by: OTTO GREULE JR., Washington State QB Alex Brink, from Eugene’s Sheldon High, threw for 287 yards in the Cougars’ narrow loss to USC Saturday.

All across Oregon, Beaver believers are giving up on their football team.

Mike Riley says that won't be the case with the coaches and players.

'We're 2-2,' says Riley, whose Beavers laid an egg for the second time in last Saturday's 41-13 loss to California. 'There are a whole bunch of teams in the country that are 2-2. We don't like the two on the minus side, but we know we can play a heck of a lot better than we did in the two losses.'

Is Riley concerned about the psyche of his players in light of the Cal debacle, coupled with an earlier 42-14 defeat at Boise State?

'I am,' he says. 'That's a big battle we have to face.'

Riley met with his players after Saturday's game and again on Sunday, stressing that attitude and dedication and staying together can reap dividends in the future - beginning with Saturday's game against Washington State at Reser Stadium.

'The fact of the matter is, we have a lot of football ahead of us,' Riley says. 'Those are disappointing, bad losses. They hurt. I hate that worse than anything in the world. It's gut-wrenching.

'What we have to do is go to work. We have to bring our lunch buckets, and we have to come out with a tremendous passion for all that we do as we go about our preparation for the next game.'

Washington State presents the next challenge, and the Cougars (3-2, 1-1 in Pac-10) aren't the same team that lost 44-33 in Corvallis en route to an 0-8 record in the Pac-10 a year ago. They gave third-ranked Southern Cal all it could handle before losing 28-22 last Saturday, winning the battle in total offense (418 yards to 404) and first downs (26 to 20) while barely losing the war.

'They proved they can play with anybody, but we didn't win,' WSU coach Bill Doba told reporters about his players. 'That's the whole key. How many teams do you see come close or upset somebody and then not do squat the next week? We have to continue to get better, and we've got to play well (against Oregon State). Then I'll have an idea of what kind of team this is.'

Quarterback Alex Brink, the 6-3, 210-pound junior from Sheldon High, completed 26 of 46 passes for 287 yards against Southern Cal, and receiver Michael Bumpus had 11 catches for 112 yards. Bumpus, who ranks second in the Pac-10 and 10th nationally in receptions per game, has caught 35 passes for 326 yards in five games while teammate Jason Hill has 23 catches for 279 yards and four TDs. And the Cougars rank second in the Pac-10 in rushing offense at 178 yards per game.

In the Cougars' loss to Oregon State a year ago, Brink completed 31 of 59 passes for a school-record 531 yards but was intercepted four times.

'Brink is a tough competitor, a good quarterback who is an experienced guy now in our league,' Riley says. 'Bumpus and Hill are excellent receivers, and they have a couple of good runners (Dwight Tardy and DeMaundray Woolridge) who move behind a strong offensive line.'

Oregon State safety Sabby Piscitelli says the onus is on the players.

'The coaches did a great job getting us ready for Cal,' says Piscitelli, who had a team-high nine tackles and returned an interception 35 yards against the Bears. 'The plays they ran, we saw on film. Too many times, we just didn't make the reads, didn't make the plays.

'Our team has a little bit of a gut check to come out and go to work in practice (this) week. It's another Pac-10 game at home; we have to win the home games. Washington State's going to come in here revved up. No pointing fingers; we have to make the adjustments and play our best game.'

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