OSU tries, but can't overcome slow start
UCLA holds off winless Beavers 27-19
CORVALLIS - An 0-3 start for the first time in the Mike Riley era at Oregon State left the Beavers in a mood somewhere between discouraged and disgruntled.
'It's hard to find the good in a loss,' safety Lance Mitchell said after OSU's 27-19 loss to UCLA (2-2) Saturday in the Pac-12 opener for both teams at Reser Stadium. 'The whole thing is bad.
'We're 0-3. It's hard to swallow. We have a lot of season ahead of us, and we have a lot of work to do.'
In his 11 years at Oregon State, Riley had started 0-2 before. But never 0-3. The wait for the first win continues.
'It's taken one game longer, for sure,' Riley said. And getting that first win, the coach said, 'won't be easy. Look at our conference. There are going to be a lot of games that go down to the last minute.'
Even with the emotional lift from the return of seniors James Rodgers and Joe Halahuni from injury, the Beavers couldn't get a win at home against a mediocre UCLA team. For players in a proud program that was the third-winningest team in the Pac-10 through the 2000s, another loss was a sore subject.
'I can't even put it into words,' junior receiver Jordan Bishop said. 'I don't remember our last win - USC? A six-game losing streak. ... This isn't Beaver football.'
Dating to last season's 36-7 rout of the Trojans, Oregon State has actually lost five in a row and seven of its last eight outings.
The Beavers fell behind UCLA 21-3 in the second quarter Saturday, fought their way back and had their chances to win in the fourth quarter. The Bruins won the battle of the trenches, though, rushing for 211 yards and holding Oregon State to 88 on the ground.
UCLA also played error-free ball, while OSU quarterback Sean Mannion - in his first career start - committed two costly turnovers.
'Those were probably the difference in the game,' Riley said.
Mannion completed 24 of 40 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown, but he served up an interception and fumbled while attempting to pass, both plays happening in the second quarter.
'Sean played pretty well,' Riley said. 'He'll want a couple of those plays back. We had a back so open in the flat on that last drive, he might still be running right now if we'd thrown it to him. But he made a lot of good throws, too.'
UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut, meanwhile, threw only 11 passes, completing seven for 146 yards and a TD. The 6-3, 225-pound junior also ran for another score and operated the Bruins' pistol offense with precision.
Brehaut 'was very efficient,' Riley said. 'He made some good throws, he read their option, he didn't turn the ball over.
'(The Bruins) gave him some good play-action throws, and he made some drop-back throws. Not many, but they didn't need it.'
With Oregon State down 21-3 late in the first half, Jordan Poyer provided a spark with an 85-yard touchdown on a punt return.
When Bishop dived into the corner of the end zone for a touchdown after a 45-yard reception late in the third quarter, the Beavers were within two points at 21-19.
UCLA's Jordan Barr scored on a one-yard run to increase the lead to 27-19 with 6:15 left, but OSU's Andrew Seumalo blocked the extra-point try - his second block of a kick in the game - leaving the window open for the Beavers to tie the score.
They drove to the UCLA 22-yard line, where on fourth-and-8, Mannion's pass intended for Rodgers was batted away - as well as Oregon State's hopes to win.
OSU wound up with a statistical advantage in first downs (22-17) and total yardage (375-357), but UCLA's edge in rushing yardage and turnover differential was huge.
The Bruins dominated the first half, and only Poyer's sensational punt return in the final minute kept Oregon State within 21-10 at the break.
After forcing a UCLA punt, Oregon State staged a 17-play drive that carried 82 yards - including a 31-yard strike to Rodgers, his first catch of the season - and covered 7:46. But the Beavers couldn't get it in the end zone, settling for Trevor Romaine's 25-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 2:58 left in the first quarter.
UCLA stormed back, going 80 yards on three plays. On first down, Brehaut unleashed a 62-yard bomb to Josh Smith, who had beaten Mitchell. On second-and-14 from the OSU 22, Brehaut found Taylor Embree, who beat double coverage with a leaping grab for a touchdown and a 7-3 advantage with 1:36 left in the quarter.
Oregon State moved to the UCLA 35, but on third-and-23, Mannion's pass into triple coverage was intercepted by Sean Westgate, who returned it 24 yards to the OSU 46.
'Third-and-23 and they're playing to the sticks,' Mannion said. 'I knew we had to chuck the ball down and take what we could get and live to fight another day.'
The Bruins kept it on the ground this time, scoring on Brehaut's five-yard keeper to go in front 14-3 with 10:30 to go in the second quarter.
For the Beavers, it was to get worse. On first-and-10 from the OSU 17, Mannion lost the ball as he went to release a bubble-screen pass. The fumble was recovered by UCLA's Keenan Graham and returned to the OSU 4. The Beavers challenged, but upon review, the call was upheld.
'I wasn't really sure,' Mannion said. 'I was just looking to get the throw off, and it slipped out of my hand. I'm sure the referees made the right call, but it was unfortunate.'
On first down, Jordan James scored on a fly sweep and the Bruins were rolling, ahead 21-3 with 4:05 to play in the half.
Oregon State appeared to have little life when UCLA lined up to punt with 32 seconds to go before intermission. Then Poyer took the punt at the OSU 15, wheeled left, used a devastating open-field block by Jovan Stevenson on punter Jeff Locke and went the distance for a touchdown. Suddenly, the Beavers were at least in the game, trailing 21-10 at the half.
'It could have been a game-changer,' Riley said. 'It got us some momentum, got us back into it.'
Coach Rick Neuheisel said the Bruins should have punted the ball out of bounds.
'That's on me,' he said. 'I take responsibility for that.'
Poyer said the Beavers were charged in the locker room at the half.
'Everybody was up,' he said. 'Everybody believed we were going to win the game.'
Oregon State took the third-quarter kickoff and marched quickly from its 20 to the UCLA 13. The drive featured a 22-yard run by Stevenson - who rushed seven times for 47 yards, all in the second half - and a 14-yard gain on a double-reverse run by Markus Wheaton. But UCLA's defense held and the Beavers were forced into a 30-yard Romaine field goal to make it 21-13 with 11:49 left in the third quarter.
Romaine's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds at the UCLA 1-yard line, allowing the Bruins to start the next possession at their 40. They moved to the Oregon State 19 before OSU's defense stiffened. When Seumalo blocked Locke's 39-yard field-goal attempt, the Beavers seemed in business.
But on fourth-and-one from the UCLA 44, the Beavers chose to punt. Johnny Hekker's punt went into the end zone, and the Bruins took over on their 20. After a UCLA punt, Oregon State went on the move, and Mannion hooked up with Bishop for the 45-yard touchdown pass to draw the Beavers to within 21-19 at the end of the third quarter.
'It was an angle route,' said Bishop, who caught three passes for 69 yards. 'Once I cleared the 'backer, Sean hit me with a perfect pass. As soon as I hit the corner, I saw Obum (Gwachum) had the corner(back) blocked. I just trusted my speed to get into the end zone.'
OSU went for two points and the tie, but after a false-start penalty by guard Burke Ellis, Mannion's pass was intercepted in the end zone.
'A penalty going for a two-point conversion ... that just kills momentum,' Bishop said. "We can't blame anybody but ourselves.'
After a 42-yard kickoff return by Josh Smith, UCLA started its next drive from its 45. On fourth-and-3 from the OSU 48, the Bruins went for it. Malcolm Jones was stopped short of the first down and the Beavers took over at their 46 with 12:45 remaining in the game.
After getting one first down, Oregon State went for it on fourth-and-one at the UCLA 34. Terron Ward was hit for a one-yard loss and the Bruins took possession at their 35.
'We mis-blocked the play,' Riley said. 'That's us right now.
'We have to do better coaching it and staying with it, and players have to make better calls on the field in the blocking assignments.'
UCLA marched 65 yards in nine plays, with Barr diving over from the 1-yard line for the TD. But Seumalo blocked the extra-point attempt, leaving UCLA's lead at 27-19 with 6:15 to go. The Beavers got within shouting distance of a chance to tie, but left it there.
The Bruins 'controlled the ball a lot and were very physical,' Riley said. 'They're very big and good up front. That was a major factor. We need to be able to control that line better than we did.'
Overall, Riley said, 'There was a ton of good ball by us. I'm encouraged by some stuff, but also bitterly disappointed. I know what I'm going to see on (video); not only the obvious plays, but some stuff we didn't quite get to.
'You see all those things that went wrong. You can't fumble and give it to them on the four-yard line. I don't want to kick it out of bounds on a kickoff and give it to them on the 40. I don't want to punt from the (44) into the end zone. We're good at (those things) normally, but we didn't do them today. It comes down to performing in those situations. If you're really going to be good, you're going to down a punt inside the 10. You're going to kick a ball in bounds and with good hang time.'
In his fourth year at UCLA, Neuheisel is fighting for his job. Saturday's victory can't hurt, even against a winless opponent.
'It's easy to knock the opponent now,' he said. 'All I know is, (the Beavers) are a proven Pac-12 entity, and they are on the cusp of being really good. They're playing at home and had a chance when they got to within 21-19 to get all the way back into the game, and we stood up to that.'
The Beavers said they don't like the feeling of being 0-3 going into next Saturday's visit to Arizona State.
'It's tough,' Poyer said. 'Nobody expected it, but we're 0-3. We have to move forward. That's all we can do.'
'It's hard, but it's all about working,' Rodgers said. 'However many games we have left, we're going to try to win them all.'
Riley said effort was not a problem Saturday.
'I was proud of our team,' he said. 'If we keep putting more pieces together, we're going to be all right. We have to be tough-minded and build up each other and get back to practice, and let's go get a win next week.
'I'm very encouraged by working with this group. I've seen them grow. I'm looking forward to seeing what we can get accomplished this next week.'
Playing with confidence after an 0-3 start 'is always the challenge,' Riley said. 'But I have a sense (the Beavers) going to be fighting. (The 0-3 record) is hitting them in the face. You're either going to kind of quit, or say, 'This is still what we can yet do, and do this week.'
'I said from the beginning, this team is going to have to be one that grows as we go. We haven't grown fast enough to win a game yet, but I'm looking forward to that opportunity coming up soon.'
NOTES: Middle linebacker Feti Unga led Oregon State with 14 tackles. Freshman defensive ends Scott Crichton (11 tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss) and Dylan Wynn (four tackles, one tackle for loss) also had big games. ... OSU's Markus Wheaton caught seven passes for 83 yards and carried four times for 31 yards. ... Rodgers, returning from two surgeries on his left knee, had five receptions for 76 yards. 'It felt pretty good to be out there and compete with my teammates,' the senior flanker said. 'I wasn't thinking anything about my knee. I was focusing on doing my job.' ... Tight end Halahuni, returning from offseason shoulder surgery, had five catches for 26 yards but also dropped a pair of passes, including one that would have gone for a touchdown on the Beavers' opening drive. ... UCLA's starting tailback, Johnathan Franklin, left the game in the second quarter with a hip flexor. His replacement, senior Derrick Coleman, carried 20 times for 100 yards. In last year's 17-14 win over Oregon State, Franklin gained exactly 100 yards. ... Poyer's punt return was the second-longest in OSU history behind Dwayne Owens' 97-yard return in 1992. ... Cornerback Sean Martin (foot strain) and D-end Taylor Henry (gluteous strain) were both injured, but Riley didn't consider either injury serious. ... The OSU coach said he expects true freshman tailback Malcolm Agnew, who has missed the last two games with a strained hamstring, to be back at full speed in practice Tuesday. 'The running game hasn't been cooking since that first game' against Sacramento State, Bishop said. 'It'll be good to have Malcolm back. But everybody has to step up. Not just the linemen, but the receivers and everybody. It's a team effort.' ... OSU's first-year receivers coach, Brent Brennan, was a receiver at UCLA.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
UCLA 7 14 0 6 - 27
Oregon State 3 7 9 0 -- 19
OSU - Trevor Romaine 25 field goal 2:58.
UCLA - Taylor Embree 22 pass from Richard Brehaut (Jeff Locke kick) 1:36.
UCLA - Brehaut 5 run (Locke kick) 10:30.
UCLA - Jordan James 4 run (Locke kick) 4:05.
OSU - Jordan Poyer 85 punt return (Romaine kick) :13.
OSU - Romaine 30 field goal 11:49.
OSU - Jordan Bishop 45 pass from Sean Mannion (pass failed) 0:00.
UCLA - Jordan Barr 1 run (kick blocked) 6:15.
ATT. - 44,352