Oregon State's uncharacteristic fade results in disheartening loss

2010-11-13T22:00:00Z 2015-03-25T18:11:07Z Oregon State's uncharacteristic fade results in disheartening lossBy Steve Gress, Gazette-Times sports editor Corvallis Gazette Times

CORVALLIS - Mike Riley-coached football teams are known for getting better as the season progresses.

That was the Beavers' M.O. the past four seasons, and the last two years' poor starts turned into runs at the Pacific-10 Conference title.

This season has been different. Wins over Arizona and California had many people thinking it might happen again.

But the struggles the Beavers have had all season reared their ugly heads the past two games and OSU is in jeopardy of missing the postseason for the first time since 2005.

Saturday's 31-14 Pac-10 loss to last-place Washington State was a microcosm of what has plagued the Beavers all year.

OSU's defense couldn't get off the field - the Cougars had a 2-1 margin in time of possession - the offense couldn't sustain drives, and special teams struggled.

"We've got some issues football-wise, I'm not trying to spin one thing," coach Mike Riley said. "It was not good at all and we've got a lot of work to do."

The Beavers need to win two of their remaining three games - against USC, Stanford and Oregon - if it hopes to become bowl eligible.

A tall task, especially when they aren't playing well.

"We have not been playing good right now and we really haven't gotten better over these last few weeks," senior linebacker Keith Pankey said.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel was the star for the Cougars on Saturday. He consistently scrambled for first downs that kept drives alive and finished with 79 net yards after subtracting 24 yards lost on sacks.

Mobile quarterbacks have had their way with the Beavers from Week 1.

"He won the game for them," senior defensive tackle Stephen Paea said. "He made plays with his feet and we didn't manage to keep him in the pocket and sack him. So I give the blame on us, the D-line, so we came up short."

The offensive line continued to struggle opening holes for running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who again tried to fire his teammates up during the game.

Rodgers finished with 93 yards, but had runs of 17, 22 and 28 yards to help reach that total. On his other 12 carries, Rodgers managed 26 yards.

"I haven't been doing my job," Rodgers said. "I haven't got in the end zone in two games, so the only person I can worry about right now is me and fix what I can do to help this team."

The Beavers punted four times, missed a field goal, turned the ball over on downs twice and had an interception in 10 possessions.

"Today you could tell we were right there moving the ball and then we kept on shooting ourselves in the foot and they kept on making plays when they needed to," senior center Alex Linnenkohl said.

The defense struggled to get off the field most of the game, but it was most apparent in the third quarter when the Cougars ran 26 plays to OSU's three and held the ball for 13 minutes and 34 seconds in the period.

The Cougars converted 10 of 17 third downs compared to just 2 of 10 for the Beavers.

"They kept the ball, converted and we didn't," Riley stated. "It started with that kind of trend early. (It was) one of the definite issues about this game and our team in general and has been a big deal all year."

So can the Beavers put two tough losses behind them and make the proper adjustments?

"You can fix them," Rodgers said. "When your number is called you have to make those plays and give it your all on every play. I try to go out there and playhard no matter what it is, man."

The Beavers will need to correct a lot if they hope to play past the Dec. 4 Civil War.

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