It's as much a rite of autumn as leaves changing color.
Every November and December, Oregon State will suffer enough head-scratching non-conference losses to torpedo hope of an NCAA bid by Christmas and leave Beavers fans clamoring for a new coach.
The list of small-conference programs that have upset Oregon State during Craig Robinson's five-plus seasons is as long as it is cringe-worthy. There's Sacramento State, Illinois-Chicago, Montana State, Towson, Idaho, Seattle, Texas-Southern, Howard, Yale, Utah Valley State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
The latest little-known program to topple the Beavers is Coppin State, a Baltimore school projected to finish ninth in the MEAC this season after suffering 24 losses a year ago. The Eagles emerged from Corvallis with a 78-73 win after building a 13-point lead late in the first half and hanging on even after the Beavers trimmed the deficit to one with 5:02 remaining in the game.
Even given Oregon State's history of non-conference debacles, this loss was a surprise. Coppin State finished 309th in the RPI last season, had dropped all 16 of its games against Pac-12 foes prior to Sunday and played without last year's leading scorer and rebounder, Michael Murray, who was sidelined by a broken hand.
Oregon State also was shorthanded in the frontcourt because of suspensions to standout forwards Eric Moreland and Devon Collier, absences that undoubtedly played a role in the Beavers' over-reliance on Roberto Nelson. The senior guard scored a career-high 36 points to keep Oregon State competitive, but only four Beavers scored the whole night and the team hoisted 27 threes and shot 39 percent from the field.
If any loss to Coppin State would be humbling, the timing of this one is especially bad. Craig Robinson is under pressure to show signs of progress in his sixth year in Corvallis after the program backslid to a last-place finish in the Pac-12 last season.
Hired to resuscitate a program that went winless in Pac-12 play the year before he arrived, Robinson has improved the talent level at Oregon State but has yet to prove he can make that translate into on-court success. The Beavers have yet to make an NCAA tournament or NIT appearance under Robinson and have finished better than eighth in the Pac-12 only once.
A contract that runs through 2017 and a brother-in-law in the White House surely provide some security for Robinson, but restless Oregon State fans need their coach to restore faith by ascending in the Pac-12 this season.
Needless to say, a season-opening loss to Coppin State is not the start Robinson had in mind. But it is the type of result Beavers fans are all too familiar with these days.
- - - - - - -