Missed opportunities doom Beavs

CORVALLIS -- With each pass, a little more air went out of Reser Stadium. In a game where Cincinnati senior quarterback Tony Pike was given loads of time, his counterpart and fellow senior Sean Canfield was pressured constantly and could not put together a solid drive when it was needed most. But it was four key missed opportunities that doomed the Beavs.

If it wasn't a call going against them early in the fourth quarter that broke the Beavers back, it was certainly the football junior wideout Darrell Catchings could not haul in, wasn't it?

That play resulted in an interception and all that remained was for Cincy to sing their fight song. But it was only one of the mistakes and missed opportunities that killed Oregon State's chances.

"It is very obvious to all of us now that two field goals instead of two touchdowns early make a major difference in the game," said Beavers head coach Mike Riley. "We'll look back at a lot of stuff and not like it."

OR MAYBE the cruelest of missed opportunities might have come late in the third quarter on senior linebacker Keaton Kristick's first interception of his career. That seemed to finally put the momentum on the side of Oregon State. The Beavs would surely get a march going on down the field.

It never came.

Even later, when a three and out forced a horrid punt that gave the Beavers tremendous field position, they could not fully capitalize. The offense came away with a Justin Kahut field goal, his third of the game. Not nearly enough against the high powered Cincy attack.

ANOTHER ONE THAT hurt came after Kahut's third field goal. A fumble recovery by sophomore linebacker David Pa'aluhi III was called back after a forward progress call was made by a referee. It seemed a quick whistle. But OSU had many more chances to win, and you make your own breaks.

The Bearcats shrugged off the non-call and Pike hit his favorite target, Mardy Gilyard on a 19 yard touchdown pass.

MAYBE THE STRAW that broke the Beavers backs came late in the fourth quarter -- on a drive that looked to bring Oregon State closer to evening the score.

For the first time this season, Oregon State was down two possessions. In his first appearance of the season coming back from a wrist injury, Catchings showed the rust that was to be expected. But a catchable ball that went begging was a killer.

As Canfield dropped back to pass, he saw Catchings wide open down the left side, delivered a pass to the junior that was a touch high, but not out of his grasp. Catchings went up for the ball, was hit in the back and the ball popped loose, up into the air and into the waiting arms of linebacker J.K. Schaffer.

Game over. Dreams of a perfect season over. The turnover was the first by Oregon State this year, the only D-1 team left in the nation to not have committed a turnover. Not anymore.

THE YOUNG SECONDARY was tested throughout, giving up over 300 yards through the air for the first time since 2007 against WSU. The spread offense of Cincinnati ripped the secondary apart, but CB James Dockery stood out. He broke up numerous passes and held tight to the Bearcats wide receivers. Tim Clark also had his moments. But, as he said, not enough of them.

"Our performance was mediocre," Clark summed up precisely. "We know we're better then what we just did and we just have to take it for what it's worth. We need to get back in the film room and correct the mistakes we made today and take it for what it's worth. It's a learning experience."

AT THE HALF, Oregon State was down two scores and a coverage blunder accounted for one of them. But the game was still manageable. And the first drive of the second half could not have been more perfect.

Six plays, 80 yards, and capped off with a Jacquizz Rodgers touchdown, his fifth of the year. The Beavers were now just one touchdown away from taking the lead. All that needed to happen was a stop by the defense, and a strong drive to take the game over. Could, woulda, shoulda. And Oregon State came away defeated by what may well be the Big East's best.

Pac-10 play is now just around the corner, and Oregon State will have a lot of work to do to be ready for always dangerous Arizona. The potential road to the Rose Bowl starts next week.

After the missed opportunities today, it can't come fast enough for the Beavs.

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