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Corvallis, Ore. • On 4th and short, they came up wanting. They gave up almost 200 rushing yards. They only completed four passes.
And yet for everything that went wrong, the Utes got the right result on Saturday in windy, rainy Corvallis.
No. 21 Utah (6-1, 3-1) gritted out a 19-14 win over Oregon State (2-4, 1-2), needing a last-second, fourth-down stop to ensure they left Reser Stadium victorious. Senior quarterback Troy Williams was bedeviled throwing the ball only 4 for 13 for a season-low 42 yards but ran in the winning score with 3:18 remaining to propel the Utes to bowl eligibility for the third straight season.
The win ensures Utah stays atop the Pac-12 South Division, although getting over this hump was an uglier effort than most.
"We knew coming into the game it would be hard to throw the ball as much as we usually do," Williams said. "We found a way."
A big part of Utah's success amid blustery weather was senior running back Joe Williams, making his first start after retiring a month ago, then rejoining his injury-plagued squad this week.
The 23-year-old looked rejuvenated in his first action, running for 179 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries, more than double his total from the first two games of the season. He powered Utah's first-half offense with a touchdown and helped get a 12-0 lead at halftime.
"It felt good," Williams said. "I've played running back for about 16, 17 years, so it's like riding a bike. The O-line did a great job, and Troy made some great reads to open up the box and get me some more running yards."
But the Utes struggled after the intermission, hitting a wall against Oregon State's defense and unable to complete a pass in the third quarter. The Beavers charged back with perimeter runs, gashing the Utah defense with six runs on a 74-yard drive. When running back Artavis Pierce dashed in from 18 yards out, Utah held only a 5-point lead with more than 26 minutes left to play.
The Beavers seemed poised to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but starting quarterback Darell Garretson was injured when the offense was down at Utah's 9-yard line. After an incompletion from backup Conor Blount, the Beavers missed a 27-yard field goal.
Momentum shifted dramatically on the next Beavers series: As Blount fell injured, junior defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi recovered a fumble that set up Utah's offense on the Oregon State 11-yard line. It took three plays before Troy Williams bounced outside for the score, going 8 of his 40 yards rushing overall.
While Utah didn't have a great night in turnover margin, fumbling the ball away twice themselves, the recovery was pivotal in the sloppy afternoon contest.
"It was huge, I didn't even know it was a fumble," said safety Chase Hansen, who had two sacks and an interception himself. "All of a sudden, we have an opportunity for the offense to put it in the end zone. That just goes back to the D-line we get to play with."
Up 19-7, the Utes didn't get a chance to cruise to the finish line. Third-string QB Marcus McMaryion moved OSU efficiently in the passing game, finding Hunter Jarmon for a 14-yard touchdown with 1:40 left.
Utah had a chance to put the game to bed by converting a 4th-and-1 with 40 seconds remaining, but Joe Williams was pushed backward on the carry one of three fourth downs the Utes tried and failed to convert.
But Oregon State's buzz died on the final drive: Penalties left the Beavers facing 4th and 24, and Cody Barton tackled Victor Bolden on the game's final play for 2 yards.
Up through the final quarter, Utah's defense was stout against the past, leading Garretson to only complete 1 of his first 16 pass attempts. Utah also earned its second straight safety in as many weeks, when an Oregon State punt attempt went awry with a long snap that sailed out of the end zone.
Still, the ugly victory was made uglier by injuries. Starting safety Marcus Williams left in the first half and wound up on the sideline with a brace on his right leg. Starting middle linebacker Sunia Tauteoli was lost in the second half and carted off the field. While coach Kyle Whittingham said initially the injuries didn't appear to be season-ending, the way this season has gone, he's holding his breath.
Receiver Tim Patrick played limited snaps in the game. Running back Zack Moss and tight end Harrison Handley. didn't travel with the team.
"We need to start getting some of these guys back," Whittingham said. "We've got to try to turn some of these guys around."
R Troy Williams runs for game-winning touchdown with 3:18 left.
• Utes stop Oregon State's final drive on last play of the game.
• Utah wins despite only 317 yards total offense, 42 yards of it passing.