Riley won't panic over another slow start

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

After consecutive defeats, Oregon State has a lot of uncertainty right now, but one thing is certain. Coach Mike Riley won't panic.

That sounds like a rah-rah, buck-up-the-Beavers assertion. No. Just a fact. No team in the country that has won 28 games over the previous three seasons has had more reasons to panic over slow starts than the Beavers (and, subsequently, done less panicking during the process).

The Beavers are at Arizona State on Saturday. They haven't won down there since 1969. That's 40 years of bad history pointing toward a fourth consecutive 2-3 start.

As everyone knows, Oregon State bounced back the previous three seasons and ended up nationally ranked.

Yet, as everyone who owns mutual funds also knows, past performance doesn't guarantee you squat.

Nonetheless, Riley isn't the sort to rewrite a script that has worked. That starts with not having a quick hook for starting quarterback Sean Canfield.

Canfield tossed a pair of critical interceptions in the 37-32 loss to Arizona and has dropped from 14th in the nation in passing efficiency to 58th, but every indication is he still gives the Beavers their best chance to win because Lyle Moevao's shoulder is still not 100 percent.

This is what Riley told The Oregonian:

“There’s no doubt Lyle is a good option, and we’re getting to that point, but I’m not sure at this time (if he would play)... We’re going to let them practice during the week like we have been and I don’t know anything more than that right now. I don’t think Lyle is 100 percent with his arm but he is definitely a viable option (at ASU).’’

Riley knows he's got his 2008 starter on his bench. He knows he's got a good Plan B. But he's not ready to launch it yet.

It's easy but probably not fair to blame Canfield. The offensive line and receivers are young and showing it. The Beavers have given up 15 sacks -- 3.75 per game, which ranks 117th in the nation -- and Canfield doesn't have anyone to throw to on the perimeter who truly stresses a defense.

The entire offense flows through the Rodgers brothers. Receiver James is ninth and running back Jacquizz is 23rd in the nation in all-purpose yards. They are the Beavers top-two rushers and top-two receivers.

Canfield needs more options.

Oh, and the Beaver's defense is struggling mightily to find its rhythm.

Of course, if Moevao gets 100 percent healthy, and Canfield continues to go one-for-one with touchdowns and interceptions, then Riley has a responsibility to give the 2008 starter a chance.

It wouldn't be a sign of panic, though. Just a tough coaching decision.