing the Beavers 15 yards).

Nelson threw a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down 3 1/2 minutes before intermission.

Nelson, who had two interceptions, didn't exactly evoke the memory of Ty Detmer, the former Heisman Trophy winner who was honored at halftime for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Nelson was trying to lead the Cougars to their first home win against a top-10 team since 1990, when Detmer defeated Miami.

It seemed like it would have come with a bit of an asterisk from OSU, even if the Beavers didn't want it.

But Vaz made it a moot point with his play.

Oregon State announced early in the week that sophomore Sean Mannion would be out indefinitely, requiring knee surgery after a late injury suffered while making a handoff in the win against Washington State.

BYU has faced quarterback woes, too. Nelson, a senior, was inserted back in the lineup after a two-game absence for back issues. There has been a lot of speculation that Nelson would have to tone down his penchant to run -- Taysom Hill was lost for the season last week after a late running play -- but Nelson ran for 16 yards on BYU's first play from scrimmage.

Vaz was comfortable early, completing 8-of-10 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. The Cougars changed their tone, attacking more, and Vaz grew shakier as the game went on, at one point missing on 9-of-12 passes.

But he gained his confidence again late in the third quarter, finding open receivers against a BYU defense that hadn't allowed so many this year.

The Cougars, including coach Bronco Mendenhall, figured they would be in plenty good shape if they scored 24 points this week -- considering the way the defense has performed.

"That's what makes it disappointing as a defensive player," Hadley said. "But give Oregon State credit. They had a game plan that was really effective."

NOTES: BYU safety Mike Hague was a late scratch because of a lingering calf injury. ... The Cougars did their first "black out," wearing black uniforms and also painting the end zones along with the midfield "Y" and oval. ... BYU tied the score at 14 with 3:25 left before halftime on a 30-yard drive that included three fourth-down conversions. ... BYU junior receiver Cody Hoffman passed the 2,000-yard mark for his career.
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