CORVALLIS — "But dad, you should have seen them last week ..."
CORVALLIS — "But dad, you should have seen them last week ..."
That was likely the line uttered by many an Oregon State student Friday night at Reser Stadium as the university's annual Dad's Weekend got underway. The Beavers' 31-14 Pacific-12 football loss to Southern California wasn't what a crowd of 45,379 showed up expecting to see.
The loss, OSU's most lopsided of the season, came less than a week after the Beavers had gone toe-to-toe with sixth-ranked Stanford in a 20-12 defeat decided on the game's final drive. That had seemed to answer some questions about how Oregon State's season might play out.
The Beavers — after a season-opening loss to Eastern Washington — had won six straight games, but those came against teams outside the top 25 or the top half of the Pac-12. With the tougher tests coming in the season's final month, taking the Cardinal to the wire was encouraging.
Now, the jury is still out.
Had OSU been emotionally left spent after the close-but-no-cigar bid to upset a top-10 team?
"No," Oregon State senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds said. "We just didn't play well. Stanford was over with after Sunday. But you can't take anything away from SC; they played a great game and we just didn't go out there on both sides of the ball and execute."
That was essentially the same diagnosis offered by Beaver head coach Mike Riley.
"We were just not as sharp in any form of the game as I thought we could have been," Riley said. "Now if we could have beaten that team the way they were playing I don't know, but we sure could have been a lot better than that. We had two red zone turnovers, then we had a missed field goal and a blocked field goal. That's too much. You're not going to overcome that against a good team."
Missed opportunities were the difference. While the game was still in doubt, USC scored every time it had the ball inside the OSU 45-yard line; the Beavers, meanwhile, turned the ball over twice inside the Trojan 20, had one field goal blocked and another from just 26 yards out go wide left.
Cash in on the two touchdowns and one of the two field goals, and you're in a 31-31 tie early in the fourth quarter. As it was, the game was decided by then.
"We just didn't do very well and that's disappointing," Riley said. "I give SC credit; I thought they played a good all-around game. And they've been playing a lot of good football lately. I'm just disappointed we didn't have more for them tonight."
QUARTERBACK COMPARISON: Through October, Oregon State led the nation in passing on the arm of junior quarterback Sean Mannion. Friday, though, the better numbers belonged to USC sophomore Cody Kessler.
Kessler entered the game completing 61 percent of his passes, averaging 195 yards per game with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Against OSU, he was 17-for-21 with an interception for 274 yards and a touchdown.
Mannion started the night with a 69 percent completion percentage, averaging 407.9 yards per game with 30 touchdowns and three interceptions. Facing one of the Pac-12's toughest defenses for the second straight week, Mannion was 26-for-45 for 277 yards and one touchdown and doubled his season interception total.
"I thought I obviously made a few mistakes," Mannion said. "I felt fine; it was just a matter of forcing a couple balls that I should have thrown away. The two in the red zone especially upset me."
Riley saw Mannion trying to create bigger plays than the game was giving him.
"He's had lots more good football than those moments tonight — and he made some good throws tonight," Riley said of Mannion. "I think we just get back to work and one of the things is, you can never be too anxious to just make something happen. He has to make choices about what the defense is telling you to do. Sometimes you're so eager you just want to make it go, but the defense is telling you to do something else, but you do it anyway because you want that, and that's what happens."
BALANCING ACT: While Kessler and standout junior wide receiver Marqise Lee were helping USC to 247 yards through the air, the Trojans were also piling up 242 yards on the ground. Southern California had a pair of backs over 100 yards: senior Silas Redd with 140 and sophomore Javorius Allen with 133.
Injuries had left the Beavers without a pair of starting linebackers, junior D.J. Alexander and senior Michael Doctor, going into the game; starting defensive tackle John Braun was also held out with a shoulder injury. OSU got a little thinner on defense when backup middle linebacker Joel Skotte, a sophomore, suffered a concussion covering the opening kickoff.
Skotte lay on the field for several minutes before eventually sitting up and being helped off.
"Those moments are always scary for everybody: their team, our team, everybody," Riley said. "That's not a reason for the rest of the game that we had tonight."
Riley could point to plenty of other reasons for the Beavers' inability to stop USC on the ground.
"There's probably three issues there," Riley said. "One of them is, they're a very good running team. Another is I don't think we were in great shape responsibility-wise, and the third thing is we didn't tackle well as the ball reached into that second level."
TIME TO TAKE A BREAK: After the two straight home losses, the Beavers go into their second bye week of the season. OSU doesn't play again until traveling to Arizona State on November 16.
"After a loss, it makes you want to get back on the field but we've got to wait two weeks," Reynolds said. "But at the same time I think it gives us an opportunity to get healthy for a lot of guys on the team "¦ you can go one of two ways. I'm sure our team is going to fight. It sucks — I hate losing; I'm competitive and I hate it. I know there's going to be a fire within a lot of guys on our team."
Said Riley: "We're disappointed, but I know one thing: this is the same group we won six in a row with and they're going to be absolutely hungry and ready to go for the next game. The big issue will be the tangible things about playing better. That's what we have to get when we come back and start work."
THIS AND THAT: Oregon State debuted its new orange uniforms in the game; it's not known the last time the Beavers played wearing both orange jerseys and orange pants. The orange helmets, with the players' numbers on the sides, were an homage to the lids worn by the Beavers of the late 1950s and early 1960s that featured Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker and Hall of Fame head coach Tommy Prothro "¦ OSU safety Ryan Murphy's 41-yard interception return for a touchdown was OSU's third "pick six" of the season, the most for Oregon State since the 2007 team also recorded three "¦ Mannion's touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks was the 21st time the two have teamed up for a touchdown in their careers "¦ Mannion's second-quarter interception ended a string of 140 consecutive pass attempts without being picked off "¦ Mannion now has 3,605 yards passing this season, third on OSU's all-time single season list. The record is Derek Anderson's 3,615 yards in 2004. Mannion already has the single-season touchdown pass record with his 31 this season "¦ Cooks' six catches for 88 yards moved him into third place on OSU's single-season list for receiving yards with 1,344; the record is Mike Hass' 1,532 yards in 2005.