Where do the Oregon State Beavers go after Disastrous Opener?

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Jaime Valdez – USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon State Beavers opened the 2013 season with a disastrous 49-46 loss to FCS Eastern Washington. In 2011, the Beavers suffered a similar season-opening stumble against another FCS opponent, Sacramento State. The team went on that season to a horrendous 3-9 record that put a lot of heat under head coach Mike Riley’s seat. Can OSU avoid a similar tailspin this season or is it all downhill from here in 2013?

During the offseason, much of the questions about this Oregon State team centered around their quarterback situation. Riley was waffling between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, ultimately siding with Mannion shortly before the season opener with EWU. It turned out to be the right choice, as Mannion played lights out on Saturday, throwing for 422 yards and three touchdowns as the offense racked up 46 points, which would have been enough to win every game Oregon State has played that wasn’t against the Oregon Ducks since 2006.

The real issue was the defense. Despite returning seven starters from a very good 2012 defensive unit, the Beavers’ defense was shredded by the Eagles to the tune of 625 total yards, 8.8 yards per play, 31 first downs and 448 passing yards. The 29 first-half points they surrendered was the most given up by Oregon State since 2008 against Oregon and the 23 points EWU scored in the second quarter was the most given up in one frame by the Beavers since the UCLA Bruins scored 28 in the fourth quarter back on September 29, 2007.

While Eastern’s quarterback, Vernon Adams, is a dynamic playmaker that will take the Eagles far this season in the FCS playoffs, he’s not at the same level of some of the Pac 12 dual-threat quarterbacks still on Oregon State’s schedule. Yet, the Beavers had no answers for him. Not even their best defensive player, defensive end Scott Crichton, had an answer as he finished with a pedestrian pair of tackles. Riley feels like he has a pretty good grasp of what happened:

“We got totally disrupted. We were way out of sorts in pass rush, pass-rush lanes, we were misaligned defensively. We made some crucial technical errors, just playing Cover 3 and giving up a deep ball right down the middle of the field. Just kind of simple football mistakes, whether it’s just lining up or maintaining a pass-rush lane or maintaining position on a receiver.

“The quarterback gave us fits. Scott (Crichton) could never quite get there or finish a play.”

So it was just a matter of an undisciplined, out-of-position, poor tackling defensive unit that couldn’t cover. Sounds like an easy fix, right?

Riley better hope so. Oregon State has much bigger challenges on the horizon and he needs that defense to play better. The offense appears in good shape with Mannion at the helm, but they can’t be counted on to out-score the rest of the Beavers’ schedule. Do the Beavers have what it takes to right the ship this fall or is Oregon State sinking back to the bottom of the Pac 12 in 2013?

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