CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Arizona coach Mike Stoops wasn't delicate this week with his assessment: The Wildcats need to play better defense.
Arizona has had a tough stretch, with losses to top-10 teams Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon, as well as their 48-41 loss last weekend at USC.
"That's been the most disappointing part of it all, we haven't been very good defensively. Guys we relied on to make plays haven't really made plays for us, we need those guys to step up and be accountable and be better players," Stoops said.
Despite his best efforts, Arizona has a seven-game conference losing streak going into Saturday's game against winless Oregon State (0-4, 0-2) at Reser Stadium.
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The Beavers are having obvious issues of their own. After a season-opening overtime loss to lower-division Sacramento State, Oregon State has lost to Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona State. Hit with injuries and a quarterback controversy, the Beavers are off to their worst start in 15 years.
"It would sure be great for this team to win a game. I'm sure Arizona feels the same way, so we don't have a corner on that market at all," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "I've been encouraged by the improvement of this team, but we need to get a win."
The Wildcats have surrendered an average of 503 yards per game so far this season, ranking them at 115th in the nation and at the bottom of the Pac-12. They're surrendering an average of 209.6 yards on the ground and 294 yards in the air. Arizona also ranks at the bottom of the league in scoring defense and sacks.
"We've got to keep our head up and go back to work and focus on the little details," defensive tackle Sanielia Fuimaono said.
Arizona (1-4, 0-3) has no such issue on the other side of the ball with Nick Foles in charge. The quarterback has the Wildcats ranked third in the nation in passing offense with an average of 384 yards a game. He threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns in the loss to the Trojans, hitting 12 different receivers.
Last season, Foles threw for 440 yards and three touchdowns against the Beavers, but Oregon State pulled out a 29-27 upset over the then-No. 9 Wildcats. The game was also memorable, in a bad way, because James Rodgers went down with a knee injury that would require two surgeries. The Beavers would struggle the rest of the way, going 2-5 to finish 5-8 and out of the postseason.
In that victory over the Wildcats, Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz threw for 393 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another.
This season Katz was unseated after the first two games by redshirt freshman Sean Mannion, who completed 40 of 66 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown in the Beavers' 35-20 loss to the Sun Devils last weekend. He broke a 25-year-old school record for attempts and completions.
Oregon State's issue this season is its usually sound running game, which is averaging just 106 yards. Tailback Malcolm Agnew, who rushed for 223 yards in the opener and was hailed as the Beavers' next great running back, has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury.
Agnew is listed as doubtful against the Wildcats.
Arizona leads the series with Oregon State 21-12-1, but the Beavers have won 10 of the last 12 games and five straight in Tucson. Rodgers in particular has had success against the Wildcats, with 18 receptions for 238 yards, 159 yards rushing and 143 yards on kickoff returns.
Riley said the two teams have a mutual respect.
"Everybody changes a little bit personality-wise and team-wise, so we have two new teams this year playing each other," he said. "It's been a very tough rivalry. I have really appreciated these games with Arizona. They've all taken on different tones through the years I suppose, but all very hard fought."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press