NOTE: This is an Oregon State story from Gary Horowitz of the Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal, one of our Gannett partners. Here is a link for more coverage of the Beavers from the newspaper.
CORVALLIS — If Oregon State players needed a reason for their slow start, they could point to inexperience.
The Beavers have played 19 first-time starters, and a school-record 10 true freshmen have seen action.
“It’s just first speed bumps,” freshman running back Terron Ward said before Tuesday’s practice. “We’ve all got to grow and mature. I feel like we’re gonna be really good. We just gotta find our niche.”
Ward ran for a team-high 30 yards on five carries with a 10-yard touchdown in last Saturday’s 35-20 loss at then-No. 25 Arizona State.
Malcolm Agnew is a first-year starter who figures to give the Beavers a lift when healthy. He set a single-game school rushing record for freshmen with 223 yards in the season opener against Sacramento State.
Agnew, who has missed the past three games with a hamstring pull, was at practice Tuesday testing his hamstring and is questionable for Saturday’s home game against Arizona. The Beavers are averaging 52.7 yards per game on the ground in Agnew’s absence.
OSU is 0-4 for the first time since 1996.
“I do believe that the experience does have a lot to with our team being a young team and what not,” said junior middle linebacker Feti Unga, a first-year starter who is the Pac-12′s co-leader in tackles. “(But) we all have already played one, two, three, four games. It shouldn’t be that much of an effect now.”
Senior safety Lance Mitchell, a three-year starter, agrees with the assessment.
“We can’t say that because we’ve got young guys out there, that’s why we’re not winning,” Mitchell said. “I think everybody has enough experience now to know how to react and go out there and play.”
OSU has overcome slow starts in recent years. The Beavers were 0-2 in 2004 and 2-3 in 2008. Both teams won bowl games.
For now, the goal is to get in the win column.
“It would sure be great for this team to win a game,” coach Mike Riley said. “I’m sure Arizona feels the same way, so we don’t have a corner on that market at all.”
Arizona has lost four games in row since opening the season with a victory against lower-division opponent Northern Arizona. The Wildcats have a nine-game losing streak against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
OSU has lost six consecutive games dating to last season.
“We’ve been working hard since day one. We’ve just gotta keep going,” said redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion, who will make his third career start Saturday. “We’ve been improving more and more each game, each day, and we’re real close (to a win) it seems.”
Notes: Left guard Josh Andrews (knee) returned to practice Tuesday. He missed the past two games. Wide receiver Micah Hatfield (hand), who has yet to play this season, also returned to practice.