NOTE: This is an Oregon State story from Gary Horowitz of the Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal, one of our Gannett partners. Here is a link for more coverage of the Beavers from the newspaper.
CORVALLIS — Jovan Stevenson had no inkling that he would play a major part in Saturday’s 37-27 victory against Arizona.
Terron Ward was the Beavers’ starting tailback, but Stevenson played the lead-back role with a career-high 99 yards on 17 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Stevenson came into the game with 11 carries for 58 yards, and didn’t expect his number to be called so often.
“I wasn’t aware at all, but they always tell us to be ready. So I just stayed ready,” said Stevenson, who also had five receptions for 32 yards.
The Beavers had been looking for a spark in their running game since Malcolm Agnew set a single-game school freshman rushing record with 223 yards in the season opening loss to Sacramento State.
Agnew hasn’t played since because of a pulled hamstring, and OSU averaged 52.7 yards on the ground in its previous three games. The Beavers ran for 128 yards Saturday.
The game was especially gratifying for Stevenson, who is from Tucson, Ariz., home of the Wildcats.
“It was great. I knew most of those guys out there,” Stevenson said. “I just do it for my team. I don’t care about stats or records or anything.”
Stevenson said he “got a little dizzy” after a hit early in the fourth quarter. Coach Mike Riley said Stevenson had “concussion-like symptoms.”
Jordan Jenkins, a West Salem High grad, was the Beavers’ tailback for most of the fourth quarter. He ran for six yards on seven carries and had five receptions for 30 yards.
“I thought (Stevenson) had a great day. I was very proud of him,” Riley said. “He’s a slippery runner. Ever since he’s been a freshman he’s gone into games and done a nice job, make plays, and he did today.”
Stevenson said the Beavers never lost confidence despite their 0-4 start. They entered the day as one of four teams among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools without a win.
“We were never down with the situation,” Stevenson said. “Yeah, we were 0-4, but we never hung our heads. We always knew we were close to getting that first win.”
Creating turnovers: The Beavers forced four turnovers for the second week in a row. Safety Lance Mitchell had an interception and fumble recovery, defensive end Dylan Wynn had a fumble recovery and linebacker Michael Doctor had an interception.
“We wanted to create turnovers,” said defensive end Scott Crichton, who forced a fumble and hit Nick Foles’ arm on Doctor’s interception. “We wanted to create opportunities for our offense. I felt like that’s what we did.”
Rodgers injury revisited: OSU flanker James Rodgers suffered a season-ending knee injury at Arizona last season, a 29-27 victory Oct. 9, 2010. He had four catches for 41 yards in Saturday’s game.
Arizona safety Adam Hall, who was the player who caused Rodgers’ injury last season with a tackle 5 yards deep in the end zone after a touchdown reception that was subsequently called back by a penalty, started and played for the first time in 2011. He returned from an ACL injury suffered in spring practice.
Second-quarter surge: OSU scored 27 points in the second quarter. The Beavers had scored 26 points overall in the first half this season entering the game.
Taming the ‘Cats: The Beavers have won five of the past six matchups with Arizona, and are 11-2 against the Wildcats dating back to 1999.
Playing from behind: Arizona, which trailed 30-6 midway through the third quarter, has faced a 22-point deficit or greater in five consecutive games.