CORVALLIS — Oregon State football coach Jonathan Smith said he liked the way his team prepared for Saturday’s Pac-12 opener against Arizona.
That preparation did not help the Beavers get a win, however, as the Wildcats rolled up 442 yards on the ground and the defense stymied what had been an explosive Oregon State offense in a 35-14 win inside Reser Stadium.
“I liked our kids’ effort throughout the week and I didn’t think our kids’ effort was a problem in this game,” Smith said Saturday afternoon.
What it did come down to, he said, was execution.
“We had our opportunities offensively to kind of change the tide momentum-wise and we weren’t able to do that,” he said.
And they couldn’t slow down J.J. Taylor as he rushed for a Reser Stadium-record 284 yards to go with two touchdowns.
“We’ve got to get the guy on the ground and tackle a little better,” Smith said in general.
The Beavers (1-3, 0-1) will need to put this loss behind them soon as they head to Arizona State (2-2, 0-1) for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.
The Sun Devils dropped their second straight late Saturday night, 27-20 at Washington.
What will Smith say to his team about Saturday’s lopsided loss?
“I think we tell them the truth all the time and I think the truth was it’s 21-7 and we’re driving to make the thing 21-14,” he said. “So yeah it feels like you lost the game and there’s big scores and whatnot but the game is not out of balance until late.
“So we’ve got to keep on swinging, keep on improving and that’s been the message and it’s been pretty consistent.”
Smith said it won’t change the way the staff approaches each week.
“It’s tough to win, especially in this league,” he said. “It’s not going to change our approach. Learn from this game and improve on it. And we need to, really in all aspects — offense, defense and in (special) teams — we’ve got to improve.”
While the defense certainly struggled, the offense was slowed for the first time this season.
Oregon State was held to a season-low 238 total yards of offense after going for 527 a game through the first three weeks.
“Coming into the season people (thought) OK what is this offense going to look like?” Smith said. “Now we’ve got four games of tape so we’ve got to continue to evolve and improve as we go.”
Quarterback Conor Blount completed 17 of 24 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns in his third start, and the first where he played the majority of the snaps.
Depending on the health of Jake Luton, who missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury, it could be another week of waiting to see who starts at quarterback.
Regardless, Blount knows for the Beavers to get better they have to keep growing.
“Just got to be better all around, for sure,” he said. “If we do that it puts us in a good spot. We can’t let this snowball into next week and weeks after that. We have good leadership on this team that will rally us and get things rolling.”