The black-clad BYU crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium roared its support of the Cougar defense as Oregon State junior quarterback Cody Vaz came to the line, facing a third-and-goal at the BYU 5-yard line with the game tied early in the fourth quarter.
Vaz dropped back and fired to the left side, but Cougar junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy stuck out his big left hand and batted the pass high in the air.
With BYU players converging, trying to get the interception that would prevent the score, the ball came wobbling down — right into the arms of Beaver senior tight end Colby Prince for the Oregon State touchdown.
That play proved to be the one that put the Beavers in front for good and exemplified the final quarter of play, as No. 10 Oregon State pulled away to get the 42-24 win over the Cougars.
"That summed up the game," said BYU senior quarterback Riley Nelson of the tipped-ball touchdown. "A lot of things went their way and not a lot of things went our way. But it's not always going to be downhill. It's usually going to be uphill and you have to scratch and claw and fight. We did a good job with that but obviously not as good a job as we needed to."
Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall said those type of plays happen in football and his team wasn't able to bounce back like it needed to.
"That was one of those days where the bounces didn't go our way," he said. "They made more plays to win."
Another crucial tipped ball in the end zone on the next Cougar possession could've turned the game back in BYU's favor but ended up falling harmlessly incomplete.
Down 28-21, the Cougar offense drove to the Beaver 10-yard line, looking to tie things up,
But Nelson's pass to junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman in the back of the end zone sailed too high. It glanced off his fingertips and landed on the turf.
"It's frustrating but there isn't much you can do about it," Hoffman said. "The quarterback tried his best, I tried my best, and we were just off by a little bit."
An Oregon State sack forced a 35-yard BYU field goal, making it 28-24, but that kept the Beavers in front.
Sensing a chance to put the game away, the Beavers moved back down the field into scoring position but a couple of penalties forced OSU into a second-and-16 from the Cougar 41-yard line.
Vaz, who gouged the BYU secondary for 332 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, looked deep again. This time the Beavers couldn't come up with a catch, but instead picked up the first down when the Cougars were flagged for pass interference.
That sequence was duplicated on the next play with BYU again getting flagged for the costly penalty. Oregon State then extended the lead on a 12-yard touchdown run by senior wide receiver Markus Wheaton on a reverse.
"The pass-interference rule is pretty simple," Mendenhall said. "You have to be playing the ball. Although we had good position, you have to make an attempt to look back and the officials didn't think we were doing that. Those were the equivalent of two 15-yard passes so they hurt."
The Beavers then capped the scoring on another perfect bounce.
This one came on a low throw from Nelson to sophomore wide receiver Ross Apo. As the Cougar receiver dove and tried to gather it in, it popped up off his arms and right to Oregon State senior cornerback Jordan Poyer. The way was clear and he easily took it 49 yards to the end zone to seal the victory.
It was a disappointing end for the Cougar offense, who had responded three times after the Beavers had scored with touchdown drives of their own.
"When you are in a game like that where it is back and forth, if they are going to score touchdowns then we have to answer with touchdowns," Nelson said.
After Oregon State had started the second-half scoring with a 16-yard run by freshman running back Storm Woods, BYU marched back down the field and tied the score at 21 with a two-yard run by freshman running back Jamaal Williams.
The BYU defense — who had gone 13 quarters without giving up a touchdown coming into the contest — had a tough time slowing down the Oregon State passing attack and the Beavers were able to put TDs on the board on three of their five second-half drives.
"I think they just played better than us today," said Cougar senior cornerback Preston Hadley. "They were able to really spread us out and just get easy throws for their quarterback. From that, we had to back off a little bit and our coverage just didn't hold."
According to Mendenhall, the Beavers came in with a great game plan that focused on protection and letting their play-making receivers get free downfield.
"They had a really nice plan and executed it very well on both sides of the ball," the BYU head coach said. "I thought Oregon State's ability to throw it over the top of us on big pass plays was the difference in the game. They were able to execute in a lot of critical situations and get giant chunks of yards."
Oregon State sent a message on the first drive of the game that the loss of its starting quarterback wasn't going to be a factor. The Beaver offense took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards for a score, then needed only two plays to go 67 yards for their second touchdown in less than 12 minutes of play.
"I kind of feel like we didn't hold up our end," said Cougar junior linebacker Spencer Hadley. "The offense played great and got us 24 points. That's frustrating as a defensive player."
Fortunately for BYU, the Cougar offense looked much sharper with a healthier Nelson back at the helm.
"I thought our offense responded pretty well for the majority of the game, answering scores," Mendenhall said. "I was really glad to see that. I thought we threw it and caught it better than we had and were more consistent offensively through probably three-and-a-half quarters of the game."
The Cougars also scored on their first possession, getting a one-yard run by freshman running back Jamaal Williams to answer OSU's first score.
After falling behind again, BYU tied things up late in the second quarter. After a nice punt return by junior wide receiver JD Falslev aided by a 15-yard Beaver penalty, the Cougars started the drive on the Oregon State 30-yard line.
It still took BYU 12 plays and three fourth-down conversions to get in the end zone. The drive was capped on a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line as Nelson found sophomore tight end Devin Mahina alone for the touchdown, making it 14-14 at the half.
The Cougars now turn their attention to regrouping as they get ready to head to South Bend, Indiana, to play No.7-ranked Notre Dame.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.