Oregon State wondering what's next after first win
Now that the Beavers finally have a win, the mood around Oregon State is considerably lighter.
The Beavers proved they are capable of more than their 0-4 start seemed to suggest on Saturday with a 37-27 victory over Arizona. Now there are new questions, such as whether the victory can put the team back on track.
''This game showed us how to win,'' said cornerback Lance Mitchell, who had an interception, fumble recovery and a key reception on a fake punt. ''It's hard to go out there and play without winning. To learn how to win is big. You have to know how to finish the game.''
The frustration had been palpable in Beaver Nation as Oregon State stumbled out of the gate.
Going into Saturday's game against the Wildcats, the Beavers were the only winless team in a Bowl Championship Series conference. A shocking overtime loss to lower-division Sacramento State in the season opener was followed by a 35-0 defeat against Wisconsin.
The Beavers couldn't finish off UCLA, then didn't show up for the last three quarters after taking a 13-0 lead against Arizona State.
With the win, Oregon State (1-4, 1-2 Pac-12) snapped a six-game skid dating to Nov. 20.
The defense was aggressive, confounding the Arizona line with delayed blitzes that had Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles constantly on the run. The running game returned, cracking the century mark for the first time since the Sacramento State contest. Finally, the special teams clicked. And there were two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, a blocked punt for a touchdown and a fake punt pass for a first down.
In short, the Beavers played most of the game the way they had envisioned back in fall camp, and the way coach Mike Riley had predicted his young team could play as he nurtured it through the frustrating start.
''I'm hoping this is a game that sparks us,'' said tight end Joe Halahuni, whose touchdown catch on fourth down with 5:28 left in the game ended the Wildcats' comeback.
After trailing 30-6 in the third, Arizona scored 21 unanswered points in just over 10 minutes. Foles led two long touchdown drives, and in between, Shaquille Richardson returned an interception 20 yards for a score. With 11:56 remaining, the lead was cut to 30-27.
Riley showed confidence in his young offense late in the game when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 2. Quarterback Sean Mannion connected with Halahuni for the score.
Making his third start, Mannion was 32 for 41 for 267 yards. The Beavers ran the ball 35 times. It was a nice balance after Mannion was forced to throw a record 66 times against Arizona State.
''It's a stepping stone,'' said Jovan Stevenson, who ran for 99 yards before leaving the game because of a concussion. ''We are not going to be happy about it. We have to get back to work. We now have more games to play.''
The opportunities are there for the Beavers, who seem to have some winnable games ahead.
Next up is BYU, which is 4-2 after beating San Jose State 29-16 on Saturday for its third straight win. The Cougars will likely be led by Riley Nelson, who made his first career start at quarterback in place of the injured Jake Heaps and threw for 219 yards and three touchdowns. BYU is averaging just 18 points a game.
The Beavers then face Washington State and Utah. The Utes are still winless in the Pac-12 but beat up on BYU earlier in the season.