INSIDE SLANT: Oregon State

INSIDE SLANT: Oregon State

CAN IT GET any worse for Oregon State after an 0-3 start? Well, The Sports Exchange says yes, it can, with the Beavers going on the road to play Arizona State, now the leader in the South Division of the Pac-10.

OSU has not only lost two home games, the latest a 27-19 defeat against UCLA on Saturday, but both of the games at Reser Stadium appeared to be two of the best opportunities for the Beavers to win a game this season.

Now what? How much damage has the winless September done to the psyche of a young team? Confidence has to be lacking, and optimism fading among the Beavers. How does that get restored without some success on the field?

"That's going to be the challenge," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "The realization that we're not undefeated is a reality ... it's hitting 'em in the face. You're either going to quit or say, 'This is what we can still do.'"

The Beavers had two main problems against UCLA: OSU's own mistakes, including two crucial turnovers, and the inability to stop the Bruins on the ground, particularly late in the game. ASU has shown a great ability to create turnovers, and the running game seems to be coming alive for the Sun Devils.

And this OSU game is on the road.

"I said from the beginning this team is going to have to be one that grows a lot as we go," Riley said. "We haven't grown fast enough to win a game, but I'm looking forward to that opportunity coming up soon."

NOTES:
--The Beavers are 0-3 for the first time since 1996, when they didn't win until the sixth game en route to a 2-9 season that led to the firing of coach Jerry Pettibone after six seasons.

--The Beavers played their tenth true freshman this season when linebacker D.J. Welch was used on special teams against UCLA.

--The first start for redshirt freshman Sean Mannion at quarterback raises to 17 the number of Beavers who have made their initial college start this season.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Sophomore running back Jovan Stevenson made a crushing block to free Jordan Poyer on an 85-yard punt return in the first half, and it seemed to either spur Stevenson or put some confidence in OSU coaches to use him more with the offense. After only one carry for no gain in the first half, Stevenson had six rushes for 47 yards in the second half, the top rushing total for the Beavers. He was seen mostly as a third-down back in the OSU plans at running back, but with starter Malcolm Agnew recovering from a strained hamstring, maybe more of a role is in store.

LOOKING GOOD: Feti Unga seems to be settling in as the middle linebacker. He was in on 14 tackles against UCLA, including a quarterback sack and another tackle for lost yardage. The OSU defense attempts to funnel runners toward the middle linebacker, so he should be in on quite a few plays against an inside running team, and Unga appeared to more than hold his own in just his third start.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Beavers need to do a better job of protecting the football. With two more turnovers against UCLA, OSU has five this season. The two against UCLA led to a pair of touchdowns for the Bruins, one of them a lost fumble that set UCLA up at the OSU 4-yard line when the football slipped out of the hands of OSU quarterback Sean Mannion as he prepared to pass. Mannion also had another fumble on a similar play but recovered it himself. In addition to the lost fumble by the Beavers, OSU running back Terron Ward lost the football on a second-down play at the UCLA 4-yard line when the game was scoreless. Although a teammate recovered, it was for a four-yard loss, and the Beavers ended up settling for a field goal after a promising opening drive.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "No one wants to win more than the guys in that locker room and the coaching staff." -- OSU receiver Jordan Bishop, on a winless September.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Andrew Seumalo blocked both a field goal and a point-after attempt against UCLA, the first OSU player to have two blocked kicks in a game since 2006. Both could have been key plays for OSU if the Beavers had been able to mount a comeback. The blocked field goal came with UCLA attempting to expand a 21-13 lead, thus keeping OSU within a possession of knotting the game. The blocked extra point did the same thing, keeping OSU within 27-19 deficit in the fourth quarter.

--OSU had its first passing touchdown of the season against UCLA, a 45-yard play on which slot receiver Jordan Bishop dove at about the 5-yard line into the end zone to avoid being pushed out of bounds.

--Jordan Poyer's 85-yard punt return against UCLA was the second-longest ever by an OSU player. The OSU record is 97 yards by Dwayne Owens in a 1992 game, also against UCLA.

ROSTER REPORT
--Castro Masaniai served his one-game suspension against UCLA, and the Beavers appeared to miss the defensive tackle, who at 334 pounds is the heaviest OSU player. UCLA had great success simply running up the middle, where Masaniai would have been. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to delay his suspension to this game.

--Rueben Robinson, who shared time last season at middle linebacker, made his first start as an outside linebacker, quietly moving ahead of Michael Doctor on the depth chart. Robinson played almost all of the snaps and finished with three tackles.

--Sophomore Grant Enger started at left guard against UCLA in place of Josh Andrews, expected to be out about a month with a strained knee ligament suffered against Wisconsin.

--OSU seniors James Rodgers and Joe Halahuni each played for the first time this season against UCLA, and each had five receptions. Rodgers started at flanker and appears to be fully recovered from two off-season knee surgeries, while Halahuni was held out of two games to make sure his surgically repaired shoulder could handle the hits put on a tight end.

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