Beavers have to dig out of hole ... again

CORVALLIS — Getting the football season off to a slow start isn't exactly new at Oregon State — the Beavers haven't entered October with a winning record since 2003.

So after Oregon State lost to UCLA 27-19 Saturday at Reser Stadium, Beaver head coach Mike Riley was familiar with the situation he was asked to diagnose: How do you keep your team motivated when things are going poorly?

"That's always the battle," Riley said. "That's going to be the challenge, but I've got a sense they're going to be fighting. The realization that we're not undefeated is a reality. It's there and hitting them in the face, so you're either going to kind of quit or you're going to say, 'Okay, this is what we can still yet do, and this is what we can do this week.'

"I've said from the beginning, this team is going to have to be one that grows a lot as we go. We haven't grown fast enough to win a game yet, but I'm looking forward to that opportunity coming up soon."

This 0-3 stuff is taking it to a different level, though. The last time OSU started the season with a trio of defeats was 1996, the last of Jerry Pettibone's six years as head coach. Does the bigger hole mean it takes longer for OSU to dig itself out?

"It's taken one game longer, for sure," Riley said.

Senior flanker James Rodgers has been through three turnarounds that took OSU from halting starts to bowl games.

"It's hard, but at the same time, it's all about working," Rodgers said. "Sometimes you can't go out there and win them all, but we're going to try our hardest to. However many games are left, we're going to try to win them all."

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RODGERS RETURNS: Nearly 11 months after injuring his knee in a game at Arizona, Rodgers returned to the field for OSU and had five catches for 76 yards. Rodgers' first reception was a 31-yarder down the right side from Sean Mannion on OSU's initial possession, drawing a rousing, heartfelt ovation from the crowd.

"It felt pretty good just to be able to go out there and compete with my teammates," Rodgers said.

Rodgers' knee didn't enter his thoughts during the action.

"I'm playing, so the main thing I was doing was trying to focus on my job," Rodgers said. "I wouldn't have been out there if my knee had been hurting."

Added Riley: "It looked normal to me — that's the way it's supposed to look with him running down and catching the ball. I wasn't worried for him. I did not, for one second while he was playing, worry today about him. I think it's because we've done so much of our homework in this situation (to make sure Rodgers' rehabilitation was complete)."

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POYER MAKES A GAME OF IT: As glum as an 0-3 record looks, OSU's outlook might be even dimmer if not for Jordan Poyer. With Oregon State down 21-3 in the final minute of the first half, Poyer returned a UCLA punt 85 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-10 at the half. The Beavers then opened the third quarter with a field goal to get within 21-13 and entertained hopes of victory the rest of the way.

"Right when we needed it, some other part of the game steps up like a punt return," Riley said. "Jordan Poyer making a great play, great blocking, well-schemed-up return by (assistant coach) Bruce Read, kids executed it, and it could have been a game-changer. But it certainly got us some momentum and got us back into it."

Poyer's run was the second-longest punt return in OSU history, trailing only Dwayne Owen's 92-yarder against UCLA in 1992.

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MANNION MOMENTS: Mannion passed for 287 yards and a touchdown, but as a redshirt freshman, there will be growing pains. Mannion experienced an especially sharp set in the second quarter.

With OSU trailing 7-3, he drove the Beavers to a pair of first downs but was intercepted, and the Bruins turned the turnover into a 14-3 advantage. Oregon State's next possession was a three-and-out, but the Beaver defense held and OSU got the ball back on its own 17-yard line; on its first play, Mannion dropped back to pass but his arm came forward without the football. UCLA recovered the fumble at the 4 and scored to make it 21-3.

Riley hadn't given Mannion parameters regarding what sort of performance would prompt the reappearance of Ryan Katz, the starter at the beginning of the season who has been relegated to backup duty.

"I never talk to a quarterback like that," Riley said. "I've never said, 'If you do this, this is going to be it.' That's an interesting time in there, I will say that. But I thought he came back out and made some good plays in the second half and he'll continue to grow that way."

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RUSHING IT: A week after Oregon State had some success limiting eighth-ranked Wisconsin's running game, the Beavers gave up 211 net yards rushing to the Bruins. After starter Johnathan Franklin went out with an undisclosed injury in the first half, backup Derrick Coleman ran for 100 yards.

OSU defensive tackle Castro Masaniai was serving his one-game suspension for involvement in a domestic dispute last spring, but Riley wouldn't address whether that might have made a difference in stopping UCLA.

"There's no sense in worrying about it," Riley said. "It was the right thing to do right now. If it wasn't now, it should have been in the first game. It doesn't matter. It was a necessity."

OSU, meanwhile, again had freshman running back Malcolm Agnew on the sidelines with hamstring problems. Oregon State rushed for just 10 net yards in the first half as it fell behind before finishing with 88; sophomore Jovan Stevenson came off the bench to pick up 47 of those second-half yards.

"That was nice to see," Riley said. "It made the game a lot easier. You don't just put the ball in the quarterback's hands and say, 'Win the game for us by yourself.' It's nice to be able to rely on some running game."

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'QUAKE IN CORVALLIS: During a break in the action with 2:52 remaining in the first quarter, former Medford High star Bill "Earthquake" Enyart was honored for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Enyart was escorted onto the field and presented with his official plaque, earning an ovation from the crowd.

Enyart helped Medford High to the 1962 state championship as a sophomore.

A two-time first team All-Pac-8 selection and a first team All-American in 1968, Enyart was the fullback on the 1967 Oregon State team known as the "Giant Killers." He is the second OSU player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame, joining Terry Baker as well as former OSU coach Tommy Prothro.

The timing for recognizing Enyart was fortuitous. The Beavers had just taken a 3-0 lead, their only advantage of the game. Just over a minute later, UCLA jumped in front 7-3 and never relinquished the lead.

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THIS AND THAT: Oregon State's Andrew Seumalo blocked a field goal and an extra point. He is the first Beaver to block two kicks in one game since Ben Siegert blocked a pair of field goals against Oregon in 2006 "… Trevor Romaine's 25-yard field goal just over 12 minutes into the game provided the Beavers with first-quarter points for the first time this season "… linebacker D.J. Welch became the 10th true freshman to play for Oregon State this season "… Mannion and running back Terron Ward became the 16th and 17th OSU players to make their first career starts this season "… Riley's teams are now 2-7 against UCLA in his two head coaching stints at Oregon State.

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