PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Josh Kelly caught three touchdowns, including two in highlight fashion, Cameron Ward passed for 404 yards and tallied five scores, and No. 21 Washington State held off a rally late to topple No. 14 Oregon State. 38-35 on Saturday in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams.
Billed as the Pac-2 championship on the Palouse, the Cougars picked up their second win of the season against an AP Top 25 foe. They led by 17 points early in the fourth quarter before the Beavers (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) launched a furious rally.
Oregon State’s DJ Uiagalelei threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Velling with 1:12 left to bring 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.
Washington State and Oregon State, left behind by their Pac-12 brethren, have formed strong bonds off the field as they search for a new conference seat — or try to save the Pac-12 recruiting new schools.
But once their mascots emerged from 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 on the next possession gave Washington State a 14-0 lead.
Playing without senior receiver Lincoln Victor, who left in the first quarter with a foot injury, Ward finished the first half with 14 consecutive completions and was 19 of 20 for 293 yards before halftime.
Kelly, a transfer from Fresno State, stepped in in Victor’s absence. The lanky 6-foot-1 redshirt junior caught eight passes for 159 yards and made two spectacular one-handed grabs, the last of which went for a 19-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Kelly escaped from the grasp of three Beavers as he headed into the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown.
The Beavers’ defense ranked 13th in the FBS, but it gave up 352 yards in the first half and couldn’t slow down the Washington State offense. 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 rushing but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Cougars.
Oregon State: The Beavers have been efficient on the ground as usual, but their passing attack and defense now face questions as they enter a short week before another Top Showdown 25.
Washington State: 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 country and impressive wins over Wisconsin and Washington State. ‘Oregon on their CV.
Oregon State: Hosts No. 11 Utah Friday night.
Washington State: Has a bye week before traveling to No. 22 UCLA on Oct. 7.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll