(AP) — Tenacity finally paid off for Oregon State.
After failing to win their first four games but staying doggedly faithful that eventually one would come their way, the Beavers held off a second-half rally by the Arizona Wildcats for a 37-27 victory on Saturday.
"We had nothing to lose. We threw out all of the cards in the deck and people played," sophomore running back Jovan Stevenson said. "Everybody showed up. We didn't let our record dictate how we played."
Stevenson ran for 99 yards and a score as the Beavers snapped a six-game losing streak dating to last season. Redshirt freshman Sean Mannion completed 32 of 41 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns.
Oregon State (1-4, 1-2) led 27-6 at halftime and nearly squandered it, but held on with a gutsy fourth-and-2 touchdown and a defensive stand on the other end in the fourth quarter.
After the game, a group of tailgaters in the parking lot popped bottles of champagne in celebration of the season's first win.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley was beaming.
"It feels good," he said. "It truly was a result of continuing to work. Because that's what we're supposed to do, right?"
Arizona was plagued by mistakes. Quarterback Nick Foles was intercepted twice and the Wildcats (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12) lost two fumbles in their fifth straight loss overall and eighth straight conference loss. Alex Zendejas missed a 28-yard field goal in the first quarter and an extra point in the second.
"Things aren't going our way right now, and that's kind of where it's at," coach Mike Stoops shrugged.
With only a narrow 30-27 lead and 5:22 left, Oregon State went for it on fourth-and-2 — succeeding when Mannion hit diving tight end Joe Halahuni for the touchdown.
On the next series, the Wildcats also took a chance on fourth down with two yards to go, but Dan Buckner couldn't catch Foles' pass in the end zone. In the end, Foles completed 31 of 45 passes for 378 yards and a touchdown to Buckner, who caught eight passes for 144 yards.
Mannion, a redshirt freshman who didn't become the Beavers' official starter until the third game of the season, completed 32 of 41 passes.
"We were never done with the situation. Yeah, we were 0-4, but we never hung our heads, we always knew we were close to getting that first win," Stevenson said.
The Wildcats were hurt early after starting wide receiver Juron Criner left with what Stoops called a right knee sprain. Criner, ranked second in career touchdown catches for the Wildcats, has three this season.
The Beavers went up on Stevenson's 1-yard touchdown run, then extended it in the second quarter when Clayton York blocked an Arizona punt and ran the ball back for a score.
Arizona answered with Foles' 28-yard TD pass to Buckner, but Zendejas' extra-point attempt was wide left to make it 14-6.
The Beavers pulled off a fake punt to keep alive a drive that ended with Trevor Romaine's 37-yard field goal. On Arizona's ensuing drive, Foles' arm was hit and he was intercepted by Michael Doctor and the Beavers capitalized with Mannion's 3-yard scoring pass to Halahuni.
The Wildcats had one more chance in the first half, but fumbled and gave the ball back to the Beavers, who got a 40-yard field goal from Romaine.
Arizona running back Daniel Jenkins fumbled on Arizona's first drive of the second half and Beavers safety Lance Mitchell recovered, before the Beavers went up 30-6 on Romaine's 20-yard field goal.
The Wildcats had a scary moment midway through the third quarter when Foles was hit hard and stayed prone on the field for several moments while trainers attended to him. After he made his way to the sidelines, Keola Antolin ran 13 yards for a score. Foles came back and completed the two-point conversion pass to David Douglas.
The Wildcats' rally continued when Mannion was intercepted by Shaquille Richardson, who ran it back 20 yards for a touchdown. This time the two-point try failed, but Arizona was back in it at 30-20.
Oregon State missed a chance to extend its lead when James Rodgers' catch in the end zone was called back by a penalty and Romaine's 42-yard field goal attempt at the end of the third quarter went wide left.
Arizona pulled to within 30-27 early in the fourth quarter on Ka'Deem Carey's 1-yard scoring run.
The Wildcats have struggled this season with a brutal schedule, with losses to top-10 teams Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon, as well as their 48-41 loss last weekend at USC.
"It's been a hard year," Stoops said. "It's hard when you have a young team and can't gain any momentum over a certain period of the season. It weighs on you in a lot of different ways. It wears on the players it wears on the coaches. That's the toughness of this profession."
The Beavers were off to their worst start since 1996. After a season-opening overtime loss to lower-division Sacramento State, Oregon State dropped games to Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona State.
"It was the elephant in the room that we needed to get the win, and we did that today," Mitchell said. "I think it's going to help us moving forward."
Last season, Foles threw for 440 yards and three touchdowns against the Beavers, but Oregon State pulled out a 29-27 upset over the then-No. 9 Wildcats. Rodgers went down with a knee injury in that game that would require two surgeries and keep him out until the Beavers' third game this season.
Oregon State was without true freshman Malcolm Agnew, who rushed for 223 yards in the opener, because of a hamstring injury that has forced him to miss the past five games.