Commentary

Kahut goes from goat to hero, and OSU's one step closer to Pasadena

Originally Published: November 23, 2008
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

TUCSON, Ariz. -- With four seconds left in Saturday night's game at Arizona Stadium, Oregon State kicker Justin Kahut lined up for a 24-yard field goal with the Beavers trailing Arizona by one point.

[+] EnlargeJustin Kahut
AP Photo/John MillerJustin Kahut atoned for his missed extra point with a game-winning 24-yard field goal as time expired.
Less than four minutes earlier, Kahut could have tied the score at 17-17, but missed an extra-point attempt that threatened to suck the wind out of Oregon State's dream season.

Now the Beavers' chances of winning a Pac-10 championship and playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day were again riding on his right foot.

Shortly before the football was snapped, Kahut looked at the uprights in the north end zone and cracked a wide smile.

"I didn't see the game ending like that," Kahut said. "I didn't want to not go to the Rose Bowl because of me. I wanted a second chance, and I got it. I felt good. This is the way it was supposed to happen."

After nearly becoming a goat because of the extra-point attempt he hooked left, Kahut nailed the field goal as time expired, giving the No. 21 Beavers an improbable 19-17 victory in front of a crowd of 48,503 fans.

Oregon State's sixth consecutive win moved it within one victory of at least a share of its first Pac-10 championship since 2000, when it shared the title with Oregon and Washington. And if the Beavers beat rival Oregon in next week's Civil War game in Corvallis, Ore., they'll play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965.

It was just another game dealing with adversity. It's the Beaver way.

-- Sammie Stroughter

"That Civil War is going to be huge," Beavers quarterback Sean Canfield said. "The run for the Roses goes through Corvallis."

A loss to Arizona would have all but ended Oregon State's Rose Bowl hopes. If the Beavers beat Oregon, they'll win at least a share of the Pac-10 title, and would win a tiebreaker over No. 6 Southern California because of their 27-21 upset of the then-No. 1 Trojans on Sept. 25. USC finishes conference play at UCLA on Dec. 6.

"I don't think we made Pete Carroll's night tonight," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said.

Who would have imagined the Beavers playing in the Rose Bowl after the first two weeks of the 2008 season? The season opened with a 36-28 loss at Stanford, in which Oregon State fumbled into the end zone for a touchback in the game's final seconds. Nine days later, the Beavers were hammered 45-14 at Penn State in a game that wasn't even that close.

Oregon State's rough start is what made its shocking upset of the Trojans so remarkable. And who outside of Corvallis really expected that victory to be more than a blip on the radar?

Everyone else believed the Beavers would eventually lose a game or two and the Trojans would steamroll through the rest of their schedule en route to winning a record seventh consecutive Pac-10 championship.

The Beavers lost at Utah 31-28 a week after beating the Trojans, and it figured to be only a matter of time before they lost again. There was a close call against Arizona State three weeks ago, when the Beavers intercepted Rudy Carpenter's pass on a two-point conversion to preserve a 27-25 victory with only 21 seconds to play.

[+] EnlargeSean Canfield
AP Photo/Wily LowBackup QB Sean Canfield stepped into the starter's role and led the Beavers to a comeback win.
And then there was Saturday night at Arizona, where the Beavers had every reason to lose.

Freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who came into the game leading the Pac-10 in rushing with 1,233 yards in 10 games, was hurt early in the first quarter. Rodgers carried only four times for 20 yards before leaving with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder.

Two hours before kickoff, the Beavers learned quarterback Lyle Moevao, who was 10-3 as their starter, wouldn't play because of a sore shoulder. Canfield, who had lost the starting job to Moevao after undergoing shoulder surgery last year, was suddenly back in the spotlight.

"It was just another game dealing with adversity," said senior receiver Sammie Stroughter, who had more than his share last season, when he battled a lacerated kidney and depression. "It's the Beaver way."

With Canfield starting under center and the explosive Rodgers sitting on the bench, Oregon State couldn't muster much offense in the first half. Kahut kicked a career-long 47-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to tie the score at 3-3.

The Beavers went ahead 10-3 on flanker James Rodgers' seven-yard touchdown run with 9:06 left in the third quarter. But then the Wildcats scored the game's next two touchdowns to go ahead 17-10 with 8:26 left to play.

Oregon State's comeback hopes seemed dashed when James Rodgers -- the speedy tailback's older brother -- dropped what would have been a game-tying touchdown with 5:24 to play. Rodgers ran past cornerback Marquis Hundley, but dropped Canfield's deep pass as he ran into the end zone.

But on the very next play, Canfield threw over the middle for Stroughter, who caught the pass and ran 34 yards to the Arizona 7. Stroughter scored on a 7-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal.

Then Kahut missed the point-after attempt.

"I think I probably just pulled my head up," Kahut said. "I don't know why. It just happened. I was hoping for a second chance, but sometimes you don't get them."

[+] EnlargeMike Riley
AP Photo/Wily LowThe Civil War against Oregon next week has added importance for Mike Riley and the Beavers.
It didn't look like Oregon State would get another chance to win. Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama ran for a first down on a third-and-9 play with less than three minutes to play. The Beavers stopped tailback Keola Antolin 2 yards short of a first down, forcing the Wildcats to punt with 1:27 to play.

Oregon State's offense took over at its 20 with 1:19 to go. Canfield threw a 20-yard pass to tailback Jeremy Francis on first down. Francis gained 5 more yards on second down, moving near midfield with 56 seconds to play.

Then Canfield went for the home run. Facing second-and-4 at the Oregon State 46, the Beavers called "Yo Wing Brown Stack Stab" -- the same pass Rodgers had dropped only minutes earlier.

This time, Stroughter sprinted past cornerback Devin Ross down the left side. By the time Canfield saw Stroughter, he was 4 yards behind Ross. Stroughter hauled in a 47-yard catch to the Arizona 7.

After a 4-yard run on first down, Canfield took the snap and ran to the middle of the field, where he quickly took a knee. After spiking the ball to stop the clock with four seconds to go, Kahut lined up for the game-winning kick.

"The whole team believed in me," Kahut said. "That's hard to do."

Not after the Beavers overcame long odds all season.

"I can't put my finger on it," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "I think it's becoming evident that when the going is hard some people rise and some people shrink. This group is proving they rise up. It's just there, and I love that about them. I'm humbled watching that with this team. They just don't quit."

At least not until the Beavers are finally smelling roses.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

ALSO SEE