Beavers stumble to 0-3 start - worst in 15 years
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP)
It's debatable whether Oregon State coach Mike Riley really sees something he can build on after a 0-3 start or if he's simply trying to keep his team's spirits up.
''I'm frankly very encouraged by this group and seeing them grow,'' Riley said, while admitting that of course he was disappointed.
Still, nothing will erase the fact that the Beavers are off to their worse start since 1996 - and it won't be getting any easier. Oregon State heads to Arizona State this Saturday to face the No. 25 Sun Devils, who defeated USC 43-22 Saturday.
The Beavers were stunned in their season opener at home against Sacramento State, before a 35-0 loss at Wisconsin.
On Saturday, the Beavers settled for two field goals when the offense stalled deep in UCLA territory.
With Malcolm Agnew missing a second game because of a hamstring injury, they did not run the ball well, gaining just 88 yards on the ground.
Sean Mannion was 24 of 40 for 287 yards, but he threw an interception and also set up the Bruins for a touchdown when he fumbled at his own 5-yard line.
The Bruins (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) attempted just 12 passes all day - there was no need with the Beavers unable to slow the run game. Starting UCLA tailback Johnathan Franklin went out with an injury early in the second quarter, but backup Derrick Coleman ran for 100 yards on 20 carries and the Bruins managed 211 overall.
After falling behind 21-3, Oregon State seemed to take back the momentum late in the third when Mannion found Jordan Bishop for a 45-yard touchdown reception to cut the lead to 21-19. However, a false start penalty on the two-point conversion marched the Beavers five yards back and Mannion threw an interception on the second try.
With the chance to take the lead in the fourth and the ball in UCLA territory, running back Terron Ward was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one when the Beavers misblocked on the play. The Bruins extended the lead on a one-yard run by Anthony Barr, kept Oregon State from scoring on a 10-play drive, and then ran out the clock.
''That isn't Beaver football,'' said cornerback Jordan Poyer, whose 85-yard punt return for a touchdown before halftime was one of the bright spots.
Keeping the discouragement from spiraling out of control will be the first order of business when the Beavers reconvene for practices this week.
''That's always the battle,'' Riley said. ''That's always the challenge, but I've got a sense they are going to be fighting. It's a reality that's there hitting them in the face that you're either going to quit or you are going to say, 'OK, this is what we can still do.'''
There are reasons to be optimistic.
Mannion was productive in his first career start, and he benefited from the return of flanker James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni, who both missed the season's first two games with injuries. Saturday should see the return of defensive tackle Castro Masaniai, who was sorely missed while serving a one-game suspension, and Agnew, who ran for 223 yards in the Beavers season opener.
The Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0) made the Trojans their second nationally ranked victim after Missouri. Cameron Marshall ran for 141 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns, while Brock Osweiler completed 25 of 32 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. The defense also features ferocious junior linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Plainly, the Beavers are going to need to put together a much better performance against Arizona State than they have yet mustered.
Riley said he was optimistic about his team's ability to improve as the season goes on. That has been a trait of his teams in the past, but no Riley team has ever started with three straight losses.
''We had a lot of good stuff out there. We just need to put it all together,'' Mannion said.