Oct. 13, 2006
SEATTLE (AP) -- Tyrone Willingham looked at Oregon State's roster and stats and grew perplexed.
Willingham, Washington's coach, saw an offense that has the second-best running back in the Pac-10 Conference in Yvenson Bernard, and a defense that statistically is the third-best unit in the conference.
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"You struggle to find an explanation for it," he said. "I'm struggling with that aspect of it."
While Willingham can't understand the Beavers' struggles, the Oregon State faithful are downright frustrated and expressing their displeasure as the Beavers travel to Seattle on Saturday to face the Huskies.
During last week's 13-6 loss to Washington State, signs in the Oregon State crowd called for the ousting of coach Mike Riley and additional playing time for freshman quarterback Sean Canfield. Starting quarterback Matt Moore was heckled mercilessly by the Beavers' student section, and Moore snapped, screaming at a fan.
"That is a rule from day one. We don't talk with people," Riley said. "Literally from day one, no matter what is going on, whether you are traveling or at home, there's always someone trying to get you and you don't do that."
Adding to the pressure, Al Reser, who donated an estimated $20 million to the school, and has his last name on the Beavers' stadium, told The Oregonian that the current direction of the program is "unacceptable."
There is a serious burden on the Beavers to try and reverse the downward trajectory of their season -- sliding away since losing a 14-0 lead in a 42-14 loss at Boise State last month. Moore's poor play and Riley's reluctance to yank his senior quarterback have made the pair targets for blame, although the coach continues to stand by Moore.
"I'm concerned about how we're doing too," Riley said. "All we're doing is focusing on getting better. I like this team, it's a growing team ... but we've got plenty to do."
Then, perhaps, getting away from Corvallis is best for the Beavers, looking to somehow turn around a season that has seen their only wins come against Division I-AA Eastern Washington and Idaho.
Seattle might be that place.
The Beavers' last Pac-10 win came on Nov. 5, 2005, an 18-10 win over the Huskies in a miserable rain and wind storm, when kicker Alexis Serna tied a conference record with six field goals. In his last two games against Washington, Serna is 11-for-11 on field goal attempts.
Oregon State has won two in a row at Husky Stadium and has a chance to win three consecutive games in Seattle for the first time since the 1940s. But the Beavers have dropped their last four conference games since beating the Huskies last year and the players aren't oblivious to the fan backlash, especially toward Moore.
"I'm sure it hasn't been easy on Matt and it hasn't been easy on the team seeing that whole deal going on," tight end Joe Newton said. "We know the whole situation. He has our support, but it has been a little rough."
Last year's loss to the Beavers represented the bottom for Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback. Trying to throw in the miserable conditions, Stanback was benched in the second half after completing just 5 of 12 passes. Instead of sulking, Stanback has rebounded to lead Washington to five wins in its last eight games.
This week's challenge is putting aside the disappointing finish of last Saturday's 26-20 loss to No. 3 Southern California, when Washington failed to get a play off from the Trojans' 15 with two seconds left. Many considered the narrow defeat by the Trojans a moral victory for Washington and another sign of the rapid turnaround the Huskies are making in Willingham's second year.
Stanback didn't want to hear talk like that.
"We lost, it sucks," Stanback said. "I don't have moral victories. I want to win every game."