SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Brian Johnson’s third quarter was a disaster.
The Utah quarterback’s fourth quarter was nearly perfect, though, as he led the 15th-ranked Utes to an 11-point rally in the final minute-and-half of a 31-28 victory over Oregon State on Thursday night.
Louie Sakoda kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired, stunning the Beavers one week after they had done the stunning with an upset over top-ranked Southern California. The Beavers (2-3) appeared to have the Utes (6-0) finished off as well with a little over 2 minutes remaining.
That turned out to be more than enough time for Johnson, who completed seven of his last eight passes and kept the Utes’ Bowl Championship Series hopes alive.
“When we were down eight, I saw a few people leaving and thought, `They’re about to miss a show.’ I thought there was no way we were going to lose this game,” Johnson said.
Johnson got Utah within 28-26 on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Bradon Godfrey with 1:29 left to play and Johnson tied it by running for the 2-point conversion.
Utah’s defense allowed 405 yards, but stifled the Beavers on the next three plays and the Utes got the ball back just 23 seconds later on a punt at their own 45-yard line.
Johnson moved the Utes to Oregon State’s 24 and Utah called a timeout with 2 seconds left. Sakoda trotted out and coolly kicked his third field goal of the game.
“That was the biggest kick of my career,” Sakoda said. “I stayed calm. I knew it was going to be a chip shot. I had confidence Brian would lead them into my range.”
The win gave the Mountain West Conference a 6-1 record against the Pac-10 this season.
“I thought we had enough at the end, but it turned out we didn’t,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “They just made those plays that we had been covering really well.”
Freshman Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 101 yards and a touchdown for the Beavers. He had 186 yards and two touchdowns the week before in Oregon State’s first win over a No. 1 team in 41 years.
Rodgers also had 76 receiving yards, breaking a middle screen for 41 yards late in the fourth quarter on third-and-9, setting up Lyle Moevao’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Brady Camp with 2:18 remaining.
The Beavers held Utah to just 30 yards in the third quarter and needed only one more defensive stop to win it. But they couldn’t stop Johnson on the tying drive.
“Hands-down, the biggest win of my career. To be in that situation down eight with a minute and two timeouts the chances of winning, the percentages aren’t in your favor,” Johnson said. “That just goes to show the toughness of this team.”
After two short gains, Johnson found Brent Casteel for a 25-yard pass play to the 25. On the next play, Johnson hit Godfrey for a touchdown to get the Utes within 28-26. Johnson’s pass on the 2-point conversion was incomplete, but Greg Laybourn—whose interception late in the fourth quarter helped the Beavers seal the win over USC—was called for pass interference in the end zone and the Utes got another chance. Johnson dropped back, then outran the Beavers to the right corner to tie it.
Oregon State’s three-and-out barely burned any time off the clock and Johnson led the final drive.
“We really just showed a lot of resiliency and we did a great job of handling adversity,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
Moevao was 21-of-31 for 313 yards and two touchdowns and the Beavers’ defense forced three turnovers, including an interception Al Afalava returned 26 yards for a touchdown that gave Oregon State a 9-3 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
Johnson struggled in the third quarter, but recovered late in the fourth and finished 17-of-30 for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Utah won despite being outgained 405-337.
“They’re just a great team. I give it all to them,” said Oregon State’s Slade Norris, who had two sacks, two other tackles for a loss and forced Johnson to fumble early in the third quarter.
The Beavers fell behind 20-9 on a 12-yard run by Casteel with 2:31 left in the second quarter, but Moevao led the Beavers right back up the field and completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Shane Morales with 1:13 left before halftime.
Utah got the ball back to start the third quarter, but Johnson fumbled as he was being tackled by Norris and the Beavers recovered at the 34. Rodgers gave Oregon State a 21-20 lead on a 7-yard touchdown with 12:33 left in the third.
It was 3-3 after the first quarter, then the Beavers and Utes went back and forth throughout the second, capitalizing on each other’s mistakes. Some were forced by the defense and some were just blunders.
Johnson opened the second quarter with a pass over the middle that Afalava stepped in front of and ran untouched 26 yards for a touchdown. Oregon State missed the extra point, then muffed the kickoff coverage. David Reed took the return up the middle, then bounced to the Utah sideline going 79 yards to Oregon State’s 15-yard line.
Utah had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Sakoda, then scored again with 7:04 left on a 14-yard pass from Johnson to Freddie Brown. The Beavers almost had Johnson sacked, but he scrambled out of trouble and found Brown standing alone at the back of the end zone for a 13-9 lead.