Plenty to improve upon in Corvallis
CORVALLIS — It took one play for Mike Riley to see how a good chunk of his offense’s Saturday was going to go.
After Oregon State received the opening kickoff in its season opener against Portland State, center Josh Mitchell snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Sean Mannion for an 18-yard loss.
“I mean, that was like … I hadn’t seen one of those all camp, so it really came out of the blue,” Riley said.
The Beavers survived a sporadic day by their offense to beat Portland State 29-14 at Reser Stadium. OSU, expecting a big senior season from Mannion and looking for an improved running game, ended up with decent numbers: 505 yards of total offense, including 328 passing yards from Mannion and 177 rushing yards.
But on trips inside the Viking 20-yard line, the Beavers scored just one touchdown and had to settle for a school-record seven field goal attempts.
“There were a couple times there might have been a sack or a penalty that brought us a little further out,” Mannion said. “We have to keep ourselves close, we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot and bring ourselves back away from the goal line.
“But a lot of it is basic execution; I know for me there was a throw for Connor (Hamlett, tight end) that I left high. There are things we can clean up, but it’s nothing crazy.”
After the initial miscue led to a three-and-out on the Beavers’ first possession, Oregon State had drives of 52 yards (field goal), 71 yards (field goal), 82 yards (touchdown) and 42 yards (missed field goal) in the first half to trail 14-13 at intermission. On those four drives, OSU rushed six times for 23 yards; one of those rushes was Mannion’s six-yard sprint to the end zone when he was looking to pass and saw nothing but open turf in front of him.
“You’ve got to run the ball better when you’re down there in the red zone,” Riley said. “If you want to be a good high red zone percentage team, you’re going to get a good bulk of your touchdowns running the ball in.
“Last year we got away with some play-action passes and for the first six, seven games we were really good in the red zone because we got away with that stuff, but it started to go down when we played better teams. Running it in is one answer, and then we’ve just got to have a little bit better execution in the passing game down there.”
Riley said he had to remind himself that with starting center Isaac Seumalo out, OSU had only one player — right tackle Sean Harlow — on its offensive line with more than sporadic experience as a starter.
“I forget that a little bit and I’ve got to go easy,” Riley said. “We’ll coach these guys and build them up and they’ll be all right. We’ll have some reinforcements coming when Isaac gets well; in the meantime, this group has got to do it.
“That’s just kind of how it went (on offense): some nice stuff, some good plays, but really way, way too inconsistent. It just didn’t look like good football to me.”
GETTING HIS KICKS: After not finding out until this past week that he’d be Oregon State’s starting placekicker, redshirt freshman Garrett Owens found himself setting a school record with seven field goal attempts. Owens hit five of those, one shy of the school record for field goals made in a game, connecting on a 23-yarder, two 25-yarders, a 26-yarder and a 31-yarder; he missed from 50 and 25 yards.
“I don’t think I’ve ever attempted that many; I definitely feel it right now,” Owens said. “I’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but it’ll be good. It’s something good to build off and hopefully keep going.”
Owens got the job when senior three-year starter Trevor Romaine was suspended for undisclosed off-field matters. Owens hit his first two attempts, both from 25 yards in the first quarter.
“That first kick, it was pretty nerve-wracking, but once I got that out of the way — especially it being a short field goal — it put confidence in me,” Owens said. “It helped me build off that. I felt better about it.”
On a day when the OSU offense struggled to score touchdowns, Owens helped the Beavers build their lead.
“It feels great to contribute to the team, and if we don’t’ score a touchdown it’s my job to go out and put points on the board,” Owens said. “It’s just a blessing to be able to do that.”
The best advice Owens got came from his father, Heath, who played wide receiver at Cal Poly.
“He definitely calmed me down and helped me out,” Owens said. “He was just telling me to not think about it and don’t be nervous, just do my muscle memory and stay with it … talking to him helped calm me down and get my mind right.”
Owen’s 50-yard try ended the first half. His first attempt was good, but PSU had called time out just before the snap and the try was negated; his second attempt was long enough but wide right. His 25-yard miss squarely hit the left upright.
“I’d want both the 26-yarder and the 50-yarder back, but it’s something to build on and grow,” Owens said.
FLAG DAY: The Beavers were penalized 13 times for 119 yards. OSU was flagged 10 times for 89 yards in the first half, including a trio of 15-yard penalties that kept alive a Viking touchdown drive.
How does OSU fix that before playing at Hawaii next Saturday?
“We’ve already started that, because I just point-blank asked them, ‘Who was your worst enemy today?’ and they all knew it,” Riley said. “We had them off the field and then we had three major penalties, and then they scored a touchdown — which is what usually happens when you have three major 15-yard penalties on one drive.
“It all looked bad and it had a real bad feeling for what our team was about for a while. That’s one of the redeeming things about the game, was how in particular defensively we responded in the second half because there was a lot of bad-looking stuff.”