And OSU opened exactly as was hoped, stopping UCLA and then putting on a ball control clinic their first drive. OSU drove virtually the entire length of the field before stalling inside the Bruins 10-yard line. The Beavs held the ball for 17 plays on the march, churned out 82 yards, held the ball for 7:46. Not getting a TD was a disappointment but a lead is a lead.
And surely that drive would pay dividends later, when the Bruins got tired and the Beavs would rise up. Right?
OSU GAVE THEMSELVES plenty of opportunities over the final two quarters. And then proceeded to give away hard-earned momentum time and time again.
In between, they kicked a field goal and Jordan Bishop took a 25-yard pass and added 20 more for the first passing touchdown of the season for OSU. Replays looked to definitively show he just crossed out of bounds before making an exceptional leap into the end zone but the call was allowed to stand. It almost felt like it was going to be the Beavs' day, at 21-19 and the Beavs on the move.
BUT Oregon STATE continues to post far too few points for how many yards they're gaining. On Saturday, Oregon State converted 8-of-16 third downs. They tallied 287 passing yards. Six times they ventured into UCLA territory. And 19 points is all they had to show for it – with seven of that total coming on the punt return.
Sean Mannion personified OSU's one step forward, two steps back type of play on Saturday. He could look spectacular, with a perfectly placed ball to the right man at the right time – followed by cringe-worthy fare, whether that was throwing into triple coverage or losing a soapdish fumble.
Mannion is a young quarterback, and it takes young quarterbacks time to learn they can't force the ball. It's a process and it's tough to endure early on. OSU fans will have to hope he learns faster than average. But quarterback, it was evident on Saturday, isn't the only major issue with the '11 Beavs.
THE BEAVER DEFENSE was gashed at times by the run, but all-in-all they played a mostly stout game. With a final fourth quarter push, UCLA gained over 200 ground yards, a startling statistic given how many times Oregon State held the Bruins to three yards or less.
UCLA rushed the ball 49 times, and passed it but on 12 occasions. The Oregon State D stopped the Bruins cold on fourth down in the fourth quarter around midfield, but the offense couldn't capitalize.
LB Feti Unga and DE Scott Crichton had solid efforts, with 14 and 11 tackles, respectively. DE Dylan Wynn had two monster tackles for loss in critical situations, yet the Beavs could never hold momentum. And UCLA rammed it down OSU's collective throats when it counted most, in the fourth quarter, crunch time.
Rodgers and Halahuni each had five catches, and that in turn opened up the field for Markus Wheaton, who had seven grabs for 83 yards, and four carries for another 31 hashes.
Yet OSU could only put 19 points up on the board. The o-line did okay at times but like the rest of the Beavs on this afternoon, they ran hot and cold all day long. The difference between sunshine and shadow. Feast and famine. Winning and losing.