When Oregon State needed separation Saturday night, it went back to two of its biggest strengths of the season — the running game and getting the ball to Jack Colletto in short-yardage situations.
The Beavers defense did the job throughout, largely shutting down a high-powered Arizona State offense fueled by dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels in a 24-10 Pac-12 football win at Reser Stadium.
But when OSU sought to regain control after a special teams blunder let the Sun Devils back in the game, handing the ball off was the answer.
Colletto’s 47-yard touchdown run on a 4th-and-2 play in what was a one-score game in the fourth quarter provided the cushion the Beavers needed to get over the top and stay in contention for a conference championship.
“That’s what Jack does. He comes in and makes plays when we need him to make plays,” wide receiver Trevon Bradford said. “We needed to go get points on that drive. That was a big play and we needed that out of Jack.”
To reach the Pac-12 title game Dec. 3 in Las Vegas, Oregon State (7-4, 5-3) needs a Washington win against Washington State on Friday night and for the Beavers to defeat Oregon on Saturday.
Oregon State wrapped up an undefeated home schedule for the first time since the 2000 season. The program celebrated that team’s Fiesta Bowl win a night after the team was inducted into OSU’s athletic hall of fame.
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Colletto’s big moment came after the game changed in a hurry when Beavers punter Luke Loecher fumbled a snap deep in Oregon State territory and ASU took possession at the OSU 4. Two plays later, the Sun Devils were in the end zone and trailed by only seven.
B.J. Baylor got the Beavers (7-4, 5-3) rolling on the ensuing drive with a 20-yard run on first down, clinching his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Deshaun Fenwick followed with five yards on the ground, Tre’Shaun Harrison caught a 2-yard pass and Trey Lowe got one more on the ground.
That brought Colletto, a former quarterback whose primary position is inside linebacker, off the sideline.
Colletto took the handoff and moved several steps up the middle before finding room to the right. He went untouched until the final few feet before the goal line, where ASU’s Chase Lucas pushed him from behind into the end zone.
Colletto has become the Beavers’ go-to ball carrier in such situations. Saturday’s touchdown was his eighth of the season, all off short-yardage plays.
He said he doesn’t think much about his role and being thrust into the spotlight
“The more you do it, then it kind of becomes normal,” Colletto said.
The OSU defense got a three-and-out and a rare sack, with Kyrei Fisher and Keonte Schad taking down Daniels to force a punt.
Colletto was called on again on a 3rd-and-2 on the next drive and got just enough for the first down.
The Beavers didn’t get a score on that possession with Everett Hayes missing a field goal attempt. But the defense, which played most of the game without star inside linebacker Avery Roberts due to an ankle injury, forced a turnover on downs. That gave the Beavers the ball back, up 14 with just 2:22 remaining.
After a change of leadership two weeks ago, with Trent Bray taking over as coordinator, the defense has allowed just 24 combined points.
“I think they’re playing with a lot of energy. They want to play well. They’ve practiced well,” Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith said, adding that the coaching staff has done a good job scheming to slow down the opponent.
Arizona State (7-4, 5-3) was averaging 421.9 yards on offense coming into Saturday’s contest. The Sun Devils finished with 266. Daniels gained 46 yards rushing and was 16-of-27 passing for 166 yards and one interception. The Beavers, without a sack in the previous four games, brought Daniels down in the backfield three times.
“I would say execution and just playing team defense," not relying on one position group to make plays, safety Jaydon Grant said of the improvement. “It’s a cumulative effort of the 11 guys on the field.”
Grant also credited the coaches for putting the players in position to have success.
Fisher, playing more with Roberts unavailable, had a team-high nine tackles and three quarterback hurries.
The Beavers shut out the Sun Devils in the first half.
Alex Austin intercepted Daniels on the second play of the game, but OSU was unable to produce points from it.
Pinning the visitors at their own 1 on a Loecher punt and a sack of Daniels by Roberts, helped set up a 52-yard Hayes field goal that put the Beavers on the scoreboard first.
ASU’s answer was an eight-play drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal going wide left.
OSU leaned heavy on the pass early in the next drive, including a 13-yarder to Beason. Baylor ran for 17 on the first of seven straight plays on the ground. Then the Beavers went back to the pass for three of the next four snaps, finishing the 10-play 80-yard possession with a 10-yard pass from Nolan to Harrison for the touchdown.
Arizona State mustered just four yards before the Oregon State offense was on the field.
Baylor rushed for 12 yards on consecutive plays to start a drive that — 13 plays and 88 yards later — ended with Nolan plunging across the goal line for a 17-0 lead with 1:59 left in the half.
The Sun Devils’ Cristian Zendejas missed a 49-yard field goal wide left as time expired in the half.
The Beavers held the Sun Devils, a team averaging nearly 31 points a game, off the scoreboard until Zendejas split the uprights on a 26-yard field goal with 6:12 left in the third quarter.
Jesse Sowa can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter, @JesseSowaGT.