If Oregon State continues to play like this, odds are purchases of hair-loss products are going to spike this year in Corvallis.
In a 15-minute stretch to begin the second half, Oregon State displayed the best AND the worst it has to offer.
And the worst cost the Beavers in a big way.
In all, the third quarter set the stage for BYU to beat the Beavers 38-28 in front of 42,584 mostly bewildered Beaver fans in attendance on a cool, overcast Saturday afternoon at Reser Stadium.
After going into halftime tied at 14, the Beavers turned over the ball three times — all forced by BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree.
The good? The defense limited the Cougars to just three points off those turnovers.
The bad? Well, start with those three turnovers. And add in that the offense held the ball for just over four minutes in the third quarter, leaving the defense reeling.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said OSU receiver Markus Wheaton, who was brilliant with eight catches for 104 yards. “Fumbles killed us.”
OSU coach Mike Riley boiled the Beavers' problems down to two story lines.
Too many turnovers. And with just 59 yards rushing, a lackluster run game. Both were on display in the third quarter.
“Even if they did everything that they did, we certainly had enough opportunities to have 38 points in that game,” said Riley. “That's what is disappointing.”
BYU marched 80 yards on a mix of runs and passes to open the third quarter, cashing in when BYU quarterback Riley Nelson was able to find receiver Cody Hoffman — a connection made nine times for 162 yards in the game — for a 12-yard score to make it 21-14 with 11:16 to play in the third quarter.
Then things got crazy.
Jordan Poyer returned the kickoff into BYU territory, but four plays into the drive OSU quarterback Sean Mannion rolled out to his left, then threw back over to the right. The ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and Ogletree picked off the ball at the BYU 24-yard line to snuff out the drive.
BYU looked to seize control of the game, and appeared to have done so when Nelson connected with Hoffman for a 46-yard bomb. But the Beavers held, forcing the Cougars to try a 53-yard field goal that fell well short.
Beaver fans had a moment to catch their collective breath, but moments later freshman running back Malcolm Agnew had the ball stripped by Ogletree, a fumble that BYU recovered on OSU's 39.
But there was no bend in the Beaver defense, at least not yet. Nelson took a shot into the end zone, but Poyer broke up the pass and nearly made a spectacular interception. The Cougars' drive went nowhere, and they were forced to punt.
It wouldn't last long. Ogletree forced another fumble, again recovered at the OSU 36. BYU moved to the 14. But the Beavers stiffened again, forcing a Justin Sorensen 33-yard field goal that gave the Cougars a 24-14 lead with 3:26 left in the third quarter.
“Maybe we got a turnover and then we gave it right back to them,” Riley said. “Pretty demoralizing.”
The Beavers appeared to recover quickly.
BYU bit on a play fake, leaving Brandin Cooks streaking down the middle of the field, yards beyond the BYU secondary. Cooks bobbled the Mannion strike, but eventually reeled it in for the 59-yard score that left OSU down just 24-21 with 2:08 left in the third quarter.
“We were looking for that play and that spark, and we got it,” Riley said. “Of course, right after we needed to have something else go. We needed to make some other play to get it back.”
That never happened, as the Cougars wrestled control of the game for good in the fourth quarter.
A weary defense gave up touchdowns on BYU's first two possessions of the fourth quarter to put the game away, leaving the Beavers with more questions than answers.
Did the offense do its share?
“No sir, we did not,” Agnew said. “The thing that really killed us was the turnovers.”
Could the defense have done more, despite the mistakes that left the injury-riddled unit on the field for 11 minutes in the third quarter?
“We were out there quite a bit, but either way we have to execute and get off the field, which we did most of the time,” said junior safety Anthony Watkins. “We just have to keep it going, even into the fourth quarter.”
Watkins refused to blame injury or the offense for the defense's fourth-quarter struggles.
He could have.
Taylor Henry, Feti Unga, Castro Masaniai, Tony Wilson, Cameron Collins and Lance Mitchell all were either knocked out of the game or limited because of injuries.
“We still gotta go out and do our job,” Watkins said. “That's why we're here, to play defense.”
Now the Beavers are right back to where they started before last week's win over Arizona.
At 1-5, a bowl game seems like a pipe dream. That must be frustrating, because OSU could have beaten BYU.
“We definitely could have won that game,” Wheaton said. “They were a good team. But we definitely could have won.”
No matter. A team that looked like it was headed in the right direction is back to square one. And that is a frustrating place to be.
“It's tough, because we've been getting better each week,” Watkins said. “Then we kind of take a step back. We just have to go back to work Tuesday and get better.”