Defensive meltdown reveals weakness for Beavers

2009-09-26T22:45:00Z Defensive meltdown reveals weakness for BeaversBy Cliff Kirkpatrick, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

CORVALLIS - Defensive issues have become more evident with each game.

The Oregon State football team couldn't contain an Arizona team in an offensive transition, and lost its Pacific-10 Conference opener 37-32 on Saturday night before a crowd of 42,119 in Reser Stadium.

Arizona gained 388 total yards. The passing game contributed 254 yards and three touchdowns - not bad for a rushing team.

Players felt the gamut of emotions from anger to frustration afterward. This was a game they should have won, and needed to win.

"We are frustrated more than anything," quarterback Sean Canfield said. "We are not scared or discouraged about the rest of the season. We are just frustrated."

The defensive players took the loss particularly hard. They were a step off in coverage and in the pass rush. They couldn't come up with enough plays to stop the Wildcats.

And it hurt more since the Beavers (2-2, 0-1) made improvements on offense. They played well until they tried to rally for the win in the final moments, and everything came undone under pressure.

"They played a great game," safety Lance Mitchell said of the Wildcats. "They did what they had to do to win. They did everything good. The stats show they ran the ball and they threw the ball."

Arizona's success over the Beavers is particularly glaring due to the injuries the team has suffered.

Eight regular players were not available, including seven on offense. Their top two running backs, Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin, were hurt in the first half and didn't return.

The Wildcats (3-1, 1-0) used their third-string running back and their backup quarterback. Nick Foles started his first game and was efficient passing, completing 25 of 34 attempts.

"It's hard to say," cornerback James Dockery said of the state of the defense. "Any time the offense gives you 30 (points), we've got to come out with a win."

Lack of pressure on the quarterback has become an ongoing issue. Arizona used quick passes so there was little time to get to Foles.

The secondary accepted the responsibility of not covering the receivers long enough or tight enough.

They say change will come. But will it be soon?

"We have to change something," Mitchell said. "What I know, if you keep doing the same thing you get the same results. We have to come to practice harder and watch film more and do everything a little harder and more. To get a change, you have to change what you are doing."

If not, opponents will see the video of this game and use Arizona's offensive formula and pick on the young secondary all year long.

And that will be like the last time OSU rebuilt its secondary, in 2005 when the Beavers failed to reach a bowl game.

"It's just small things," Dockery said. "And in Division I, especially Pac-10 football, small things kill you. We have to fix that up. This week has to be the most important week of our life, if we want to get anywhere this year."

Players talked about refocusing this week. Many have seen the program rally from poor starts to finish strong.

They say they have the ability to do the same. Coach Mike Riley, however, is cautious. He thinks they can do it, too, but doesn't want them to just think it's going to happen because they are the Beavers.

Finishing strong begins with solidarity in the tough times. Step 1 appears to be in place.

Each area of the team has broken down this year, so not one area can be the fall guy.

"There's some things we could have all done," receiver Damola Adeniji said. "There's no sense of pointing fingers. We just have to come back and play as a team."

Cliff Kirkpatrick covers the Oregon State football team for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at cliff.kirkpatrick@lee.net. Read more about the Beavers on his blog at cliffkirkpatrick.mvourtown.com.

Copyright 2016 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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