Just when things are going well, life has a funny way of reminding you that it’s not that easy.
The No. 14 Oregon State football team found that out Saturday, but without a setback.
Weaknesses were exposed in a Pacific-12 Conference game against Washington State and the Beavers still found a way to win, 19-6, before a Reser Stadium-record crowd of 46,579.
“I’m feeling very happy,” running back Storm Woods said. “Coach (Mike) Riley said not to be so hard on ourselves, but I can’t wait to put together a complete game. The defense played outstanding, but the offense struggled in the first half.”
Woods may have been happy, but he looked downtrodden after the game because it was a sloppy performance for the offense.
Quarterback Sean Mannion threw three interceptions and was not as sharp as usual. He made a bad read on one pick and forced a pass when he was falling down.
The offensive line didn’t pick up the blitz regularly, which let to three sacks and a hurried Mannion. Many of the 11 penalties for 110 yards were on the offense in the form of procedure calls and holding.
“Washington State was throwing a lot of blitzes at us, more than we could handle at times,” Woods said. “They mixed it up pretty good between the 4-3 and 3-4, and I got confused a little bit. That cost us two sacks.”
There were chances to put the game away early and blow out the Cougars (2-4, 0-3), but drives stalled. Dropped passes and missed blocks were the culprits.
OSU (4-0, 3-0) came out strong in the second half, but still needed an 86-yard, 12-play drive that ended with a 1-yard Tyler Anderson run with 4:27 left in the game to feel sure with a 13-point lead.
“As hard and sometimes ugly it was offensively, they pulled themselves together,” Riley said. “There are a lot of young guys out there. They just made plays, so we won the game. Do we have a lot to work on from that game? Absolutely. I told the team our goal is to win the game, and then come Monday we’ll work on what we need to work on.”
Each conference game has the potential to be tough, especially with the Cougars being a Northwest rival. However, with how well the Beavers played against better teams such as Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona this game shouldn’t have been that close.
The Beavers started the season 4-0 for the first time since 2002, but there have been no blowouts and each one down to the wire.
“Our record says we are perfect right now, and I can’t argue with that,” receiver Markus Wheaton said. “But we have a lot to work on. As you can see there are a lot of penalties and missed assignments.”
The defense remains the cornerstone of the team. While the offense figures out how to score, there were three quarterback sacks by Scott Crichton and four interceptions — three by Jordan Poyer.
WSU’s powerful passing attack was held to 207 yards and the Beavers allowed only two field goals. The last time they held the a team out of the end zone was the 2008 Sun Bowl against Pittsburgh.
“Our defense this week picked the team up and made plays,” Riley said. “It was one of those games and you have to play the game you are in. Our kids fought through it and won it, which is good.”
So the Beavers are a third of the way through the season, undefeated and unsatisfied.
The game should also serve as a wake-up call. This was a contest they could have dominated.
If they play like this against the better competition ahead, the Beavers won’t be so fortunate.
“You are never going to be perfect in an entire season, as much as you would like to be,” Mannion said. “We are encountering some of that in the game, but at same time, ultimately it will help us grow. There are going to be games we are not playing the greatest.”
Cliff Kirkpatrick covers the Oregon State football team for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Follow him at Twitter.com/cliffgt.