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Old habits still haunt Beavers

Column by RANDY HAMMERICKSEN

In the bitter end, Beaver football fans had to deal with more frustration.Another loss.

Having a new coach with a fresh outlook and system can only go so farin helping a team win tight Pac-10 Conference games. OSU has been losingfootball games a long time, and old habits are hard to break: like givingaway games in the second half because of mistakes.

On Saturday, first-year OSU coach Mike Riley watched for the second weekin a row as the Beavers blew a second-half lead and lost 13-10 to No. 25Arizona State at Parker Stadium. Last week, No. 20 Stanford scored a touchdownin the final half-minute for a 27-24 victory.

There's not a lot I can say except it's tough, said Riley.Our kids made a great effort, but we didn't take advantage of someopportunities when they were there.

Unfortunately, what they are dealing with won't go away for a while.We will have to deal with that next week in practice.

FOR 57 MINUTES, OSU fans -- 25,873 were on hand -- nursed the hope thatthe Beavers were on the verge of upsetting the defending Pac-10 champions.Three OSU interceptions, two of which led to 10 Beaver points in the secondquarter, had Parker rocking and rolling as OSU took a 10-7 halftime lead.

But the Beavers never could get their offense untracked against ArizonaState's physical, quick defense.

Oregon State junior quarterback Tim Alexander, who completed 17 of 41passes for 193 yards, drove the Beavers from their own 36-yard line to theASU 29 in the final four minutes before he botched two snaps in a row tofoil the drive.

Alexander fumbled the snap on third-and-one at the ASU 30 but dove aheadto recover the ball just outside the 29, leaving the Beavers with fourthdown. They went for it, but Alexander juggled the center snap, hesitatedand was swarmed under by the Sun Devils at the 30.

The play was supposed to be a running play to the right and wehad it blocked, said tight end Marty Maurer, a freshman from CascadeChristian High in Jacksonville. Joe (Kuykendall) blocked down andI kicked out the safety on that side.

HE (ALEXANDER) HAD A big hole, and I expected to turn and see himstreaking up the field, said Maurer. But when I looked around,Tim was on the ground behind the line of scrimmage.

And the Beavers were almost out of time to try and rescue the win. Alexanderdesperately tried to rally OSU in the closing minute, but he was intercepted.

A stunned Alexander struggled to speak as he tried to explain what happenedin the final two series.

There were two bad snaps, said Alexander. It was abreakdown between the center and I.

We had our chances to win. We just didn't do it. You have to dothe little things perfect in that case because you know they (the Sun Devils)are coming after you.

OSU's blown chances to score in the second half overshadowed a determineddefensive effort by the Beavers. Most of OSU's big plays were turned inby the defense. Safety Armon Hatcher had two interceptions. The first onewent 76 yards for a touchdown and helped OSU tie the score at 7-7.

ON ASU'S NEXT SERIES, safety Larry Bumpus intercepted freshman quarterbackRyan Kealy's pass to set up a 42-yard field goal by Jose Cortez and a 10-7OSU lead.

With all of OSU's scoring related to defensive plays, Riley was leftto wonder how he can generate a running game to to go with Alexander's improvedpassing game.

My greatest fear today was that we might not be able to find away to consistently run the ball, said Riley. We need to beable to run a counter, a trap and a draw and to have a way to make themwork.

We have to be tough-minded, said Riley. There's nosugarcoating when you work hard to win and things don't work.

We need to bounce back and people need to be committed to that,said Riley. I think that will happen. I have seen guys latch on towhat we are doing already.

Maurer, who was playing in the Class 2A prep ranks a year ago, foundhimself trying to block hard-charging ASU All-American candidate Pat Tillman,a 206-pound senior linebacker.

HE'S AN ALL-AMERICAN and he's a candidate for the Butkus Award(top college defensive lineman), said Maurer. He's a great playerand very hard to block because he's quick.

I've tried not think about being in awe of these guys. In my firstgame, I kept saying, `This is D-1 (Division I) football.' But it's hard.

The sad thing is we could have beaten Stanford and Arizona Statethe last two weeks, said Maurer. We just had to make plays atthe end. I believe we will learn to do that.

Despite failing to make game-winning plays, there was no denying thatthe effort was there by the Beavers. Even the Sun Devils agreed.

My hat is off to OSU, said Arizona State tailback J.R. Redmond.They were out there today hitting, running and covering. They gaveus a heck of a game. They did a good job defensively, they didn't roll overand they didn't lay down.

Said Tillman: They (the Beavers) played a good game, but it's prettytough to win when you only score three points, and that's all our defensegave them.

Randy Hammericksen is the Mail Tribune's sports columnist. He can bereached at 776-4499.

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