Luton-led Beavers put it all together
PASADENA, California — The best thing about Oregon State's 48-31 victory over UCLA Saturday night wasn't Jake Luton's masterful quarterbacking or Isaiah Hodgins' continuing handiwork at receiver or the Beavers finally sticking one to Chip Kelly.
It was the scene after the game as the Beavers celebrated with a strong contingent of several hundred fans and family members, the latter still in the stands, clad in orange and black and chanting and cheering and hugging and exchanging high fives with the players, who were still on the field, eating it up.
It's unlikely Oregon State will be playing here again on New Year's Day. But this Rose Bowl win will serve quite well, thank you.
OSU (2-3 overall, 1-1 in Pac-12 play) held a victory over FCS-level Cal Poly, but matching 31-28 losses to Hawaii and Stanford in "should have won" games had left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Beavers.
"We've been so close for so long," sophomore linebacker Avery Roberts said, "it's good to finally get one."
Luton, who will be a strong candidate for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors, matched a school single-game record by accounting for six touchdowns — five through the air and one on the ground.
"We've played really good ball all year," the senior quarterback said. "We've been really close to putting it together. It's something we harp on every day. To win against a quality team and put a complete four quarters together is huge."
"Quality team" is a stretch in describing UCLA (1-5, 1-2), which needed the win almost as much as the Beavers.
In an earlier life, Kelly had tormented Oregon State through four years at the peak of Oregon's power on the gridiron (2009-12). This, however, was the first meeting between his former rival and Kelly's Bruins.
So Jonathan Smith is now 1-0 against the Chipster. And it didn't matter much that UCLA is flailing in its second season with Kelly at the helm.
"I'm happy for the players as they continue to work and believe," said Smith, also in his second season as OSU's head coach. "They really responded in this game."
And early. Six minutes into the game, Oregon State — aided by a reckless strategic gamble by Kelly — held a stunning 21-0 lead. The Bruins never quit and fought back to within 10 points on three occasions, but the Beavers kept their poise and boat-raced them to the finish.
"You can't spot them a lead like that in the first quarter," Kelly said. "Our guys battled back, but we put ourselves in too big of a hole to start the game."
Or the coach did. After spotting Oregon State a 7-0 lead, Kelly went for it on fourth-and-1 from the UCLA 34 on the Bruins' opening possession. Running back Joshua Kelley was stuffed for a five-yard loss by OSU linebacker Hamilcar Rashed. Five plays later, Artavis Pierce was in the end zone after a five-yard TD run, and the Beavers were ahead 14-0.
UCLA received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the touchdown run, meaning Oregon State's ensuing kickoff was from midfield. Punter Daniel Rodriguez drop-kicked a pooch kick that OSU's David Morris recovered at the UCLA 27.
"That's been in (the playbook) for a few weeks," Smith said. "(Special teams coach Jake) Cookus is always watching a bunch of different people on tape, and 'D-Rod' has been practicing that. We always thought if we were to kick off from the 50, we'd try that. The amount of yardage you would lose is minimal if you don't gain possession."
Off play-action on first down, Luton fired a strike to wide-open tight end Teagan Quitoriano, who rambled 27 yards for a score and a 21-0 advantage. As Beaver partisans whooped it up in the stands, boos rained down at the home team.
UCLA, going without injured starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, mounted enough offense to win behind sophomore understudy Austin Burton, who passed for 236 yards and a touchdown and ran for 81 more. But the Bruins couldn't stop the Beavers' offense.
Luton was coolly efficient, completing 18 of 26 passes for 285 yards and a career-high five TDs with no interceptions and only one sack. The 6-7, 225-pound signal-caller capped the night by running 22 yards on a bootleg for the Beavers' final touchdown.
"It was a play we've practiced a little bit," Luton said with a smile. "It was good we could call it in a game. Noah (Togiai) gave me a great block and it worked out."
Smith was asked if it was Luton's finest hour as a Beaver.
"It was," the OSU coach said. "The O-line protected him well, and we were able to run the ball, which helps the quarterback. But Jake was lights out. He has been playing some great football. He's seeing (the field) well; he's been accurate throwing the ball."
Luton spread the ball around, but he went most often to his favorite target, Hodgins, who hauled in 10 passes for 123 yards and three scores.
"Jake was great, a result of his hard work and preparation," said Hodgins, who kept his name high on the list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top receiver. "He's had a great season so far. He has tuned out any negative feedback he's been hearing. He has been consistently there for our team. He's always leading us, at practice and in games."
Luton, 23, displayed his authority during the players' pregame meal Saturday morning.
"It was getting kind of loud, and he stood up and yelled, 'Hey, everyone lock in!'" Hodgins said. "He's a leader, man. A lot of guys who have the athletic skills might not have his form of leadership. He definitely has that in him. He is taking control of things on practice, off days — whatever it is, he's making sure he's preparing to lead us to victory."
Said Smith: "Jake has earned the leadership of this team. He is well-respected in that locker room. We've talked about elevating his level of play at quarterback. ... he's just grown."
Luton had plenty of help. With starting running back Jermars Jefferson playing only sparingly as he continues to deal with a sore foot, Pierce carried 21 times for 119 yards and a TD. The O-line blocked well enough to keep the offense balanced, and the defense sacked Burton three times and came up with three big fourth-down stops.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams," Smith said. "That was a team win, and we played four quarters."
Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren had a stellar day calling plays.
"Brian and that (offensive) staff put together a great plan," Smith said.
Three calls stood out.
With their lead down to 27-17, the Beavers had third-and-2 on their 47. They came out in a "Jumbo" package with three tight ends and only one wideout, signaling a likely run. Luton faked the handoff and then threw to a wide-open Tyjon Lindsey for a 53-yard score.
"We've had that one in the playbooks and never had the opportunity to run it," Luton said. "We hustled up to the line and had a pretty good idea it was going to be good. Tyjon killed his guy, got open and we hit it."
With Oregon State on top 34-24 and facing a fourth-and-6 on the UCLA 29 late in the third quarter, the Beavers went for it. Luton found Kolby Taylor for seven yards and a first down. On the next play, Hodgins used a double move to get open for a 22-yard scoring strike and a 41-24 advantage.
Then there was the Luton bootleg, with the UCLA defense bunched in the middle expecting a line plunge. It was just another example of a day in which the Beavers had the upper hand.
"That was a really good quarterback and a really good receiver," Kelly said. "But we have to stop people on the defensive side of the ball. There's no question about that."
It was a painful night for the Bruins, and a very good one for the team inflicting the damage.
"It was a lot of fun," Luton said. "Any time you get a win, it's as good as it gets. We're capable of playing good football, and we're going to keep rolling."
NOTES — Oregon State's next action is at home next Saturday against Utah. ... Smith's record at OSU is 4-13. Kelly's record at UCLA is 4-14. ... The Bruins gained 256 yards rushing, but 75 came in one chunk on a third-quarter scoring play by Demetric Felton in which Oregon State had only 10 players on the field. UCLA had touchdown drives of 13 plays and 85 yards, 11 plays and 75 yards and 17 plays and 75 yards. "We made them earn it, except for the one long run," Smith said. ... Linebackers Roberts (eight tackles, three tackles-for-loss, one sack) and Shemar Smith (12 tackles, one sack) had big games for OSU. ... The Beavers had won only three of the previous 12 meetings with UCLA. The Bruins lead the all-time series 43-17-4. ... Luton has thrown 166 passes without an interception this season, tops in the nation. Alabama's Tua Tagvailoa is second with 164 straight.
Jonathan Smith grew up in nearby Glendora, so the victory was especially sweet. "But it's not just me," he said. "We have a bunch of kids from the greater Los Angeles area. To come back and play in front of family and friends — and to win — is a bonus." ... There are 23 Oregon State players who hail from Southern California, including quarterbacks Tristian Gebbia (Calabasas) and Nick Moore (Newhall); running backs Jefferson (Harbor City) and Ta'Ron Madison (Banning); defensive backs Shawn Wilson (Pomona), Kaleb Hayes (San Bernardino), Isaiah Dunn (Antioch), JoJo Forest (Orange), Akili Arnold (Lake Forest) and Alex Austin (Long Beach); receivers Lindsey (Corona), Champ Flemings (Pasadena) and Andre Bodden (Carson); linebackers John McCartin (Rancho Santa Margarita), Matt Tago (Palmdale), Ryan Franke (Camarillo) and Michael Erhart (Westlake Village); offensive linemen Joshua Gray (Rancho Cucamonga) and Tanner Miller (Valencia); defensive lineman James Rawls (Inglewood); tight end Isaiah Smalls (Los Angeles), place-kicker Jordan Choukair (Poway) and long snapper Tommy Merickel (Camarillo). ... UCLA has three state-of-Oregon products, including a pair of starters — defensive end Osa Odighizawa, a 6-2, 280-pound junior from David Douglas, and receiver Chase Cota, a 6-4, 200-pound sophomore from South Medford. Also on the squad is Zach Hufstutter, a 5-10, 195-pound redshirt freshman defensive back from West Linn.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Oregon State 21 6 14 7 — 48
UCLA 0 10 14 7 — 31
OSU — Isaiah Hodgins 4 pass from Jake Luton (Jordan Choukair kick) 12:17
OSU — Artavis Pierce 5 run (Choukair kick) 9:11
OSU — Teagan Quitoriano 27 pass from Luton (Choukair kick) 8:59
UCLA — Kyle Phillips 7 pass from Austin Burton (JJ Molson kick) 10:56
OSU — Hodgins 5 pass from Luton (kick failed) 7:07
UCLA — Molson 37 FG 1:40
UCLA — Joshua Kelly 1 run (Molson kick) 10:13
OSU — Tyjon Lindsey 53 pass from Luton (Choukair kick) 4:30
UCLA — Demetric Felton 75 run (Molson kick) 4:18
OSU — Hodgins 22 pass from Luton (Choukair kick) :17
UCLA — Burton 7 run (Molson kick) 8:39
OSU — Luton 22 run (Choukair kick) 1:42
Att. — 48,532
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