Beavers look to the future after tough loss
CORVALLIS — So what comes next?
That was the gist of a number of questions Oregon State head coach Mike Riley faced Saturday night following the Beavers’ 47-19 loss to Oregon in the 2014 Civil War. His answers hinted changes may be in order.
“Certainly we’ll evaluate all the parts of the football end of it: what we do strategically and how we change to make us better, which we try to do every year,” Riley said. “But obviously right now I think it’s real important to take a good hard look at that and we’ll do that in all phases of the game.”
After a 4-1 start, Oregon State lost six of its last seven games to finish at 5-7 overall, 2-7 in the Pacific-12. OSU finished in sixth place in the Pac-12 North, the Beavers’ first last-place finish since 1997, when they went 0-8 in the Pac-10.
When the clock struck zero at Reser Stadium, the Beavers had lost 12 of their last 14 conference games.
Early on in his session with reporters, Riley acknowledged that OSU’s offense wasn’t scoring enough points lately to win games in the Pacific-12. The Beavers are one of the few teams still running a pro-style, huddle-up offense in a game increasingly trending toward mobile quarterbacks and speeded-up play.
Riley was asked if OSU might change its approach.
“I think it’s important to look at whatever could be added that will help you,” Riley said. “Then the other part that has to be evaluated is who you’re doing it with. We had a skillful quarterback (senior Sean Mannion) and I think we will in the future, and the skill set might be a little different.
“What we might yet look at, that’s part of the big evaluation in the offseason. It’s kind of exciting to do, actually … we’ve got to be a little more versatile offensively, and we’ve got to continue to grow in what we can do defensively.”
It was too early, Riley said, to discuss any changes to the coaching staff.
A year ago, OSU went through a similar second-half slide; however, it took Oregon to the wire and beat Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl. That left the Beavers feeling pretty good about things going into the offseason.
A reprise was possible after Oregon State ended a four-game losing streak by knocking off No. 6-ranked Arizona State two weeks ago, but the Beavers followed that up with a 37-13 loss at Washington and Saturday’s Civil War, in which Oregon State trailed 30-0 by early in the second quarter.
“We’d like to have done a way better job of keeping some of that momentum we had from the Arizona State game,” Riley said. “We’d like to turn the clock back and play some of those games over where we were ahead in the fourth quarter and finish them better. We had three of those at least with Utah, Cal and Washington State. So those areas we failed at, we feel pretty good about how we can look at how we can turn that around.”
The Beavers had their share of injuries, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines. Center Isaac Seumalo, on the watch list for several national awards heading into the season, never did play due to a foot injury. As the Beavers headed for their locker room after Saturday’s game, he was still astride a scooter designed to keep his left foot idle.
Along with tweaks — or wholesale changes — to strategy and tactics comes recruiting the depth to better withstand those injuries.
“That’s the name of the game,” Riley said. “You’ve got to combine both of those. You have to be at the top of your game system-wise and strategically, and you have to be at the top of it in getting the best recruiting classes you can get.”
MANNION FINALE: Mannion wrapped up his Oregon State career with a load of school and conference records, but in a losing effort. Still, he looked on the bright side.
“You know it is disappointing,” Mannion said. “I’m really proud of this team not just tonight but every day at practice, every day in meetings, working out. It’s just the identity of the program. I know the scoreboard may not have looked the way we wanted it to, but I know everyone on this team can be proud of the effort we put out tonight.”
Mannion — the only Beaver to serve as a team captain three years — walked off the field as the OSU and Pac-12 all-time career passing leader with 13,600 yards. His 83 career touchdown passes were also a school record and rank eighth on the Pac-12’s all-time list, and he set the school and Pac-12 records for passing yards in 2013 with 4,662.
OSU’s future, he thinks, is bright.
“We had a lot of young guys playing this year,” Mannion said. “Especially on offense and they have all gotten better as the year has gone on. This is a great program with a great coaching staff from top to bottom and the players work very hard. With that combination, it makes for great football.
“I have total faith that everyone will continue to work hard and that is how it has always been. I think this team will be great in the future.”