Vaz leads No. 13 Oregon St. over Arizona St. 36-26

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Cody Vaz is gaining a reputation for resilience.

Oregon State’s quarterback simply refused to get flustered when he got off to a shaky start against Arizona State and wound up throwing for 267 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-26 win on Saturday night.

Vaz laughed when asked if he ever gets rattled.

“I’m sure there’s been a few times,” he said. “I just try not to show it.”

Terron Ward rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown for the No. 13 Beavers (7-1, 5-1), taking on extra work when starting running back Storm Woods couldn’t play because of a sore left knee.

Arizona State (5-4, 3-3) scored on the return after Vaz fumbled on Oregon State’s opening drive, but the Beavers pulled away after a 19-all tie at the half to keep the Sun Devils from bowl eligibility.

“I just try to take it one play at a time, to be honest,” said Vaz, who hadn’t started a game since high school before this season. “As a quarterback you can’t get too low when you have a bad play and you can’t get too high when you have a good play.”

A fan in the crowd held a sign reading “We’re All BelieVaz” for the junior QB who was awarded the start after Sean Mannion struggled the week before with four interceptions in a loss to Washington.

Vaz started two games for the Beavers and coolly won them both while Mannion recovered from left knee surgery. Mannion, a sophomore, started the Beavers’ first four games and averaged 339 yards passing, but was off when he returned in the 20-17 loss to the Huskies.

Vaz’s night started poorly when he lost the ball on Oregon State’s 1 on the opening drive and Arizona State defensive end Junior Onyeali returned it for the touchdown to give the Sun Devils the early lead.

Vaz appeared unsure of himself, but the Beavers’ next drive ended with Trevor Romaine’s 41-yard field goal. Arizona State answered with Cameron Marshall’s 1-yard scoring run for a 14-3 lead.

Vaz bounced back with a 50-yard scoring pass to Markus Wheaton, but then Arizona State got a safety on a blocked punt for a 16-10 lead. The Sun Devils added a 31-yard field goal from Jon Mora.

Ward’s 53-yard TD run narrowed it again for Oregon State and the Beavers tied it at 19 going into halftime on Romaine’s 45 yard field goal.

“It seemed liked we should have been behind by a lot more at halftime,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.

Vaz came out of the break looking steadier and opened with a scoring drive that ended with a 17-yard TD pass to Markus Wheaton as the Beavers pulled in front 26-19.

Romaine tied his career high with his third field goal, a 33-yarder, later in the third quarter.

Vaz found Brandin Cooks with a 49-yard scoring pass to make it 36-19 with 10:54 left. In the end, Vaz completed 14 of 33 passes. He was intercepted once and sacked six times.

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly found Marion Grice with a 2-yard scoring pass with 22 seconds remaining. Kelly finished with 153 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception. He was also the Sun Devils’ top rusher with 80 yards.

“We’re disappointed, but I’ve got great confidence in our guys,” Kelly said. “They’ve got great character when things hit the fan.”

Wheaton caught four passes for 108 yards and Cooks caught six for 116 yards.

Arizona State saw the return of defensive tackle Will Sutton, considered one of the top defensive players in the Pac-12. He missed Arizona State’s last game after injuring his right knee early in the Sun Devils’ 43-21 loss to Oregon on Oct. 18.

The loss to the Ducks was the first of two straight at home for Arizona State after a three-game winning streak. The Sun Devils fell 45-43 to UCLA last weekend, but they are still in the thick of the Pac-12 South race behind USC and the Bruins.

The Beavers got Wheaton back from a concussion he suffered the week before in the loss to the Huskies. But running back Woods, who nursed a sore left knee this past week, suited up and took the field briefly before retreating to the sideline.

“They just threw me in and I just took advantage,” Ward said.

Oregon State was also without cornerback Jordan Poyer, who has five interceptions this season and is tied for second nationally, because of a sprained right knee.

It was Arizona State’s fourth straight loss in Corvallis.

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