Questionable call costs the Beavers
CORVALLIS — Throw out Oregon State's costly penalties, the overall offensive miscues and another scintillating performance from Cincinnati senior quarterback Tony Pike.
The focus of Oregon State's 28-18 loss to No. 17 Cincinnati on Saturday centered on a critical fourth quarter call.
"There were a couple times we thought everything was going for us," Oregon State senior linebacker Keaton Kristick said. "We had a lot of stuff going for us. But in the end, it didn't turn out in our favor."
The play occurred with just less than 11 minutes remaining in the contest. Pike fired a wide receiver screen to DJ Woods, who was hit behind the line of scrimmage near Oregon State's 40-yard line.
The Beavers' David Pa'aluhi and Lance Mitchell drove Woods back a few steps before Pa'aluhi stripped the ball and Oregon State linebacker Keith Pankey recovered.
But the officials ruled that Woods' forward momentum was stopped before he fumbled. Oregon State coach Mike Riley said he chose not to challenge the ruling on the field to avoid burning a timeout.
"I would have liked the call," Riley said. "I know what he called and why he called it. I'll just say that."
The next play, on third-and-14, Pike found Mardy Gilyard for a 16-yard completion and the Bearcats eventually scored when Pike hit Gilyard for a 19-yard strike in a corner of the end zone to give Cincinnati a 28-18 lead with 8:03 to play amidst a chorus of boos.
"It's not about the calls," Oregon State senior cornerback Tim Clark said. "It never comes down to the calls. It was a great team. They took advantage of their opportunities more than we did."
OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES: In a word, quarterback Sean Canfield called it "sloppy."
The Oregon State offense was out of sorts most of the contest Saturday. And just when it seemed the Beavers may have finally gained traction with impressive drives in the second half, another opportunity slipped away.
"The defense was playing well all day, especially early on, and we just couldn't get it going on offense and never made enough big plays," Canfield said.
The Beavers gained 344 yards of total offense in the contest — only 121 in the first half — and Canfield was sacked five times. Oregon State averaged just 2.9 yards rushing per carry. The Beavers were particularly inept in the second quarter, gaining only 29 total yards as the Bearcats erased a 6-0 deficit to take a 21-8 lead into halftime.
"That second quarter was sloppy on offense," Canfield said. "If we would have cut that out, we might have had a chance, but we can't live like that."
Oregon State made key adjustments in the second half, using shorter and quicker plays to offset Cincinnati's pressure. The Beavers drove 80 yards in six plays, chewing off just 2:24 on the clock, on their opening drive of the third quarter. It would be Oregon State's only touchdown of the contest.
"Offensively, we had spurts where we looked like we could execute," Riley said.
The missed opportunity occurred at the start of the fourth quarter. Oregon State, trailing 21-15, drove to the Cincinnati 5-yard line. But the Beavers' first two plays — a run by Jacquizz Rodgers and Canfield's pass to Rodgers — resulted in a four-yard loss and a five-yard loss, respectively. The Beavers had to settle for Justin Kahut's 23-yard field goal.
"That was horrible," Riley said of the sequence.
AIR ATTACK: Pike may quietly be climbing draft boards and Heisman lists with another standout performance. The Bearcats went almost exclusively to the pass, running just twice in the third quarter and 23 times in the game. He entered the game completing 77.2 percent of his passes for 591 yards on 45-of-57 passing with six touchdowns and just one interception.
Pike added to that total against the Beavers by throwing for 332 yards on 31-of-49 passing with two touchdowns and one interception.
"Oregon State is a great team, an obvious Top 25 team," Pike said. "We were able to go through some tough times and come back out of them."
Said Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly: "We came here to play a Pac-10 team that hadn't lost in 26 straight games (against nonconference opponents at home). It's not an easy place to play. It's a tough trip to make, and our kids fought through everything."
Riley said his defense made strides against a Cincinnati offense that was averaging 58.5 points per game through two games.
"We played a ton of good defense," Riley said. "I know they got a ton of big plays "¦ but I thought it was a good plan by coach Mark Banker (the defensive coordinator). Even though we lost the game, I thought defensively we took a step forward in a lot of areas because I think that's a pretty good offensive team."
The Bearcats gained 408 yards of total offense.
EXTRA POINTS: Cincinnati was Oregon State's first ranked nonconference opponent at home. "¦ The Bearcats are 2-0 against Oregon State, winning the previous meeting at home, 34-3 in 2007. "¦ Oregon State is now 6-9 against current Big East opponents. "¦ Canfield entered the game leading the nation in completion percentage at 78.6 percent (33 of 42). He finished 29-of-45 passing for 240 yards and no touchdowns. He threw his first interception of the season, which was also Oregon State's first turnover. The Beavers were the last team in the nation to commit a turnover "¦ Keaton Kristick's third-quarter interception was the first of his career. "¦ James Rodgers became just the second Oregon State player in school history with 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards rushing, joining Pat Chaffey (1986, 88-90).