Oregon State addresses various defensive issues

CORVALLIS -- Taking a pounding from a lower-division opponent can't help the collective confidence of a defense.

But a 49-46 loss to FCS power Eastern Washington could serve as a wakeup call to Oregon State's defensive unit as it prepares for Saturday's 5 p.m. matchup with Hawaii at Reser Stadium.

"You could call it a reality check," junior safety Tyrequek Zimmerman said after Tuesday's practice. "I know we're better than we showed. We talked about it as a group (Monday). We're family. As a defense and an offense, we're all together. We can't point fingers. And we can't let each other down again."

More succinctly, the OSU defense can't let its offensive brethren down.

"When your offense scores 46 points, you're supposed to win the game," junior defensive end Scott Crichton said. "We didn't help the offense out at all. That's on us."

Crichton, a first-team all-Pac-12 performer as a sophomore, made only two assisted tackles against the Eagles.

"The whole defense played poorly," he said. "I played poorly, too. I didn't have no stats. I missed assignments. That's what I base my grade on -- and on my effort, too.

"We knew what they were going to come out with. It was our mentality, maybe. But they were the better team that day. It was a tough one to swallow."

In deference to a number of injuries to key players, coach Mike Riley chose not to scrimmage with his regulars during the preseason. How much of an impact did that have on the Beavers' poor tackling in last Saturday's season-opening defeat?

"It affected us enough to lose," Zimmerman said. "We didn't come out prepared execution-wise and physically. We blew a couple of assignments. We missed a couple of tackles. We didn't play like you're supposed to play. It was just a bad day."

Hawaii's offense presents a much different picture than that of Eastern Washington's spread, no-huddle system. The Warriors, who lost 30-13 to Southern Cal in their opener last Thursday, had only 14 first downs and 231 yards total offense against the Trojans. In their shotgun, pro-style attack -- with three wideouts, a single back and a tight end as the base -- 6-5, 235-pound junior quarterback Taylor Graham completed 16 of 41 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker told his defensive staff and players on Sunday that he got too complex with Oregon State's packages against the Eagles. He'll simplify things for Game 2.

"I told them that less is better," Banker said. "During (training) camp, we were doing a lot of things correctly and playing well out of our different packages. Once we got to the game, especially the perimeter players, we didn't show the discipline in the man and zone coverages.

"Looking inward, I'm thinking, 'What can you do to help the situation?' The main thing is paring down the game plan and going with what you absolutely need and what the players are comfortable with from the standpoint of execution. Let them play. Let athletes be athletes.

"The biggest thing for us right now is us. We need to make sure we have enough in our game plan that we can attack the offense and that we can be sound against both the run and the pass."

Oregon State's has seven returning starters -- though linebacker D.J. Alexander is injured and will miss at least the first two games -- from what was one of the Pac-12's best defenses a year ago.

"We're the same guys as last year, with a few exceptions," senior linebacker Michael Doctor said. "We have to make a new identity for ourselves this year -- or maybe, regain our identity from last year. We have to stop the run, be great on third down and play assignment football throughout the whole game."

The Beavers say it will be a different story Saturday.

"It's like, 'OK, now we've had our first scrimmage," Zimmerman said. "Now it's time to get it on."

"Everyone will be more determined, including the offense," Crichton said. "Everyone has the mindset that this won't happen again."

Banker said he hasn't lost confidence in his defensive group.

"If I don't have confidence, who is going to?" he asked. "We need to establish momentum. The guys have to have self-confidence and belief. We're not burying our heads in the sand. It's important that we play well, that we execute up to our abilities. I don't believe deep in my heart (the performance against the Eagles) is how we play. I'd be foolish to say I'm not concerned, but it's one game."

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