Beavers must focus on themselves this week

2009-09-28T21:15:00Z Beavers must focus on themselves this weekBy Cliff Kirkpatrick, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

Preparing for the next game starts internally for the Oregon State football team.

The Beavers face Pacific-10 Conference rival Arizona State at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Sun Devil Stadium.

A game plan will be drawn up with all the specifics, but to halt a two-game losing skid it's going to take individual players making improvements for the good of the team, coach Mike Riley said.

So far the Beavers have shown the ability to compete, but the know-how to win tight games is still being learned. It's about working together and trusting each other.

"I told our team that every game in our conference will be like that," Riley said of last weekend's close loss to Arizona. "We better like and embrace it, and be tough enough to win them.

"The only way to do that is get better. That's where we are at, and it's a great challenge. We have to clean stuff up, and play better consistently."

Riley is rallying his staff to keep working on the players, and he expects them to respond to the teaching.

After each game there's a long list of blocking breakdowns, route running mistakes, misplayed coverages on the defense and more to learn from. They've added up in the defeats.

"It starts with assignments," Riley said. "Guys were off kilter and not doing their job. They were trying to do some else's job. So it's critical to maintain the assignment. Defensively, we have to tackle better. Offensively, we have to make some plays."

The defense is on the hot seat this week after giving up 35 of the 37 points last weekend to a team that was down seven regular offensive players with a quarterback making his first start.

Getting all the parts of the defense with so many young players to perform at its peak at the same time is a long, excruciating process.

Pressure on the quarterback from the defensive line has been limited. The Beavers are last in the nation in sacks with two in four games.

"That's a startling statistic for the Beavers," Riley said. "We've been at the top in sacks and tackles for losses. We have to get better. I don't have an answer but more work."

The secondary has been hit hard with a pass defense that ranks 110th in the nation and ninth in the conference, allowing 272 yards a game.

A lack of pressure on the quarterback and inexperienced secondary is a lethal combination.

Defensive backs called themselves out after the latest loss.

Cornerback James Dockery said they have to cover receivers longer and tighter to give the linemen time to get to the quarterback.

"We are a defensive unit," safety Lance Mitchell said. "Coverage gets sacks and pressure gets interceptions. We have to do it as a team. It's not one unit more than another."

Riley was glad to hear that philosophy from the secondary because that's the mindset he expects from his players.

"There have been some good spots," Riley said. "It's good they are taking responsibility. They have to grow, and play with more confidence. And they have to do a better job tackling."

The offense has similar issues of not running plays properly on a regular basis. Here's a prime example of the problem vs. the potential.

OSU is tied for 117th in the country with 120 teams in sacks allowed with 3.75 a game, while leading the Pac-10 in passing with 255.8 yards a game.

"As a unit we have to step up and check in a little bit harder, and become more focused for this week," receiver Damola Adeniji said.

So the Beavers have a lot to work on. And that's before they get to Arizona State's second-best scoring defense in the Pac-10 (12.3 ppg), second-best scoring offense (35.0 ppg) and conference-leading turnover margin at plus-10 with 11 takeaways.

Then there's the rush defense tied for second in the conference with UCLA (74.3 ypg) and the pass defense is No. 1 (136.7 ypg).

"They all want to win and do better," Riley said. "Deep down it was hard, but we had chances to win the last two games. I don't want that to linger. It's now about the next game, getting back to practice (today) and make it better."

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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