CORVALLIS, Ore. — It took 41 years for a Big Ten team to again visit Oregon State. The reception No. 13 Wisconsin received on Saturday, September 8th was a smothering crush of orange, capped by a sea of fans swarming the field, and one of the biggest non-conference wins in Beavers’ history.
“They played their hearts out today and I’m so proud of them,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “It’s unbelievable. They just played like crazy to win that game.”
Sean Mannion threw for 276 yards and a touchdown, Oregon State’s defense smothered Wisconsin’s star running back Montee Ball and the Beavers upset the Badgers 10-7.
Mannion connected with Brandin Cooks on a 20-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the second half to give the Beavers a 10-0 lead then turned it over to the Oregon State (1-0) defense that forced two turnovers and held Ball to 61 yards rushing.
More importantly, Ball had his touchdown streak snapped at 21 straight games because of the Beavers defense.
They were aggressive, blitzing from all angles and making life miserable for Wisconsin quarterback Danny O’Brien, who was sacked three times, threw one interception.
Ball’s longest run was a 15-yard gain in the fourth quarter in a passing situation as the Beavers bracketed him on the outside and kept the usually nimble back from bouncing to the perimeter and open field.
“They were actually presenting what we had planned,” Ball said. “We just didn’t do a great job executing.”
Riley didn’t shy from putting some hype behind this intersectional matchup, calling it the biggest non-conference home game in school history.
Instead of folding under that pressure, the Beavers responded with a stellar defensive effort that made up for missed chances by the Oregon State offense and quickly put the memories of an underachieving 2011 season in the past.
Oregon State outgained the Badgers 354-207 and had an 11-minute advantage in time of possession.
The win snapped Wisconsin’s 33-game non-conference winning streak, the second-longest in the country behind LSU.
Wisconsin finished with 207 yards and only 35 on the ground. It was the lowest total yards for Wisconsin in five years. The previous non-conference loss for Wisconsin (1-1) came early in the 2003 season when the Badgers lost to UNLV.
“The performance in the first half was unacceptable and that begins with me,” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. “The best rhythm we had all day was the last two minutes at the end. I thought we were extremely fortunate to only be down 3-0 at the half.”
Oregon State’s scheduled opener against FCS Nicholls State was postponed when Hurricane Isaac made it difficult for the Louisiana school to make the trip to the Northwest. Riley joked this week his team went through the world’s longest training camp.
“I think the extra week definitely helped. Our coaches kept us focused all week and they had a good game plan,” Mannion said.
Mannion was efficient using short passes to make up for Oregon State’s struggles running. Mannion completed 29 of 47 passes and four times in the first half led the Beavers inside the Wisconsin 35 only to come away with a 43-yard field goal from Trevor Romaine. Markus Wheaton had eight catches for 87 yards and Cooks had six for 80.
Mannion was 5 of 7 for 68 yards on the first drive of the second half that was capped when Cooks was found open in the end zone.
“When he called the play I knew something special was going to happen,” Cooks said.
Jordan Poyer had one of Oregon State’s three sacks, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Badgers. Ryan Murphy intercepted O’Brien in the first half, but the biggest defensive play came from Dylan Wynn.
Wisconsin tried to turn the momentum midway through the third quarter only to have the Beavers defense come up with a huge play. Oregon State walk-on punter Keith Kostol dropped a perfect snap and was tackled for a 16-yard loss giving the Badgers the ball at the Oregon State 36.
An 11-yard pass to Jacob Pedersen got the Badgers to the Beavers 11, but on second down O’Brien held the ball too long and was sacked from behind by Wynn, knocking the ball loose and defensive end Scott Crichton fell on it at the 21.
O’Brien led one final drive, hitting Pedersen on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:31 left that kept the Badgers from being shut out for the first time in 15 years.
The onside kick was smartly executed by Wisconsin kicker Kyle French, who hit it with his left foot and was initially ruled to have recovered it at the Badgers 46. The play was reviewed and determined that French touched the ball before it went 10 yards giving possession to the Beavers.
Mannion knelt down three times and the upset was complete with the orange-clad Beavers fans racing from the stands and covering the Reser Stadium turf as the final seconds ticked away.
“This might be one of the top moments of my college career,” Poyer said. “I still believe there are a lot more moments to come in my senior season. The sky is the limit for us right now.”