Three newcomers led Arizona to its first Division-IA win of the season as the Wildcats defeated Oregon State 29-27 on Saturday afternoon. True freshmen Willie Tuitama and Mike Thomas both had huge offensive games while junior college transfer Michael Johnson picked off three balls in the upset.
Tuitama made his first college start, completing 13 of 22 passes for 336 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Thomas was his main target, catching four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.
Arizona, coming into Saturday's game third to last nationally in turnover margin, had an incredible six interceptions in the game along with a fumble recovery. Oregon State quarterback Matt Moore ended up with seven turnovers for the game.
Oregon State got on the board first with a 28-yard field goal but the rest of the first half was pretty much all Wildcats. On Arizona's second drive of the game, Tuitama completed a pass to Anthony Johnson for 31 yards before finding Thomas downfield for a 29-yard gain.
Gilbert Harris rushed up the middle on the next play, giving the Wildcats a 7-3 lead. Three plays into the next drive, Johnson picked off a Moore pass and returned it for a 40-yard touchdown.
Oregon State was next to score with a 5-yard run by running back Yvenson Bernard. It only took Arizona three yards to answer back though when Tuitama found Thomas for a 75-yard touchdown. After a Darrell Brooks interception on the next drive, Nick Folk kicked a 19-yard touchdown to give Arizona a 23-10 lead.
The Beavers scored first in the second half with a two-yard run by Bernard. However, Arizona again answered back as Tuitama passed to Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession, giving the Wildcats a 29-17 lead after a missed extra point.
A Gilbert Harris fumble early in the fourth quarter set up an 11-yard touchdown reception by Anthony Wheat-Brown. Arizona was shut down in the next possession, setting up the most important drive of the game.
Starting from his own 33-yard line, Moore completed a 45-yard pass to Mike Hass, putting the ball on Arizona's 22. Oregon State only needed a field goal to win the game and with 5:25 left, it was looking good for the Beavers.
However, Moore fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Arizona linebacker Spencer Larsen. After a three and out, Oregon State had another chance.
On 2nd and 10 from his own 44-yard line, Moore had a pass picked off by UA cornerback Wilrey Fontenot. Oregon State burned three timeouts as UA running back Mike Bell ran three times, trying to run out the clock.
After Folk punted the ball away punted the ball away, putting the Beavers on their own 27-yard line. On 4th and 6, Michael Johnson picked off Moore, giving the Wildcats the win.
The victory for Arizona marked its first one over a Division I-A team this season. It was the Wildcats' first victory in Corvallis since 1998.
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-Josh Gershon, Senior Writer