In the aftermath of Oregon State’s first loss of the season, players must now figure out how to respond in what could be called a true test of character.
In which direction will OSU venture following the 20-17 loss to rival Washington? Could it be used as a springboard to a strong finish? Or, will the loss derail the rest of the season?
“Obviously we are disappointed about it,” quarterback Sean Mannion said. “We know there’s a long road ahead of us. We are going to bounce back. This team has a ton of mental and physical toughness.
“We’ll get ready for our next game and prepare harder than ever,” he added. “When something like this happens you can only learn, and that’s the approach we can take.”
The loss dropped OSU (6-1, 4-1) to No. 13 in the national rankings and to No. 11 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. Still, the Beavers can win a share of the North Division title and play in the Pac-12 Championship game if they win their last four conference games.
The first opportunity for redemption arrives on Saturday night at Reser Stadium against visiting Arizona State (5-3, 3-2).
“We just have to come back fighting,” receiver Brandin Cooks said.
Cornerback Jordan Poyer believes the team’s lapse can be fixed and the setback will make the Beavers better in the end.
“We are a team and we win together and lose together,” Poyer said. “When times are like this that are rough, you have to stick together. People will talk and say what they are going to say, but we have to stick together as a family and take on ASU next week.”
The first question for the next game comes at quarterback. Does Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz lead the offense that struggled with consistency with 427 total yards against the Huskies (4-4, 2-3)?
Mannion completed 18 of 34 for 221 yards with four interceptions. He wasn’t accurate and his receivers dropped several passes.
“I could have done things better but there’s nothing we can do about it now,” Mannion said. “I’ll prepare harder for Arizona State.”
Coach Mike Riley stressed that Mannion was physically ready for action after two weeks off to recover from minor surgery and just had an off night.
“He made a lot of good plays and some bad ones,” Riley said. “There were some uncharacteristic plays. It’s hard for me to judge if he was pressing.”
Vaz played well off the bench and completed 7 of 11 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. His presence settled the offense and tied the score late in the game.
“We just have to step up and make plays and help Sean out,” Cooks said. “Sean had a long night out there and we had some mistakes out there. We all do that. When Cody came in, he stepped up and did what he had to do.”
When Cooks was asked who should start at quarterback, he declined to comment. Riley wouldn’t say anything specific Sunday night.
“We are status quo right now,” Riley said of Mannion’s status as the starter. “If we make any changes with positions, we’ll give it to you (today).”
Also of concern going forward is receiver Markus Wheaton, who suffered a concussion in the first half. He’s going through the recovery protocol and will not practice early this week.
“He was good (Sunday) and he’ll be tested each day,” Riley said. “I anticipate him playing.”
Running back Storm Woods aggravated a lingering knee injury, but is not expected to miss practice. Poyer sprained his right knee and will miss practice time.
“Poyer will be limited for a few days, but he’ll play,” Riley said.
OSU’s special teams were steady again and the defense played well enough to give the offense a chance to win. The Beavers allowed 293 total yards and forced a turnover.
So there’s a feeling that the Beavers can get back to their winning ways if the offensive questions can be sorted out.
“The defense did a great job,” Cooks said. “They played their hearts out. The offense kept shooting ourselves in the foot. They didn’t stop us, we stopped ourselves. When you shoot yourself in the foot enough, it’s just a matter of time.”
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