Rough season continues in Corvallis
CORVALLIS — The fits and starts of the first season of the Gary Andersen era of Oregon State football were on display Saturday afternoon at Reser Stadium. As the final score — No. 22 UCLA 41, Oregon State 0 — implies, it was more of the Beavers having fits.
There was, at least, a glimpse of a start. Through a scoreless first quarter, OSU had 120 yards of total offense to UCLA’s 64. The Beavers moved the ball on their first three possessions while a defense that dug deep holes in three previous Pacific-12 games turned aside the Bruins sole threat.
It went from that start to the fits portion of the day in one play in the final seconds of the opening quarter.
From the UCLA 39-yard line, Beaver quarterback Nick Mitchell scrambled for five yards — and fumbled. The Bruins turned that into a field goal and a 3-0 lead; Mitchell was intercepted on the second play of Oregon State’s next possession and it was soon 10-0.
By halftime, the Beavers had turned the ball over again, the Bruins had a 96-yard drive to their credit, and it was 24-0. The second half was more of the same.
And it left Andersen, OSU’s first-year head coach, agitated when he met reporters afterward. He was asked what he’d told his team.
“There’s a lot of things to say,” Andersen said. “You have to sit back and look and understand the situations we’re in. I think we definitely took some steps backward in a lot of different ways today that I talked to them about, but I don’t think that’s for this moment.
“We need to continue to work to grow up and handle some situations we have inside our football team that are nobody’s business that’s here right now. We’ll see if guys want to continue to move forward or not.”
With a two-deep depth chart littered with underclassmen and first-year starters, 2015 figured to be a challenge for OSU.
The Beavers have been competitive at times, such as the last three quarters of a 27-12 loss at nationally ranked Utah a week ago, but have also been blown out in stretches of some games, including giving up 40-plus points in the first halves of losses at Arizona and Washington State.
The defense isn’t solely to blame. Oregon State has scored 13 or fewer points in four of its last five games. This season three freshmen — Mitchell, Seth Collins and Marcus McMaryion — have had chances at running the Beavers’ new spread offense. Sometimes it’s worked; more often, the growing pains have been evident.
Saturday, the Beavers managed just 126 yards in the final three quarters; not only were they shut out for the first time since a 35-0 loss at Wisconsin in the second game of 2011, but they never got closer than the UCLA 31-yard line.
“We had some things going, and that’s kind of been the MO of the offense the whole season — we’ll get into positions to be able to start moving the ball, and we’ll get the ball going, and we’ll self-destruct at times or the defense will make a nice play or what have you,” Andersen said. “Today, I believe there were three situations where we self-destructed … we’re either coaching it wrong or we’re refusing to learn, so the blame goes right smack dab between my eyes. So I’ll look at it and evaluate it and try to make it better.”
NO BOWL FOR BEAVERS: Saturday’s loss means the best record OSU could manage by season’s end is 5-7. A team must have at least six wins to qualify for a bowl game, so the Beavers are assured of being home for the holidays.
That hurts, OSU senior center Josh Mitchell said, but it doesn’t take the meaning away from what now are guaranteed to be the final three games of his collegiate career.
“We can grow a lot,” Mitchell said. “The seniors keep this team going. I mean, don’t make these last three weeks a waste. We can bring the young guys along, help them improve.”
And there could be more tangible personal satisfaction for the seniors than sowing the seeds of future success.
“We can go upset someone,” Mitchell said. “That would be a lot of fun: go out there if we execute as a team and pull off some wins.”
The way you go out is bigger than making a bowl game, said another of the seniors, running back Storm Barrs-Woods. To him, it’s a matter of leaving OSU’s program in the best shape he can.
“The young guys are the most important,” Barrs-Woods said. “Just seeing how great a man Coach A is, you just want to get the young guys up to pace and get them ready to go for next year.
“But like Josh said, just because we don’t make a bowl game, doesn’t mean we come lay down these next three teams. We’re going to come out there and fight like we’re going to a bowl game.”
HEADED FOR HOME: With a rainstorm pelting Reser Stadium much of the afternoon, many in the crowd of 38,074 either didn’t return after halftime or left by the end of the third quarter. Andersen said he wasn’t disappointed in that.
“You get what you deserve in life and you get what you deserve in any setting,” Andersen said. “Our fans were fantastic today, in my opinion. It’s got to be very frustrating for them, just as it is for myself, to sit here today.”