Oregon State talking must-win after upset loss

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Well, at least Oregon State has been in this position before, trying to bounce back from being shocked by a lower-division opponent in the opener.
It was only two years ago, in fact, that the Beavers were beaten at home by Sacramento State in the season opener, and went downhill from there to a 3-9 season. Now OSU has to come back from an opening loss to Eastern Washington, another Big Sky team.
It should be more doable than in 2011, when OSU had to travel to Wisconsin for its second game and suffered a 35-0 blanking to start 0-2. This season, the second task is a Hawaii team that was pounded in its opener by USC, and the game is at Reser Stadium.
Still, OSU coach Mike Riley couldn't hide a face that he does wonder where this opening loss leaves his team's mental state.
"Oh yeah, I'm worried about that," Riley said. "But I also have a lot of faith in them. I think we have really good kids here ... I believe they can rebound."
Coaches hate the idea of putting their team in a "must-win" mode, but isn't that where the Beavers are at heading into the Hawaii game? After that, OSU plays four of its next five games on the road, starting with its Pac-12 opener on Sept. 14 at Utah, where the Beavers have lost their last three meetings.
It could be that many of OSU's problems in the opener were simply the result of needing to play a game.
As Riley said, "you learn a lot about your team in the first game, where we should go or shouldn't go.
"We're super young in the season and for everybody, especially coaches, I think it's a key ingredient to keep their heads and examine what we can do better."
The need to see how the Beavers responded to live situations, and this case came up wanting. It might have been more crucial because OSU didn't scrimmage in preseason workouts and limited its tackling drills for health concerns. And OSU's first loss showed a definite need for improvement on the simple task of tackling.
"When you have so many guys hurt, the guys who are going to be playing in the games aren't tackling anyway because they're not practicing," Riley said.
Well, the Beavers have that out of the way, by playing a game. Now the question becomes how much did they learn from it, and how much can they improve before their second game. Lose again, and this season may look even more like the 3-9 disaster of two years ago.

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