Oregon State players and coaches throughout the season have talked about needing to get off to good starts.
While they say the emphasis has been on starting their football games quickly, that hasn’t translated into success yet.
The Beavers have trailed after the first quarter in all but three games this season — at home against Southern Utah (the Beavers led 17-0), at home against Arizona (7-7) and at home against Washington State (14-14).
Only once have the Beavers scored first — against Southern Utah.
OSU was down 21-7 at Ohio State, 16-7 at Nevada and 10-0 at Arizona State after 15 minutes. The Beavers also started in a 14-0 hole at home against Washington State.
Ohio State lead 42-7 at one point in the second quarter, Nevada 30-7 and Arizona State 24-3.
The Beavers trailed California and Colorado just 7-0 after the first quarter but found themselves down 21-0 at the half versus Cal and 31-3 one play into the third at Colorado.
And while the Beavers somewhat miraculously caught fire in the second half against Colorado to pull out a 41-34 overtime victory, it’s been a recipe that has ended in a loss.
The trend continued on Saturday night as Oregon State trailed 7-0 after one quarter against USC and were in a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter before beginning a comeback that all again fell short.
“We did want to start better than we did,” coach Jonathan Smith said. “And it’s not a lack of effort, I don’t think it’s a lack of focus, I just think for whatever reasons we haven’t scored first in games. We do have some resiliency.”
Receiver Trevon Bradford, who had 10 catches on Saturday against USC, said the Beavers have put plenty of focus on coming out better all season.
“It’s something we work on and try to do every week but that hasn’t been going our way so far,” he said. “… It’s something we need to work on and continue to get better at.”
While the Beavers have found themselves down often this season, they haven’t panicked and have, in a sense, embraced the challenge.
“I think as a team we do a pretty good job of not letting that bother us,” quarterback Jake Luton said. “We know it’s a marathon and college football is a long game so that’s kind of not necessarily a good thing but that’s kind of what we’ve done is work our way back. And so I think (Saturday) we were fine, we were just going to stick to our game plan and keep rolling. It’s just we have to do it for four quarters.”
Fake field goal
Oregon State trailed USC 28-21 late in the third quarter and faced a fourth-and-5 at the USC 19.
Smith called for a fake field goal that had kicker Jordan Choukair line up as a receiver and holder Timmy Hernandez take the snap.
Hernandez’s pass, however, was incomplete and the Trojans took over.
“Again, wanted to continue to stay aggressive, didn’t think field goals were going to get us over the hump,” Smith said after the game. “It’s something we’ve been practicing a couple of weeks. The personnel they had shown on field goal block was they had a couple offensive players in there so we felt confident they weren’t going to cover down correct, which I think we had a chance on the play.”
Smith was asked about several calls the officials made Saturday — including a fumble that was returned for an apparent touchdown initially being ruled down and a defensive delay of game penalty when the officials said the Beavers moved to cause a USC false start — and whether the school has had a chance to ask the Pac-12 office about such instances.
“We always get the opportunity to communicate with the Pac-12 after the games and we send in different plays each week really to make sure we’re interpreting it correctly, getting an explanation for it so we can properly coach our guys,” Smith said. “That’s no different this week.”
Quarterback Conor Blount, who had been in concussion protocol since leaving the Cal game on Oct. 27 with one, was cleared to play on Saturday but was not used against the Trojans.
Blount had started six straight games before Jack Colletto started at Colorado. Smith said Monday they would evaluate during the week who would be the backup to Luton this Saturday at Stanford.
“He was ready to go,” Smith said of Blount. “We kind of like what we we’re getting down with Colletto a little bit in some unique situations. We’ll kind of see where that ends now. (Blount) was so limited last week. He’ll get a full week of practice this week and we’ll be able to see who is the backup.”
Smith wouldn’t go as far as to say sophomore safety David Morris is out for the season but there is a good chance he won’t play in the last four games after missing the first eight.
“The guy’s working at it but he’s not quite there to be able to feel like you put him out there in a position where he can succeed,” Smith said.
Under the new redshirt rule, players are allowed to play in any four games and still qualify for a redshirt.