TUCSON, Ariz. — Oregon State has gone through a strange opening month this football season, one that has included a hurricane, a bye week and two ranked opponents.
The Beavers kept their focus and played through the starts and stops — well, not the hurricane — beating Wisconsin and UCLA to turn a national eye toward Corvallis.
For a program that is coming off two losing seasons and had little hype going into this one, the attention is a nice change.
“It's a sign of good things, actually," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.
“It's just a matter of how you handle it. We've just got to keep the theme of this team going, which is just hard-working and getting ready to play."
The 18th-ranked Beavers (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12) had better be ready again this weekend.
Up next is a trip to the desert to face Arizona, a team that has a hard-to-keep-up-with offense and something to prove after being run over last week by Oregon.
Like Oregon State, the Wildcats had only modest expectations heading into this season.
Sure, new coach Rich Rodriguez added a level of excitement to the program. But a lack of depth, particularly on defense, in addition to new schemes and a brutal schedule made this seem more like a long-term project than a quick fix.
But, also like the Beavers, the Wildcats were one of the surprise teams of the early season, rolling off three consecutive victories to climb up the polls.
The similarities ended last week.
Despite facing its biggest game of the season, Arizona had only a so-so week of practice heading into Oregon — and the Wildcats paid for it.
They moved the ball against the Ducks' defense but could not capitalize, finishing zero for six in the red zone. Those missed opportunities inside Oregon's 20-yard line wore down Arizona's defense, and the Ducks got rolling on their way to a 49-0 victory.
Quarterback Mike Scott also faced his first bit of adversity, throwing three interceptions while completing just half of his passes for a total of 210 yards.
The Wildcats know they have plenty to fix or they are looking at two straight losses to teams from Oregon.
“Some of the problems that happened overnight can't be solved overnight, some of them may take a while longer," Rodriguez said. “Some of the problems can easily be handled if we just focus on fundamentals and what we're supposed to do each and every play."
One hiccup is not going to sway the Beavers' opinion of Arizona.
Before the Oregon game, Arizona had been one of the Pac-12's most productive offenses behind Scott, the fifth-year senior who was among the national leaders for total yards through the first three games. Running back Ka'Deem Carey has been explosive at times, and Rodriguez's no-huddle offense can make opponents who are in good shape feel like they have heavy legs.
The Wildcats had some success against Oregon's defense last week, driving inside the Ducks' 20-yard line five times in the first half, so the Beavers know they will have their hands full.
“They like to spread the ball out in some ways like UCLA did and just get the ball into their athletes' hands," Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer said. “Matt Scott is a good quarterback who can scramble, but if we are able to do our jobs, I believe we'll come out on top."
The Beavers have been able to do their jobs no matter what has been in front of them so far this season.
Oregon State had an awkward situation at the beginning of the season, waiting to see if it would be able to play Nicholls State with a hurricane bearing down on Louisiana before eventually postponing the game.
The Beavers had an extra week of preparation for then-No. 13 Wisconsin and handled it well, holding the Badgers to 207 total yards in a 10-7 home victory.
Oregon State followed that up with another long break thanks to its bye week and again played well, beating then-No. 19 UCLA 27-20 in the Rose Bowl for Riley's 74th victory with the Beavers, matching Lon Stiner's school record.
The two wins moved Oregon State into The Associated Press Top 25 and gave the Beavers a chance to open 3-0 for the first time since 2003.