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Provo • It was all theirs for the taking for the Cougars a bona fide top-10 team in their own house, playing with a quarterback making his first college start and facing what was supposed to be the best BYU defense in the Bronco Mendenhall era.
Backup quarterback Cody Vaz and the No. 10 Oregon State Beavers had other ideas.
Given just enough time to throw by OSU's max protect scheme, and using some of the best receivers to visit LaVell Edwards Stadium this season, Vaz picked apart the Cougars with 332 yards and three touchdown passes and Oregon State stayed unbeaten with a 42-24 triumph Saturday afternoon.
Talk about a lost opportunity in front of a national television audience and 63,489 fans. On a day when the vaunted BYU defense lost its dominating swagger, the Cougars lost their chance to regain a bit of national respect and came up short just when they were building momentum in a herky, jerky, inconsistent season.
"That was one of those days when not many bounces went our way," Mendenhall said. "They made more plays to win."
None was bigger than the play that gave the Beavers (5-0) the lead they would not relinquish.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Kyle Van Noy got a hand on Vaz's third-down pass, but OSU tight end Colby Prince came down with the deflection in the end zone in the middle of three Cougar defenders.
The extra point gave the Beavers a 28-21 lead with 14:48 remaining in the game.
"A lot went their way. Not a lot went our way," said BYU quarterback Riley Nelson. "That's the game of football."
The Cougars (4-3), who never led in the game, had answered every OSU touchdown with one of their own up to that point, and were seemingly on their way to doing it again, driving to the Beavers' 10.
But Nelson missed Cody Hoffman (10 catches, 102 yards) twice, and then was sacked, and BYU settled for Justin Sorensen's 35-yard field goal.
"If we answer with a touchdown there, it changes their psyche," Nelson said.
Instead, the Beavers marched 77 yards for the touchdown an 11-yard reverse by Markus Wheaton that sealed it.
Two big pass interference calls on Cougar defensive backs Craig Bills and Jordan Johnson helped OSU sustain the drive, calls that Mendenhall didn't dispute, saying his DBs didn't turn their heads back to look for the ball.
"Some were questionable," Nelson said.
Trailing 35-24 with just less than five minutes remaining, the Cougars were hoping for a late comeback, but Jordan Poyer intercepted a ball that bounced off Ross Apo and returned it 49 yards for a score to erase any doubt.
The Beavers finished with 450 yards against a BYU defense that hadn't given up more than 300 since last year's 38-28 win over OSU in Corvallis, a 12-game stretch.
"Oregon State's ability to throw it over the top of us big pass plays I thought was the difference in the game," said Mendenhall. "They were able to execute on a lot of critical situations, just giant chunks."
The coach was happy with how his offense played for three and a half quarters, saying he figured before the game that 24 points would have delivered a victory, given how the BYU defense had been playing.
"Their plan exceeded that of ours," Mendenhall said.
R IN SHORT • BYU blows its chance to knock off a top-10 team at home for the first time since 1990, losing 42-24 to No. 10 Oregon State.
KEY MOMENT • Kyle Van Noy deflects a pass on third-and-goal at the 5, but the ball falls into Colby Prince's hands for an OSU touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
KEY STAT • After giving up four offensive touchdowns in its first five games, BYU's defense gives up five to Oregon State.