I'll give Beaver fans credit, most seem to have moved beyond blaming the refs for their loss Thursday. However, there seems to be an abnormally high amount of Cougar fans who still believe the game was decided the second that flag was thrown. I disagree and to those fans who feel it changed the outcome, whether they cheer for Oregon State or not, I have this to say.
Firstly, Oregon State's downfall began earlier than the fourth quarter. It started when Mike Riley felt the need to chase the points after missing a PAT in the first half. For whatever reason, coaches get into this flawed mindset that they need to try and get that missed point back as soon as possible. However, they often dig too big of a hole to crawl out of and that's exactly what Mike Riley was doing Thursday night.
After going up 9-3, Oregon State's offense went cold and Utah scored 17 unanswered points. The Beavers, to their credit, did not wilt and came back right before the half and scored. Except Riley decided to go for two and failed. Instead of going into the locker room down 20-16, they're down five. This isn't terrible, because a touchdown, regardless of the PAT or not, still gives Oregon State the lead and that's exactly what happened at the start of the third quarter, as the Beavers marched down field and scored a touchdown.
22-20, Oregon State, right? Wrong. Riley, once again, decides to chase the points and goes for two. Now this is where it gets interesting, because Utah stopped Oregon State on their first two point attempt, yet were flagged and the Beavers lined up at where Utah was on their two point conversion and failed to convert. So instead of leading by two, the Beavers now cling to a one-point lead. That's important, because neither Utah or Oregon State would score again until the end of the game.
Fast forward to late in the fourth and Oregon State, still up by only one, puts together a masterful drive that seemingly puts the game away. Lyle Moevao found David Camp down the middle for an easy one-yard touchdown and just like that, the Beavers were on the verge of winning. It appeared they dodged the bullet when it came to not converting on their two point conversions. Riley, finally getting it, kicks the PAT and Oregon State takes what feels like a commanding 28-20 lead.
Surely, with how poorly Utah's offense had played the entire second half, they could not come down the field in a matter of minutes, score and then convert to tie, right?
That's exactly what Utah did. They marched down the field, easily scored and then enter the pass interference call. Debatable? Sure. But what isn't debatable is the fact had Riley decided to kick the PAT just once in either case where he went for the two, the Beavers are up nine and two points or not, the Utes would have still trailed. So instead of possibly leading by 9 or 10 points prior to that final drive, Riley's Beavers only held an eight point lead. Which made the comeback extremely doable for the Utes.
So there is the call. Debate it all you want, but the game didn't end on that play.
Now I brought this up before and I'll repeat it again. The Beavers had been stopped on an earlier two point conversion, yet a facemask by Utah gave them another shot from the same spot Utah would have on their scoring drive. Now Utah wasn't stopped, Oregon State was. Had they converted from that spot, the whole dynamics of the game is changed. But they couldn't and because of Riley's chasing the points and the fact they failed on a near-gimmie two point conversion, Oregon State laid the foundation for that Utah comeback. That is fact and can't be debated, because it is reality.
Beyond that obvious miscalculation by Mike Riley (I'm sure had he called the game again, he'd take the points), there is still indisputable blame here. After Oregon State had scored, they had the momentum and were inside Brian Johnson's head. He had been shut down the entire second half and yet their defense couldn't get a stop. Johnson marched Utah down field and scored with ease and that isn't because the officials blew a call, it was because the Beaver defense failed at doing its job. But even then, the game was still Oregon State's to win!
The penalty moved Utah closer, but as the Utes had proved earlier in the game, it's possible to stop the opposing team when they line up for a two point conversion that close to the goal line. Oregon State couldn't. I mean, it was a basic bootleg play, yet the defense couldn't stop Johnson.
Ok, so the game is tied now. Not the ideal situation for Oregon State, but still far from over as they had a chance to win in regulation or at least take it to overtime. But instead, Mike Riley performs the worst clock management I've seen this season and the Beavers have a quick three and out, giving Utah great field position and a chance to possibly win in regulation. Now I use the word possible, because when that drive started, the Utes still weren't in field goal range. Yet the Beaver defense again failed to stop Utah and Brian Johnson -- who had been off the entire second half -- steps up, finds Brent Casteel for the 16-yard gain and Utah is now in field goal range.
Cue Louie Sakoda and the Utah victory.
Blame the refs all you want. Blame the PI call, but it doesn't change the fact it was Oregon State who left points on the field and couldn't get a stop down the stretch. Utah managed to get that stop, forcing a punt and then getting the ball back for the win. Had Oregon State done that on Utah's final drive, the PI call is never made and the game isn't lost. Instead, they flopped and now too many people are trying to find too many excuses for the obvious. Both Utah and Oregon State had their chances and it was Utah who ultimately made the plays to win. That is why they are 6-0 and the Beavers are 2-3.