Anne M. Peterson
AP Sports Writer
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei said the Beavers were able to overcome UCLA’s tough defense with a balanced offensive attack. A touchdown on defense helped, too.
Ryan Cooper Jr. returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown late in the first half and No. 15 Oregon State overcame No. 18 UCLA’s stalwart defense and held on for a 36-24 victory on Saturday night.
DJ Uiagalelei went 14 for 24 and threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns, and Atticus Sappington kicked three field goals for the Beavers (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12). Jack Velling caught three passes for 83 yards and two scores.
“It was a great challenge for us and I feel like we did a really good job staying balanced,” Uiagalelei said. “We took our shots and we made them.”
His only minor complaint was that the Beavers had to finish three drives with field goals.
UCLA freshman quarterback Dante Moore was 15 of 34 for 168 yards and a touchdown pass, but was intercepted three times — including the one that Cooper ran back for a score.
UCLA attempted to rally in the fourth quarter. Carson Steele’s 7-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to 36-24. On the next series, the Bruins got as close as the Oregon State 16, but a pair of penalties pushed them back. They went for it on fourth-and-17 and the Beavers sacked Moore to end the drive.
“We like being the underdog, but it was a tough one tonight,” UCLA linebacker Oluwafemi Oladejo said.
Going into the game, the Bruins’ defense was holding opponents to an average of 12.2 points a game, ranking in the top 10 nationally, but the Beavers led 13-0 after the opening quarter.
The Bruins (4-2, 1-2) had held every previous opponent this season to under 20 points and had allowed just five touchdowns — four passing and one rushing — fewest in the Pac-12 and second nationally to Michigan.
UCLA was coming off a 25-17 victory over Washington State in Pasadena last weekend. The Bruins held the Cougars to 216 yards, the fourth straight game they held an opponent to under 300 yards offense.
Oregon State finished with 415 yards of total offense, including 133 rushing and 282 passing.
“This is a good defense, they’re going to hold a lot of people to low numbers,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said. “We’ve got to make sure the run game, pass game — we’ve got to keep that going. Definitely helps when the defense scores to get that point total up. Each week’s going to be new, but we felt good offensively with what we were able to get done.”
The Beavers, coming off a 52-40 victory on the road against California last weekend, intercepted Moore on the first series. It was the third straight game Moore was picked off on the opening possession.
The drive ended with Sappington’s 32-yard field goal. He added a 43-yarder to make it 6-0.
Moore was intercepted again, this time by Andrew Chatfield, and Oregon State capitalized on the ensuing drive with backup Aidan Chiles’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Velling.
The Bruins closed the gap to 13-7 on Moore’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Logan Loya before adding R.J. Lopez’s 36-yard field goal.
After Sappington kicked a 26-yard field goal, Cooper intercepted Moore and dashed down the sideline for the touchdown to make it 23-10 just before halftime. It was Moore’s third straight game with an interception that resulted in a touchdown.
Uiagalelei hit Silas Bolden with a 43-yard scoring pass early in the third quarter. UCLA scored on T.J. Harden’s 9-yard run to make it 29-17.
Velling caught a 32-yard scoring pass from Uiagalelei late in the third to make it 36-17 before UCLA’s attempted rally in the fourth quarter.
Washington, with a victory over Oregon earlier Saturday, is the lone undefeated team left in the Pac-12. Oregon State is among the four one-loss teams, with the rival Ducks, Utah and USC. Only the Huskies and the Trojans remain undefeated in conference play.
By putting up the points against the Bruins’ defense, Oregon State is likely to climb in the AP Top 25. It’s also likely that with a second loss, UCLA falls out.
“They play really hard,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “I think that’s the mark of a good football team. Jonathan (Smith) has that whole group playing really hard.”
UCLA: The Bruins visited Corvallis for the first time since 2015. … The Beavers’ were UCLA’s third straight ranked opponent. The team lost 14-7 at Utah before beating Washington State 25-17 at home last weekend.
Oregon State: The Beavers have won 15 of their last 16 games at Reser Stadium. … Chatfield’s interception was the first of his career. … Uiagalelei was the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 275 yards and a career-high five touchdowns against Cal.
UCLA: The Bruins visit Stanford next Saturday.
Oregon State: Has a bye week.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll