Beavers missed chances to stick with Southern Cal
LOS ANGELES — Dissecting a few of the issues Oregon State faces after its 38-10 loss to Southern Cal Saturday at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum …
• It's a cliche, but it's true. Good teams seem to find a way to take advantage of breaks and make them work in their favor. Bad teams more often than not fritter away such opportunities.
That's what has happened to the Beavers (1-5 overall, 0-3 in Pac-12 play) in most of their losses this season. It certainly reared its ugly head during the first half Saturday, when the 14th-ranked Trojans turned the ball over three times — twice inside their 30-yard line. The Beavers turned them into three points.
Opportunity No. 1: After Southern Cal had jumped to a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter, OSU's Brandon Arnold recovered a muffed punt at the USC 29. On first down, quarterback Darell Garretson found Isaiah Hodgins in the end zone, but the freshman couldn't hang on to the ball. On fourth down, Jordan Choukair's 46-yard field-goal attempt was partially blocked.
Opportunity No. 2: On USC's next possession, QB Sam Darnold fumbled the ball while attempting to pass, and OSU's Bright Ugwoegbu scooped it up at the Trojans' 23. The Beavers moved only five yards, and on fourth down, Choukair's 35-yard attempt — the snap was low — was wide left.
Another golden opportunity missed: After a three-and-out and a short punt, Oregon State took over at its 47 and marched quickly into the red zone. On second-and-goal at the SC 8, tight end Tuli Wily-Matagi was all alone in the end zone, but he couldn't hang onto an off-target pass by Garretson. The Beavers settled for a 23-yard Choukair field goal.
Had the Beavers used the short field to score a pair of touchdowns, and had Wily-Matagi managed to catch the pass thrown to him with no defender in range, they might have been ahead at halftime instead of trailing 21-3.
"The Trojans are a very good team," Oregon State coach Gary Andersen said. "They proved it and did a nice job. But offensively we had so many opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. We left a lot of points out there.
"We had a chance to be right there in that game. The kids battled and played hard, but didn't play well enough to make it a close game."
• There were other missed-chance type of plays — "maybe 20 of them," Andersen surmised. The Trojans fumbled four times, the Beavers recovering two but having a hand on the other two. They also had hands on a couple of other Darnold passes that could have been interceptions.
Oregon State had its best drive in the third quarter, marching from its 25 to the USC 4. On the next play, slotback Seth Collins went into motion and passed by center just as the snap was going by Garretson. It appeared the ball touched Collins; Garretson couldn't handle it and the Trojans recovered at the 6.
When you're playing on the road as a 34-point underdog, you have to play a clean game to have a chance. The Beavers weren't close.
"It's nothing they did," said Collins, who caught five passes for 99 yards. "We killed ourselves, to be honest."
• OSU cornerback Kyle White conveyed much the same message when asked about Darnold, who completed 25 of 35 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, but had his struggles, especially in the first half.
Darnold, said White, was "nothing special. He was a normal Pac-12 quarterback. He fumbled twice. Had one pass picked off — should have been three. He was all right. A lot of the plays he made were because we shot ourselves in the foot with little mistakes that became big ones."
White wasn't being critical of Darnold. White was just saying the SC quarterback wasn't in a groove against the Beavers, and afforded them some opportunities they could have cashed in on.
• The Beavers had seven penalties for 69 yards, numbers you can normally live with. But three of them were the kind that drive coaches crazy.
"We had unopportunistic penalties that crushed us," Andersen said. "I can take the physical penalties like holding or (pass interference). The other ones, they bother me."
The first came in the second quarter when Oregon State forced the Trojans' first punt. Hamilcar Rashed was flagged for a roughing-the-punter penalty, and the Trojans capitalized on the mistake. Darnold connected with Deontay Burnett for 16 yards and a TD, and it was 21-3.
That wasn't in the same class as the other two.
In the third quarter, with Southern Cal ahead 28-3, Trevon Bradford got loose for a 33-yard punt return. But teammate Andre Bodden got into it with a Trojan 20 yards behind the play and was flagged for a personal foul.
On the next play — from the USC 39 — Garretson found Collins on a bomb 38 yards to inside the Trojan 1. But Collins stood over the defender and drew a taunting penalty, pushing the Beavers back to the 16.
The Beavers overcame that penalty, scoring their only touchdown. But that's beside the point.
Asked what happened to cause the penalty, Collins said, "I caught the ball, and they throw the flag."
What did he say to the defender?
"I don't remember."
Did he think he didn't deserve the penalty?
"It's irrelevant at this point."
Collins' manner was either nonchalant or defiant, depending on how you take it.
But for sure, he doesn't get it.
Collins isn't playing quarterback at least in part because he's a loose cannon who might go off at any time. He has drawn taunting penalties before, and he'll draw them again unless some discipline is administered. Collins re-entered the game on Oregon State's next series, but he shouldn't have played the rest of the game.
There are too many times when the Beavers' football IQ can be in question. Smart football teams are generally winning ones.
Andersen believes this, too. What he calls "ignorant" penalties don't happen often to disciplined teams.
Discipline, the third-year head coach said, is "fundamental to what I am and what I believe. That starts with the coach in January, when you come back to school. That's when you put the discipline in the program and educate the kids on what's right and what's wrong. So those are frustrating. We can do better."
• Southern Cal piled up impressive offensive numbers — 26 first downs, 512 yards total offense and 328 yards passing — but Oregon State's defense didn't play poorly. A bigger problem was the offense's inability to cash in on opportunities. The Beavers had the ball in Southern Cal territory on eight of 12 possessions in the game, and got 10 points out of it.
Oregon State finished with 319 yards total offense — 210 in the second half. Garretson connected on 16 of 29 passes for 197 yards with one interception, and Artavis Pierce — subbing for the injured Ryan Nall — rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
The offense, in comparison to last week's 42-7 loss to Washington, was "better," Andersen judged. "Still the same net result. The score is what the score is.
"We had the ball in the red zone numerous times and were unable to move. When you move between the 20s and don't get points, you're in big trouble. That's what this game is all about."
• Andersen said it was "a very difficult (Oregon State) locker room" after the game as the Beavers fell to a top-20 team for the third straight game.
"I told (the players) they're in a position to still do some things," he said. "We've gone through a gauntlet, no doubt. We've been a lot of big-boy fights. We have to keep fighting. I'm not going to stop using that word with them."
Collins said the Beavers will work to keep a positive mind-set.
"We came out ready to play today, but all the mistakes and lost opportunities added up," he said. "Nobody is going to feel good after a loss, but we know what we have to work on. We can't have a defeatist attitude. We have six more games left."