Oregon State head coach Mike Riley had plenty of critics after the Beavers’ 3-9 season in 2011, but many of them quieted down after OSU bounced back with a 9-4 finish last season. Riley has weathered plenty of calls for his job, but he and the team could be facing another crossroads after the Beavers’ second season-opening loss to an FCS team in three years.
Oregon State fell to Eastern Washington, 49-46, giving the Eagles their first win over a Pac-12 team. OSU junior quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 422 yards, and veteran receiver Brandin Cooks had nearly 200 receiving yards, but the Beavers still lost despite their efforts on offense.
EWU quarterback Vernon Adams was even more effective than Mannion, with 411 passing yards and four touchdowns, plus two more rushing scores, as the Eagles became the fifth FCS team to knock off an FBS program this weekend.
The last time the Beavers lost to an FCS team, Sacramento State won by one point in overtime. Oregon State went on to lose their next three games and open the 2011 season 0-4, but they didn’t get any time to regroup after that first crushing loss. They fell to ranked Wisconsin on the road in week two, lost at home to UCLA and then lost on the road again to a ranked Arizona State team.
The saving grace for the 2013 Beavers might be their schedule, which doesn’t really pick up until mid-October. Oregon State hosts Hawaii next weekend. The Rainbow Warriors put up a fight against USC on the first Thursday of the season, but UH quarterback Taylor Graham won’t give the Beavers nearly as much trouble as Vernon did this week, and if the OSU offense plays well again, Riley’s squad should pick up its first win.
Oregon State plays its first Pac-12 contest of the year on the road at Utah in week three. The Utes narrowly beat a strong Utah State team in week one, but it’s not the worst team for the Beavers to have to face in their first conference road game. They should just hope it doesn’t come down to field goal kicking. Utah’s new kicker Andy Phillips was instrumental in his team’s win in the opener, while Oregon State’s veteran kicker Trevor Romaine missed a 52-yarder in the Beavers’ three point loss.
The Beavers’ next game is on the road at San Diego State, another FBS team that lost to an FCS opponent on opening weekend. SDSU was blown out by Eastern Illinois, 40-19, and quarterback Adam Dingwell lobbed four interceptions, so Oregon State could pick up another non-conference win on the strength of its offense.
After San Diego State, OSU heads home to host Colorado, the worst FBS team in the nation a year ago. The Buffaloes should have a new look under a new head coach, but Oregon State should have a good chance to win at home. (Of course, that’s probably what they thought when they scheduled EWU, too.)
The Beavers will need to shore up the defense in a big way before hitting the meat of their Pac-12 schedule. Washington State and Cal both looked stronger than last season in their openers, and both have talented, if not consistent, quarterbacks. Oregon State also faces Stanford, Arizona State, USC, Washington and Oregon in the home stretch. USC might be the Beavers’ best chance to win during the final month of the year. The Trojans tend to struggle in Corvallis, and they have yet to find a suitable replacement for Matt Barkley at quarterback.
If Oregon State doesn’t improve on defense (and possible even if it does), the Civil War, at Oregon against the Ducks’ potent offense and talented quarterback Marcus Mariota, could be an ugly slaughter to end the season — and maybe Riley’s tenure as the Beavers’ head coach.