Sept. 27, 2001
By LANDON HALL
AP Sports Writer
CORVALLIS, Ore. - To get an idea of how much Oregon State has changed since last year, listen to the 19th-ranked Beavers' comments this week. The bravado that was practically overflowing from the 2000 team is gone.
Beating 12th-ranked UCLA on Saturday would restore that confidence, losing could make this season an uphill battle.
"This is a make-or-break game," middle linebacker Richard Seigler said. "We can't open up the conference with a loss. We've got to show everybody that we're still the real deal."
"It's now or never for our team," outside linebacker James Allen said. "We need to make a stand, or everybody is going to walk all over us."
That glorious week when the Beavers celebrated being labeled the preseason No. 1 team by Sports Illustrated seems like months ago. The team's collective ego took a beating in the season-opening 44-24 loss at Fresno State, and Oregon State didn't have much of a chance to regain the momentum.
It beat New Mexico State by a mere five points, and the Beavers have had three weeks off to prepare for the Bruins.
"The intensity will be there," reserve tailback Patrick McCall said. "But we've missed the hitting and the game-playing experience for three weeks."
In a way, the Beavers (1-1) seem like the team from the late 1990s - good enough to compete but not to dominate. It was in 1999, coach Dennis Erickson's first year, that Oregon State lost three straight games to Pac-10 opponents USC, Washington and Stanford by a combined score of 105-67 before coming back the following week and crushing the Bruins 55-7.
Last year, OSU went into the Rose Bowl and beat UCLA 44-38. This year, however, the Bruins (3-0) are 4-point favorites.
"Some people are already counting us out," free safety Jake Cookus said.
It will be the first home game for Oregon State this season.
"The fans are going to play a major part in our performance," offensive tackle Lee Davis said. "We're going to really need them behind our backs. It's going to carry us and give us more momentum."