CORVALLIS — For much of the first half Saturday at Reser Stadium, Oregon State had its way with Hawaii. The Beavers scored the first 14 points of the nonconference football game, getting touchdowns on two of their first three possessions; the Rainbow Warriors' biggest gain to that point had come on a broken play that started with a fumble.
Then, about a third of the way into the second quarter, the flashback began.
Hawaii ran back an interception for a touchdown then stuffed OSU's offense to get the ball back. The Rainbow Warriors proceeded to march 80 yards for the game-tying score and the drive was eerily reminiscent of the way Eastern Washington had dismantled Oregon State the week before: a no-huddle offense that spread the field and left the Beavers looking baffled.
Was any part of Mike Riley thinking, "Here we go again?"
"Oh, yeah," Riley said afterward. "Every part of me. It's scary "¦ We started off real well and then we got sloppy. We initiated their momentum for sure with that interception for a touchdown, then they made a nice drive and all of a sudden everybody is getting nervous again."
After spending the preseason looking at a schedule that set up for a potential 7-0 start, the Beavers went into halftime facing the specter of being 0-2.
"Everyone was saying everything," junior defensive end Scott Crichton said of OSU's locker room at intermission. "Everyone knew we had to pick it up. We had a fast start and then we slowed down a little bit before halftime, so everyone was just getting on everyone to pick it up, because it shouldn't have been tied at halftime."
Message received. The Beavers scored on their first two possessions of the second half and never let Hawaii back in the game, winning 33-14.
"I'm really proud of our team's poise in opening that second half with a touchdown drive, and then another right away," Riley said. "That's probably the thing I'm most proud of, coming out in the second half and winning the game."
THE 'BOW STOPS HERE: In its season opener, Oregon State had been pierced for 625 yards of total offense and 46 points by Eastern Washington, which plays a division lower than the Beavers in the Football Championship Series. On Saturday, OSU held Hawaii to 239 yards total offense and the Rainbow Warriors' offense scored just seven points.
"The whole defense, we didn't play to our expectations," Crichton said of the loss to EWU. "They took us by storm. We just had to learn from the film and get better throughout the practices and that's what we did and we showed it on the field today."
Take away Hawaii's lone scoring drive and it managed just 159 yards and 10 first downs on its other 12 possessions.
"We had much better tackling, much better positioning, much tighter coverage and much better pressure this game," Riley said. "Our coaches and staff do a great job. One of the main things they did this last week was go back and give some more substance to our players, concrete stuff about how we are going to perform better. We got the kids really well prepared and they played confidently tonight. We tackled way, way better and were obviously in much better position covering passes."
CUMMINGS GET IT: With the game in doubt in the third quarter, two of the biggest catches on the Beavers' touchdown drives weren't made by high-profile wide receiver Brandin Cooks, but by senior slotback Kevin Cummings.
On the first drive of the half, the Beavers faced third-and-13 from the Hawaii 43-yard line; give the ball back and the Rainbow Warriors' momentum from the first half could turn into their first lead of the game. But OSU quarterback Sean Mannion found Cummings for 21 yards down the left side and the Beavers scored two plays later to take the lead for good.
On Oregon State's next possession it needed to convert a third-and-10 from midfield. This time Mannion found Cummings over the middle for 33 yards to set up another score and put the Beavers firmly back in charge.
"We needed to separate ourselves and get some momentum going, so they expected me to get open on third downs and that's kind of my role on this team, so that's what I did," Cummings said.
Those were his only two catches of the game; in his first three years at OSU he had 32 catches.
"K.C. did a great job," Cooks said. "It was his time to step up and show he can make plays. And a great job by Richard Mullaney. I know those guys on a personal level and I see what they do at practice, so I didn't expect anything less. I knew it was coming sooner or later."
Mullaney, a sophomore split end, had four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. Cooks and tailback Storm Woods led the way with seven catches each, Woods for 95 yards and Cooks for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
ON THE RUN: Oregon State had 508 yards of total offense against Hawaii, but only 57 of those came on the ground.
"We've got to do better than that," Riley said. "It's never one thing, but there's no doubt about it: the people who are responsible are the blockers. And it's not just the O-line — there's tight ends involved, there's receivers involved "¦ and Hawaii's pretty good up front. They really, really commit themselves to stopping the run, which is smart — that's good football."
Mannion, who had another huge week as he passed for 372 yards and four touchdowns, agreed that it's nice to have a balanced attack but that Saturday's imbalance wasn't necessarily a reflection of a weak running game by the Beavers.
"It could be the kind of thing where you have a check called at the line: it just happens to be a run look, it could be a pass look," Mannion said. "I think it's something we strive for but as the game goes on we're not tied to it. We're going to do what we think the defense is giving us and I think we did a pretty good job of that."
EXTRA POINTS: Cooks had told some media members during the week that it was guaranteed the Beavers would beat Hawaii. Said Cummings: "We had to back him up for saying something like that. Brandin is full of confidence and he knows what this team can do, so for him to say that wasn't just him talking — he believes in this team, he believes in the leaders of this team." "¦ With his 92 receiving yards, Cooks moved into OSU's all-time top 10 in career receiving yards with 1,830. His 12 career touchdown catches leave him one away from entering the top 10 in that category as well "¦ Junior cornerback Steven Nelson's interception in the fourth quarter was the Beavers' first takeaway of the season "¦ OSU is now 6-3 all-time against Hawaii and the Beavers have won the last three meetings "¦ OSU's safety was its first since 2011 at Utah.