RILEY: Oh those fourth quarters

IF THREE GAMES in Oregon State's season go just a little bit differently in the fourth quarter, we're talking about the Beavs being 7-2 instead of 4-5 right now. And the conversation is completely changed. As Mike Riley noted on Sunday night, it's getting old seeing Oregon State lose a fourth quarter lead.

Mike Riley, after looking at tape of the loss to Washington State that dropped the Beavs to 4-5 indicated there were numerous things gleaned from the film that needed to be cleaned up this practice week headed into the tilt against white-hot Arizona State.

"Oh, boy. Well, it's just disappointing. Obviously there are a lot more things to talk about, but to have three games that we lost that we had a lead in the fourth quarter, it's getting a little old," said Riley.

So was it an anomaly that the Beavs, so good against the pass earlier this season, got chewed up against WSU?

"I'm not sure what to think about that," said Riley. "I think that we've got a chance as we go to get back to where we were playing better defense.

But Riley also said there were simply some flat-out blown coverages. On one of the Cougs' TD throws, OSU lined up late and didn't even rush the passer. Those things are hard to fathom in Week Ten, as was the Cougs' third-and-15 scrambling throw for a TD in the fourth quarter that gave WSU the lead back for good.

"We didn't execute our stunt up front, so the quarterback was able to flush to his right and buy some extra time and then throw it to a receiver in the end zone that I thought we were in pretty good position (for), maybe even to make an interception. And two of our guys ran into each other. Michael Doctor picked off Ty Zimmerman and the receiver ended up being wide open," said Riley.

Riley was also asked about the missed tackles.

"One of the things about tackling is we're not going to go scrimmage a lot at this time of the year because you also have to get your team physically back and get ready to play," said Riley. "But everything in practice should be about the position the players (are) in at the point of attack wherever the ball is when they're gonna make the tackle. That's why pursuit angles, and then good body position to make a play, are always emphasized. So we need more of that.

"Every player has a way that they're going to attack the play, with whatever shoulder they're using first or whatever leverage they have to keep on the ball. So the emphasis of doing that makes your opportunity to then make a tackle good. And with that, then you do individual drills that simulate the correct technique for tackling, and we do that virtually every day (other than Thursday.)"

It's boring to talk and read about the need for consistency week after week. But it's also true.

"There's some things that we've got to change. We've still had too many penalties, and some of them are very unnecessary penalties. We had some breakdowns defensively where we really, probably cost ourselves three touchdowns. And offensively, we do some really good things. We actually are doing some things better than we did a year ago, but we are way too sporadic. We kind of seem to go to sleep for a series or two," said Riley.

There were some silver linings that get lost in the shuffle, overshadowed by the larger issues.

"Two things we improved upon is we had no turnovers and no procedure penalties, which was good to see. And then we had some nice plays down the field in the passing game. That was good to see. And we had some young receivers that are making more and more plays, which is good to see. But we're too sporadic offensively and we are making almost what I would hope to say is pretty uncharacteristic mistakes defensively," said Riley.

Riley said going forward against ASU and Oregon, the errors in coverage can and will be corrected.

"One thing that is — and will be — corrected is you don't have to blow a coverage. You don't have to leave a guy uncovered to catch a touchdown pass. You talk about a critical error, that's a big-time error. (ASU is) really disruptive defensively, but what I don't like about our passing game is we're not as efficient as we can be or have been in the past...Sean (Mannion) had one of the top passing days in the country yesterday, but it still doesn't feel great to me because there were too many bad plays in that mix. And I think that's correctable and we should get better at it," said Riley.

What OSU has to guard against, Riley said, is how they respond after a bad play.

"The thing that concerns me is just making sure that we have the excitement to get to play. (We) have a great opportunity ahead of us here at home against one of the best teams, right now, in the country. So that, just for an athlete, is a great challenge. And for a coach, the same thing. So we've got a lot to get ready," said Riley.

NOTABLE NOTE:
The Oregonian asked Riley about the clock management at the end of the first half after Caleb Smith caught a pass in-bounds. OSU did not call a timeout and precious second ran off, with Oregon State ultimately kicking a field goal. "We didn't have three timeouts. We actually only had two. We had exhausted the timeouts by the end. Maybe at 31 seconds I could have. I could have used one earlier, but as it turned out, we needed the last one for the field goal, I believe."


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