Pac-12 football: Colorado begins Mel Tucker era beating Colorado State; Oregon State falls to Oklahoma State
Tailback Alex Fontenot scored three second-half touchdowns and safety Mikial Onu intercepted two passes as Colorado beat Colorado State 52-31 on Friday night in Mel Tucker’s head coaching debut for the Buffaloes.
Fontenot finished with 125 yards rushing to help the Buffs win their fifth straight over the Rams in what was the final Rocky Mountain Showdown held in Denver. The 83 combined points were the most in the rivalry’s 91-game history.
Steven Montez threw for 232 yards and two scores.
Tucker was hired in December after serving as defensive coordinator at Georgia. The defensive-minded coach had to appreciate his Buffs defense forcing four turnovers.
Fontenot broke out of several tackles on a 22-yard run with 9:16 remaining to give the Buffaloes a 45-31 lead. Jonathan Van Diest helped seal the win by sacking Collin Hill, who fumbled the ball. Mustafa Johnson scooped it up and scored from 9 yards.
Colorado figured the player wearing jersey No. 2 would make a couple acrobatic catches. He did, too — Onu, who shares the same number as standout receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.
Onu picked off two Hill passes to thwart drives.
The turning point in a close game was the first play of the second half when Colorado State’s Marvin Kinsey Jr. fumbled the ball. Three plays later, Fontenot scored from 7 yards out to make it 31-21.
Kenny Willekes, back from a leg injury, was part of a swarming defense that lifted No. 18 Michigan State to a 28-7 season-opening win over Tulsa.
Rams freshman receiver Dante Wright made an instant impact. His first career catch went for a 39-yard touchdown in the first quarter and he later scampered 41 yards for a score.
To no one’s surprise, Colorado State kept close tabs on Shenault. All he did last season was catch 11 passes for 211 yards and two scores.
Shenault made a big impact late in the first half when he blew by cornerback Rashad Ajayi and caught a 25-yard TD pass to give the Buffaloes a 24-21 lead. It was a rough first half for Ajayi, who was called for two pass interference calls while trying to cover Shenault.
Onu did the number worn by Shenault proud with a juggling interception in the end zone during the first half.
“It was a huge stop for us,” said Onu, a graduate transfer from Southern Methodist. “I was happy to make the play.”
A rivalry that’s been played in Denver the last 10 years will move to the Colorado State campus next season. Then, the two schools take a brief break before resuming a home-and-home series in 2023 (Boulder) and `24 (Fort Collins). The plans get a little murkier after that, with a tentative home-and-home series set for `29 and `30 along with `33 and `34.
There are no current arrangements to bring the game back to Denver.
Oklahoma State 52, Oregon State 36
Chuba Hubbard rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns, and redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders threw for 203 yards and three more scores to lead Oklahoma State to a 52-36 victory over Oregon State on Friday night.
Tylan Wallace, an Associated Press preseason first-team All-America selection, caught five passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns for the Cowboys, who finished with 555 yards of total offense.
Sanders, a highly touted recruit out of Denton, Texas, had competed throughout the spring and preseason camp with Hawaii graduate transfer Dru Brown for the starting nod. Cowboys coach Mike Gundy did not reveal his starter until game time.
It was the season opener for both teams. The Cowboys finished 7-6 overall and 3-6 in the Big 12 last season, defeating No. 24 Missouri 38-33 in the Liberty Bowl.
The Beavers went 2-10 overall and 1-8 in the Pac-12 in former quarterback Jonathan Smith’s first season as coach.
Oregon State also had a preseason quarterback competition, but Smith named Jake Luton the team’s starter late last week. Luton was granted a sixth year of eligibility after being limited by injuries in his first two seasons at Oregon State. He competed for the job in preseason camp with Nebraska transfer Tristan Gebbia.
Luton threw for 251 yards and three scores against the Cowboys. Isaiah Hodgins caught nine passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
The Beavers had a promising start on their opening drive when Luton’s 29-yard pass found Hodgins, the team’s leading receiver with 59 catches for 876 yards and five touchdowns last season.
The Cowboys answered with Hubbard’s 6-yard TD run to tie it at 7-all. Hubbard, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, emerged as a freshman when Justice Hill was injured late last season. In four games, Hubbard averaged 106.3 yards a game and 5.4 yards per carry. He rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown in the Liberty Bowl.
Oregon State went up 10-7 on Jordan Choukair’s 30-yard field goal. The Cowboys tied it on Matt Ammendola’s 23-yard field goal after Sanders’ 6-yard pass to Wallace was called back because he came down out of bounds.
LD Brown’s 6-yard touchdown run put the Cowboys ahead with 9:41 left in the first half. They extended the lead to 31-10 on a pair of touchdown passes to Wallace, a Biletnikoff finalist last season who caught 86 passes for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Oregon State added a touchdown before the break, with Luton hitting Tyjon Lindsey with a 1-yard pass, but a two-point conversion attempt failed.
Hubbard had a 2-yard TD run to open the second half before Hodgins’ 10-yard scoring reception closed the gap to 38-23 for the Beavers. On Oklahoma State’s next drive, Hubbard answered with a 53-yard touchdown run.
Jack Colletto added a 1-yard touchdown run for the Beavers early in the fourth quarter — and again a conversion attempt failed.
C.J. Moore’s 11-yard TD catch put the Cowboys up 52-29 for the Cowboys with 9:39 left but the Beavers wrapped up scoring for the game with Gebbia’s 5-yard pass to Kolby Taylor.
Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson, who rushed for 1,380 yards last season and was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, rushed for 87 yards.
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