Pac-2 Champs? No. 21 WSU tops No. 14 Oregon State 38-35

Sep 23, 2023, 8:20 PM | Updated: Sep 24, 2023, 11:37 am


WSU quarterback Cameron Ward throws a pass against Oregon State on Sept. 23, 2023. (AP photo by Young Kwak)

(AP photo by Young Kwak)

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Josh Kelly caught three touchdowns, two in highlight-reel fashion, Cameron Ward passed for 404 yards and accounted for five scores, and No. 21 WSU withstood a late rally to upend No. 14 Oregon State 38-35 on Saturday in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams.

WSU Cougars 38, Oregon State 35: Box score

Billed as the Pac-2 championship on the Palouse, the Cougars pulled out their second victory of the season over an AP Top 25 foe. They led by 17 points early in the fourth quarter before the Beavers (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) mounted a furious rally.

Oregon State’s DJ Uiagalelei tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Velling with 1:12 left to pull the Beavers within 38-35. The Cougars (4-0, 1-0) recovered the ensuing onside kick after a mad scramble for the ball.

Ward, who entered third in the nation in passing yards and fourth in total offense, threw three of his four touchdown passes in the first half. He also had a 1-yard TD run to continue his sizzling start to the season.

“I’ll say it again: We belong,” said Washington State coach Jake Dickert, who hasn’t shied away from campaigning for his program that along with Oregon State has been left behind by the rest of the Pac-12.

“This is one of those games that can really springboard your program to new places,” Dickert said. “The team really believes in what we have.”

The Cougars and Beavers have formed a strong bond off the field as they search for a new conference home — or try to salvage the Pac-12 by recruiting new schools to join.

But once their mascots came out the tunnel together before the game, the good feelings ended.

On the second play from scrimmage, Ward found Kyle Williams wide open for a 63-yard touchdown. Ward’s TD run on the next possession gave Washington State a 14-0 lead.

Playing without leading receiver Lincoln Victor, who left in the first quarter with a foot injury, Ward ended the first half with 14 straight completions and finished 19 of 20 for 293 yards before halftime.

Kelly, a transfer wideout from Fresno State, stepped up in Victor’s absence. The rangy 6-foot-1 redshirt junior caught eight passes for 159 yards and hauled in two spectacular one-handed grabs, the latter of which went for a 19-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Kelly spun out of the grasp of three Beavers on his way to the end zone for a 44-yard TD.

The Beavers’ defense came in ranked 13th in the FBS, but it gave up 352 yards in the first half and couldn’t slow down Washington State’s attack. The Cougars finished with 528 total yards.

Uiagalelei completed 17 of 34 passes for 198 yards and was intercepted once. Deshaun Fenwick led Oregon State with 101 rushing yards and touchdown runs of 38, 9 and 4 yards. Damien Martinez added 81 yards on the ground but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Cougars.

“Just too little, too late,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said.


Dickert was upset with some of the comments made during ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday where the Washington State-Oregon State matchup was referenced as the “No One’s Watching Bowl.”

“I don’t really understand that,” Dickert said. “The facts say people watch the Cougs. And people watch the Cougs more than every team left over in the Big 12. It’s well documented what ESPN has done to try to get our league where it’s at.”


Oregon State: The Beavers were effective on the ground as usual, but their passing attack and defense now face questions as they enter a short week before another Top 25 showdown.

WSU: The Cougars are 4-0 for the first time since 2017 and will enter a bye week with one of the hottest quarterbacks in the nation and impressive wins against Wisconsin and Oregon State on their resume.


Oregon State: Hosts No. 11 Utah on Friday night.

WSU: Has a week off before traveling to No. 22 UCLA on Oct. 7.

WSU, Oregon State hope to get answers in next month on Pac-12’s future


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