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Corvallis, Ore. • At the start of second overtime, the referee asked Nate Orchard what he wanted. He didn't hesitate.
The senior captain and defensive end voice had assurance. He didn't sound like he was putting pressure on a defense that had given up 17 points and 207 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"We just knew right away we would stop them," he said.
Really? He knew?
Whether it was premonition or just a gut feeling, Orchard was correct. Oregon State managed one positive play, a short pass, before Utah's defense stonewalled them. Hunter Dimick wrapped Terron Ward for a tackle for a loss, the last of 10 the team had in the game, and Sean Mannion's fade attempt failed on third down.
When the field goal attempt by Trevor Romaine - the hero who sent the game into overtime with a 49-yarder - sailed wide right, Utah was virtually home free. The gamble of putting the defense first paid off.
Of course, Kyle Whittingham doesn't think of it as a gamble at all. Not with these guys.
"Oh yeah, they played well almost the entire night," Whittingham said. "That's an NFL quarterback they're facing. They're gonna give up things to that guy, and they've got guys on scholarship just like we do that are going to make some plays. But we made a few more than they did tonight."
The quarterback who will likely someday be the Pac-12's all-time leading passer looked shockingly human. When Mannion wasn't picking himself off the turf, he was throwing to receivers who couldn't get open or couldn't catch.
Through three quarters, the Utes stymied the Beavers: 1-for-10 on third down plays, 3 sacks, a pick, and a fumble recovery. Mannion needed 22 attempts for just 118 yards.
Unfortunately for Utah, the two offenses in Corvallis mirrored each other on the field for most of Thursday night. The sideline was simply a turnstile for Utah's defense: When they came off, it wasn't long before they came back on again.
Finally, as all tired defenses do, they broke. First it was Mannion's 72-yard pass to Jordan Villamin, then the drive that led to the game-tying field goal. The Utes still had some bite in overtime, as Orchard sacked Mannion, but couldn't seal off the end zone to prevent double OT.
But all it takes is a play to turn it around. And the Utes did it. The defense that has helped a slow-starting offense so many times already midway through the season helped give the final push to a win.
"We're willing to battle," Orchard said. "Guys never lost hope. It was an up-and-down roller coaster, but at the end, guys never lost hope."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon