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Sad sack finish to Beavers' season

On Sports


Reflections on Oregon State’s 31-27 loss to Texas at the Alamo Bowl ...

-- After watching a replay of the game, I’m trying to recall a more disappointing Oregon State result, but am having trouble doing so.

The 17-13 loss at Southern Cal in 1968 by an Oregon State team that would have gone unbeaten in the Pac-8 and made the Rose Bowl with a victory is on the short list.

You could throw the 33-30 loss at Washington in 2000 by Dennis Erickson’s team that probably could have claimed a national championship with a win over the Huskies in there, too.

Then there were the successive regular season-ending losses to Oregon in 2008 and ‘09 that cost the Beavers a Rose Bowl berth, especially the 37-33 loss at Eugene the latter year that sent the Ducks to Pasadena.

But the manner in which Oregon State snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against a Texas team poised to be pole-axed has to be a bit painful for those in Beaver Nation.

The Beavers so dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half that they should have led by three touchdowns at the break.

As it was, they were on top 27-17 with the ball in Texas territory early in the fourth quarter. At that point, great teams bust down the field, score and sashay away with victory. The 2012 Beavers were good, but certainly not great.

-- There’s no doubt the officials made a major blunder at the end of the first half when they 1) didn’t rule Brandin Cooks’ reception a first down and, 2) at least stopped the clock for a measurement.

But with the clock ticking toward zero, coach Mike Riley made a big mistake by not using his final timeout to 1) consult with the officials over the ruling and, 2) ensure what would have been a 48-yard field-goal attempt by Trevor Romaine. Somebody told Riley the Cooks play was a first down, and ironically, the television graphics indicated it was, too. But somebody — Riley or his assistants — had to notice the clock hadn’t stopped.

Through the Riley era, the Beavers have had problems with such things as clock management and determining whether to challenge referees’ calls. The head coach is on the headset with offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf through the game. Either Langsdorf or someone sitting with him in the booth needs to be in charge of alerting Riley to such critical matters.

-- Romaine, incidentally, had already booted two 3-pointers cleanly and was working on a string of 12 straight makes. I think he’d have split the uprights and given Oregon State a 23-10 lead at the break. True, Texas wound up winning by four points, but the extra cushion would have made it just a little more difficult for the Longhorns to rally.

-- Give Texas credit for making the necessary adjustments at halftime. The Longhorns jammed the middle to focus on containing Storm Woods and the OSU run game, went to man-to-man coverage and amped up the pass rush to where the Beavers simply couldn’t handle the pressure. And toward the end of the game, the ‘Horns found holes in the OSU secondary and went vertical with the passing game. QB David Ash was 7 for 7 passing on the final two scoring drives.

During the years — and in several games this season — Riley and his staff have been excellent at making second-half adjustments. Not so much last Saturday.

-- You could certainly have made a case that Ash fumbled on what was ruled an incomplete pass deep in Texas territory in the first quarter. OSU’s Castro Masaniai scooped up the ball and crossed the goal line for what would have been a touchdown. The play wasn’t reviewed and Oregon State coaches didn’t complain. Why not?

-- Oregon State was twice offside on Texas punts. The first time, when Anthony Watkins raced across the line of scrimmage, there were offsetting penalties and no harm was done. The second time, when Terron Ward lined up in the neutral zone, it couldn’t have been more costly.

Texas retained possession and, on the next play, Marquise Goodwin went 64 yards on a reverse for a touchdown that gave the Longhorns the only offensive life they showed through the entire first half.

The worst part of it is, the only reason to ever be offside on a punt return is if a block is on. That was the case neither time on Saturday. Inexcusable.

-- The Texas pass rush was good in the first half, but the Longhorns grew emboldened as the game went on. Defensive end Alex Okafor was a man possessed going against mostly man-to-man blocking from OSU O-tackle Colin Kelly. There were other defenders to block, for sure, but I’d have dedicated more resistence through a tight end, H-back or running back for Okafor.

-- It’s a fair point that Oregon State should have stuck more to the run in the second half after gaining 111 yards on the ground through intermission. With Texas stacked in the box, though, Riley often tried to hit the Longhorns with screen plays to Woods or Connor Hamlett and vertical throws to Cooks and Markus Wheaton. Too often, Cody Vaz either got sacked or was hurried into a bad throw.

-- By his own admission, Vaz did not play well. As the game went on and pass-rush pressure mounted, he got rattled, as would most quarterbacks in that situation. There were times he had chances to throw the ball away and went down via a sack. I’m guessing the 81 yards lost through 10 sacks must be some sort of bowl record.

I understand the criticism of Riley for not going to Sean Mannion in the second half and, frankly, I probably would have gone to the sophomore at some point. But I’m not sure Mannion would have fared any better than Vaz with the kind of pressure the Longhorns created.

-- While it was a long day for the Oregon State O-line, center Isaac Seumalo stood out. In watching the replay, I focused on the freshman All-American on many plays and didn’t see him miss a block.

On Woods’ 12-yard TD run in the first quarter, Seumalo got a block at the line of scrimmage, then took care of a linebacker downfield. On another play, Seumalo pancaked Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom and sent him on his tush out of bounds. There is no understating how important Seumalo was to the Beavers’ resurgence this season.

-- Aside from Woods and perhaps Seumalo, Oregon State’s best offensive weapon was Hamlett, who caught five passes for 70 yards. The 6-7, 260-pound sophomore tight end must improve his blocking, but he’s destined for big things over the next two seasons for the Beavers.

-- The Beavers accomplished things nobody predicted this season. Remember, they were forecast for the basement of the Pac-12 North and projected as the next-to-worst team in the league behind Colorado. Riley, his staff and his players deserve kudos for that.

Even so, there is no way to spin the Alamo Bowl loss. It was a huge missed opportunity. The chance to get the third 10-win season in school history by knocking off a storied Texas program would have meant major momentum going into the offseason.

The '12 Beavers were still a success story, but the loss taints the picture in a big way.

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