CORVALLIS - Disappointment was evident Saturday night, but there was no long-term frustration.
The Oregon State football team competed with No. 17-ranked Cincinnati and with some improvements, or even a lucky break here or there, could have won.
Minor breakdowns added up and the Beavers lost the nonconference game 28-18 before a crowd of 41,909 in Reser Stadium.
"Nobody wants to have this feeling after a game," cornerback Tim Clark said. "I feel disappointed. We missed an opportunity. I thought we could do something big and we let it slip through our fingers."
OSU (2-1) had several chances to win, but the offense couldn't finish drives.
The defense kept the game close except for a bad second quarter when the Bearcats (3-0) scored three touchdowns.
"Our performance was mediocre," Clark said. "We know we are better than what we just did, and what was displayed. We just have to take it for what it's worth - it's a learning experience - and get back in the film room. There were a lot of mistakes we made today."
Coach Mike Riley wasn't as harsh. He knew stopping Cincinnati's high-powered offense wasn't going to be easy.
The Bearcats use the spread and throw the ball over the field in a constant 2-minute drill. Quarter-back Tony Pike threw for 332 yards and two TDs.
The cornerbacks shut down the outsides and contained the deep pass. The safeties were burned over the middle a few times. A pass rush emerged and the linebackers were active stopping the pass and containing the run.
"We played a ton of good defense," Riley said. "I know they got some scoring plays, but it was a good plan by coach (Mark) Banker. We lost the game but we took a step forward in a lot of areas. That's a pretty good offensive team."
The Beavers settled for three field goals, two coming in the first quarter. While the momentum appeared to be siding with the Beavers, it was only a matter of time before that changed.
Cincinnati's quick-strike offense took the lead with one drive, and that had the Beavers reeling.
The killing blow came at the beginning of the fourth quarter. They moved the ball to Cincinnati's 5-yard line and were pushed back for the third field goal.
A touchdown there would given the Beavers the lead, and possibly changed the complexion of the game.
"I don't want to go through that series," Riley said. "That was horrible."
By then the Beavers were desperate, but still had a chance. They rallied in a tight game last week and were confident.
They almost turned the game in their favor with an apparent forced fumble with eight minutes left. However, the officials ruled forward progress had been stopped.
The Bearcats kept possession and went on to score and put the game away.
"It's not about the call," Clark said. "It never comes down to the calls. We should have never let it get that close. They took advantage of their opportunities more than we did. We can't leave anything out on the field when you play against a team like that."
Riley understood the call, and he didn't want to hang the game on that one call when there was so much more his team could have done.
The Beavers will move on to Pacific-10 Conference play next week. After three weeks the team has shown that it has the potential for a good season.
"As disappointed as we are we have to turn it into a lot of teaching and learning this week," Riley said. "I was encouraged because we are finding out more about this team. I think I found out our team can compete with what I think is a top-20 team. And I think we can do better than compete, frankly."
Cliff Kirkpatrick covers the Oregon State football team for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about the Beavers on his blog at cliffkirkpatrick.mvourtown.com.