Monthly Archives: November 2013

5 Quick Thoughts About the Civil War

Just wanted to share quick thoughts about Friday’s game before I rush off to watch some Saturday morning cartoons (yeah, yeah, you read that right).

First off, what an amazing game. I’ll confess I didn’t give the Beavers much of a chance going into this game. I was worried they’d come in even flatter than they did against UW. And at first, it looked like it was going to be a long night for the Beavers. But while they could’ve folded after going down 14-0, they didn’t. In fact, they fought back and made it a game for the ages. Despite the loss, I loved what I saw from the team. I’ve never been more proud to be an OSU alum. Here’s five things that jumped out at me.

1. The running game: Wow! Who saw that coming? The Beavers took a page from Stanford’s and Arizona’s playbook and it worked well. Ward and Woods attacked the Ducks from the get-go and were very effective. Ward had a career game and Woods had some great move-the-chains runs and catches. (Does anyone think Woods should be given a look at WR? He does so well in space). There were some miscues, (Ward slipping on 4-and-1) but overall Ward and Woods were the offensive MVPS in my book. They came out fired up and carried the Beavers. More importantly, they proved OSU can run the ball effectively and how dynamic the offense can be when it’s balanced. Now the coaches just need to stick to that for the bowl and next season!

2. Speaking of of a balanced offense . . . After that 4-and-1 interception, Mannion settled down and played well enough to for the OSU offense to keep up with the Ducks’ high-powered offense. Despite facing heavy pressure at times and a strong UO secondary, Mannion held in there. His TD pass to Ward was a thing of beauty. His most impressive throw was one that wasn’t caught, the one he threaded through a needle to Clute.  He locked in on Cooks too much, but to be fair, outside of Cooks and the tight ends, he didn’t have many options. The main thing is hopefully, Mannion got his confidence back and builds on it during the bowl game prep, and into next season.

3. The Mannon-Cooks show has been dominant all season and has carried the Beavers, but on Friday, it was clear that not having another option at WR hampered the Beavers’ chances. The Ducks started to double and even triple team Cooks, yet that didn’t seem to result in other WRs being open, besides Woods on that one play (dang!) Mullany has battled injuries, but he also disappeared for the last 75 percent of the season. If Cooks comes back for his senior year, the CW illustrated the importance of OSU needing a second impact receiver to keep defenses honest, and prevent Mannion from locking in on Cooks. One of the Beavers priorities this off season needs to be getting Bolden up to speed, especially if Cooks leaves for the NFL.

4. The Beavers could’ve won this game, so I have to give credit to the coaching staff. They were commited to establishing the run and it worked. (But why did it take until the last game of the season for it to happen?) And I thought until the Ducks final drive, the defensive scheme was solid. Still, there were plenty of head-scratching play calls. Why on short downs, do the Beavers try to go for the home run play? Just get the first down. On questionable catches or fumbles, hurry up and snap the ball. At least have a sense of urgency. Finally, I know a lot of teams go into prevent D at the end of games, but against the Ducks in the CW, it might have been better to stick with what was working. I am glad the coaches didn’t lose the team and had them competitive, but I think there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

5. Officating didn’t cost the Beavers the game, and I never use that excuse. But I wanted to highlight the fact that UO seemed to get away with a lot of holding and PI. There’s a reason it’s called homefield advantage I guess. I am not saying calls here and there would’ve changed the outcome of the game, but Friday’s contest illustrated how woeful Pac-12 officating is. Larry Scott has dropped the ball when it comes to improving this, and it continues to hurt the conference’s prestige.

What do you think of my observations? Agree or disagree? What stood out to you?

Wait, catch that baby!

As I look across the various OSU sports message boards, I find a trend that while deserved, is a little sad. And I feel a bit misdirected.  Much like only listening to one side of a divorce, hearing fans talk about the Beavers and their coaching staff is misleading in the facts.

According to BeaverBlitz.com Oregon State University has had the following recruiting classes:

 

Rivals Recruiting Rankings

Year Rivals Rank Conference Rank
2002 52 9
2003 51 10
2004 31 3
2005 47 9
2006 41 6
2007 47 9
2008 52 10
2009 54 10
2010 44 10
2011 55 8
2012 39 10
2013 39 8
2014 47 5

Viewing these numbers, it is pretty clear that the last four years were the creme of the crop.  While 2004 was the best class we have had in that time period.  You factor that in with the fact that during  2011 – 2012 OSU had no full time linebacker coach that could legally recruit.

The current team has 8 starters from 2009 and 2010 has 6. that means that 14 of OSU’s 22 offensive and defensive starters are from the two worst classes in the last five years.  This doesn’t include the two or three players on each side that have played but were not year long starters.  If that trend holds true, that means the two best classes won’t be represented in the starting lineup until the 2015 season.

So realistically, the improvements to recruiting won’t truly be felt for another two seasons.

Could Oregon State’s coaching staff be better recruiters?  Yes, of course, but they have been improving over the last few years. So while we are all disappointed, and furious, the whole sky is not falling. There are still items that continue to improve and Beaver Nation needs to recognize this as well.  There is hope for something better, but there is a lot of work ahead and the coaches have to be open to the innovation. Even if it is painful.

How far are we? (Peter piggy backing off of Raju)

This has been a crazy year for Oregon State football. While the team is mired in a four-game losing streak that was punctuated with its worst game in decades, it also has had moments where fans thought this squad might be special. Many in Beaver Nation were certain that the Beavers would pull off the upset against Stanford. Riding a six-game win streak, there were so many possibilities. The Stanford game did not disappoint, because despite some sloppy play by the Beavers, it came down to the very last play, with OSU missing on forth and goal.

Losses to ASU and USC appeared to be losses to teams that are playing as well as any the nation, and the game against ASU was still well within OSU’s grasp. So prior to the UW game, this appeared to a be a season where the Beavers were the team that just came up short. In fact, it felt like a two-year syndrome, with 2012 being another season where OSU was as capable of being 11-2 as they were of being 6-6.

And prior to the UW game, while no one was satisfied, many in Beaver Nation were willing to bet that the team could end the season with eight wins and maybe fix a few things this offseason, in order to come out and take the college football world by storm in 2014.  Or at least, being a squad that has the potential to be a 10-win club.

Then, in one terrible game, everyone in the athletic department has become completely incompetent (or the people who always felt that way, were finally brave enough to say what they really feel. Which, in many cases might be “I told you so.”), and that every day those members of the athletic department stay on the job is proof that 28 years of losing is just around the corner.

And maybe they are not wrong. But before we throw everyone out on the street, let’s look at a few things:

1. What does the future hold?
Barring any declarations for the NFL draft, the Beavers will return all, but five of their offensive starters (offensive Guards Grant Enger and Josh Andrews, offensive tackle Michael Philipps, receiver Kevin Cummings).  On defense they lose four as well (corners Rashaad Reynolds and Sean Martin, defensive linemen John Braun and Mana Rosa ). Those are not losses to laugh at or discount. We saw this season how even the loss of a single cornerback (Jordan Poyer) can be a huge deal.

At the same time, with all the talent returning as well as the quality starting time that many linemen, linebackers, receivers and corners got this year, could mean that OSU hits the ground running next year. Well, maybe not running, but at least passing and stopping its opponents.

If OSU has the leadership and if the younger players, such as Bolden, Magea, and Gavin Andrews, can make the leaps they need to make, the Beavers could find their future much brighter than what we feel it is right now.

2. Do we trust the coaches?
Ultimately, it is all well and good to have a lot of players returning, but as we saw this year, it doesn’t mean anything if the coaching staff is not getting the most of out of those players. There are some feelings that many of the coaches have run their courses here — that they are ineffective. Even fan favorites like Cav and Brennan had some of their players appear to be off at times on the field.

And what about play calling?  Or details like a hurry-up offense? Will there be any innovations, or even attempts to stay current in a game that is rapidly evolving?

To be fair, the program has done a better job lately of recruiting talent and better coaches. But if the staff cannot get the most out of the players that they get, and the whole staff is not sold on getting new players, then will they have the depth to weather the storm of injuries that happen every year, or will they have the schemes and execution of those schemes to win close games? Ultimately, that is the largest deduction made this weekend. OSU could end up with eight wins, but the relationship between fans and coaches has been damaged and it may not get fixed unless they either make changes or get to a BCS Bowl next year.

I will talk about this more later, but I really think that while we have all seen OSU under-perform on Mike Riley’s watch, we have also seen the Beavers triumph over impossible odds. We trust that he is close to getting it done and believe that adages such as “Mike does more with less” and “OSU always gets better as the season goes on.”  The biggest damage done this season is that all the goodwill and capital that Mike has earned during his record-setting career at OSU has been spent. Fans are not willing to wait anymore.  That, combined with the struggles of men’s hoops and other programs has shattered the confidence of many in Beaver Nation.

So that is the challenge before Mike and the Beaver football program? As the administration announces the most ill-timed ticket hike in the history of the school, it is up to Mike to win this weekend, give fans/donors hope, and find a way to get his program headed in a positive direction. Because anything less is going to result in more and more fans turning a deaf ear to the cries for help from the administration.

Is OSU at a Crossroads?

My introduction to OSU football was painful. It can be summed up easily in two words: Jerry Pettibone.

I can never erase my memory of this far too often play-calling sequence. First down: option run to the right. Second down: option run to the left. Finally on third down and long: option run up the middle for no gain.

I can still hear my friend’s Dad screaming, “Turn the Page Jerry!”

As cool as the option was back then, the Beavers ran it out of style. Mostly to the tune of fumbles. I am not sure how many wins, if any, I witnessed in person during the Pettibone era.

But as bad as that era was, the Beavers’ recent 4-game slide is the worst I’ve seen since I started following the Beavers in 1992.

Quick recap: The Beavers were right there with Stanford and left all they had on the field. As a result, they were pretty beat up against USC, and it showed. Mistakes hurt them against ASU, but the defense was great in the second half. And then there was the UW game.

Frankly, I still can’t wrap my head around that game, and I’ll spare you the misery of trying. But I do know this, it’s EASILY the worst loss I’ve ever experienced as fan or as a former sports writer. And I’ve seen plenty of bad ones, 95 percent of the Pettibone losses, Fresno State in 2001, UCLA in 2001, Sac State in 2001, EWU this season . . .

I’ve never seen a Mike-Riley team come out so flat and get punched in the face like that. Save a few plays during garbage time, there was nothing to cheer about, except maybe that it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. Oh, and they didn’t play that stupid Chainsaw song.

But the bigger picture is this: the Beavers have been one big tease during the Riley era. (Like that cute girl in high school who just needed help writing papers.) Slow starts followed by strong finishes, or in the case of this season,  a fast start followed by a hard collapse. And then there’s games like Stanford in 2008 or the Alamo Bowl, — huge missed opportunities.

And I won’t even get into failure to capitalize on the those two oh-so-close to the Rose Bowl seasons in regards to recruiting. UGGGGGH!

So close, yet so faraway.

With the facilities race in full swing, schools pumping more money into recruiting, and an influx of splashy coaching hires, the Beavers can’t afford to fall behind again.  Twenty-eight years of futility is not fun.

But here’s the harsh reality: OSU’s football program is at a crossroads. Despite taking steps to move forward (new assistant coaches, embracing social media, etc.), Riley hasn’t been able to get the program over the hump.

Mike is a great guy and a good coach. He represents OSU well, he runs the program the right way, and has done well with the talent he’s recruited. He, for the most part, has kept OSU competitive, year in and out.

And let me be clear. I want nothing more than Riles to get OSU to a BCS game, win it, and see the money come pouring in. We all know what happened after that Fiesta Bowl season. It help propel the Raising Reser effort and gave OSU new-found respect (even if it was short-lived.)

And I think if Riley did win a BCS bowl, the impact could be greater than it was in 2001 because while I am thankful for what DE did in his tenure at OSU, Riley seems to be more respected on the whole. So I think that would mean more donations, season ticket holders, etc.

Plus, Riley is as stand up as you can get, whether you are a fan or a reporter. He is what class is all about. Humble, accessible, and genuine.

But at this point, you have to wonder if Riley has accomplished all that he can at OSU. The program seems destined to be an 8-win-type of team under him. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s a far cry from the 70s, 80s, and most of the 90s. But sooner or later something needs to give. The Beavers MUST take that next step to remain competitive.

Whether it’s tweaks to the offense, coaching staff changes, or taking more chances in the recruiting game, the status quo is no longer good enough.

What do you think needs to happen for OSU to get to the next level? Do you agree that OSU is at a crossroads?

The Candy Report

I didn’t really think that I was going to be writing this. In reality, I thought OSU was going to lose. If I am being honest, they were struggling going into last week and while I hoped they could straighten things out, I was worried. I also knew that Washington had a lot more to lose going into this game, or at least their coaches did. So I figured it was going to be tough. Also, I was pretty sure that the linesman on the Husky sideline would be bribed.  (Which of course, turned out to be true.) *

I wasn’t ready for what i saw.

No, what I saw last Saturday reminded me of sitting in the relative emptiness of then Parker Stadium’s west side stands, decked out in my Crescent Valley letterman’s jacket while yelling at UW as they Napoleon Kauffman-ran all over us. Watching the crowd in section 13 last call one of the Husky scrubs “Rudy” because he kept turning back and taunting us.  Sure, I joined in, because it was fun and it was the only fun thing going on at that point in the game.

Yes, I was taken back to the Jerry Pettibone/Joe Avazzano eras of OSU football history and I was reminded of one thing:

Those eras sucked.

The positive fan in me saw a few platers step up. Brandin Cooks’ ability to make the first guy miss and to be the most explosive player on the field is amazing. Victor Bolden finally began to show that moving forward, not lateral, is the best way to return kicks, and made some key catches. Dylan Wynn never gives anything less than his very best every play. Football is a team sport and in every game, even horrible losses, there are good performances.

The player in me knew that sometimes, no matter what you do, a game or a season can get away from you. With every loss, where you did everything you could and still didn’t win, you open the door for apathy and despair to set in.  The “Here we go again” that builds up. Or some days you wake up and you just are not able to go at your full go. Just like a pitcher doesn’t always have their “A” stuff, a football player sometimes doesn’t have their “A” game. Or sometimes you go against a team that matches up so well against you, where every little kink in your armor is their strength, that there is nothing you can do. That team is just gong to win that week.

But the fan in me wants action. I have no control outside of whether I pay for a ticket or donate or not. I just want to make sure that the coaches and athletic department are doing everything they can to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. I don’t need a reminder of where we came from. I don’t need to see what 28 years of losing looked like again. And I honestly think that there are a heck of a lot of things that they can do right now to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. OSU is not untalented, or is their offense bad. The Beavers’ defensive schemes have merit when run well and they work really hard, and until last Saturday, never quit. In three years they never quit.  They had bad games, they had struggles and they had tribulations, but they never quit.

So what are those things they could do?  Many are up for debate, but here are three that I think would be good:

1. Get a quality control consultant. Get a third party coach, maybe someone that has played OSU before and is ‘between jobs, such as Dan Hawkins or Lane Kiffin, who can tell you what they would do to stop you and what your tells are. Just like in everyone’s job, having a performance review by someone that knows the business and has worked with you or against you, can be super helpful. It has to be someone you trust and someone that has the ear of the coaches.

Topics they can discuss?  Running no huddle. Getting plays in on time. Fakes that fool people.  Diversifying your run plays. That is just a few.

2. Every coach needs to be on the road recruiting and every coach has to have a quota of recruits they have to pull in a three year span.  Every coach is going to have a year that they strike out. It could be on the field performance or just the whims of 18 year-old boys choosing schools. Regardless, one bad year does not make a bad recruiter. But in a three-year span, you should be able to make a pretty big impact on at least two of those classes. Or one huge class and two OK ones.

If OSU is not winning the facilities battle or going to BCS games regularly, then they need to have coaches who are improving the team’s talent. They need all hands on deck and recruiting needs to be the highest priority. Depth is the biggest hindrance in OSU making the next step.  DJ Alexander is as good as any linebacker in the conference, but if he goes down, we cannot have one junior and a bunch of freshmen with virtually no experience on their hands left to step up. That is going to lead to bad games.  Or next year, when the offensive line will consist of players from only the  2012 and 2013 classes and no one else. If we cannot wow people with our swag and buildings — then we certainly cannot afford to have one or two members of our staff who are bringing in virtually no Pac-12-caliber talent.

3. Trim down the playbook.  More wrinkles, less actual plays. You could have three run plays (inside stretch, toss sweep and fly sweep) and then just run them in 10 different formations, with fakes going two directions and with different personnel. There is no reason we cannot run a fly sweep with Caleb Smith. He doesn’t look fast, but he is and even if he only gets 3 yards, you can use him as a trapping blocker or a decoy and those periodic 3 yard runs will be enough for them to not completely discount him as a runner.

If you can simplify the game for your line, for your runners, and for your tertiary blockers, you can win a lot of battles that the Beavers are losing right now.

Those are just three ideas off the top of my head, and they may not even be good ones. But when opposing coaches say your offense is easy to predict and when you have games like Saturday, where they can line up nine players within five yards of the line of scrimmage and stop everything, then you need to do something to confuse them or make them play reactionary football and not know exactly where you are going.

So lets find cures, and maybe do it this week. If OSU can turn around this week, there is a lot they can do and a lot they have at their disposal.  They just need to execute and have fun. It is, after all, just a game.

Halloween Spice Drop Award
This was easy. As I said before, Brandin Cooks is the best player on the field. He is fast (see the huge pass play that got called back) and has great moves (It was pretty easy to count the number of defenders that tackled him on his first move.  Zero.) and he always works hard. He fights and never quits, and then win or lose, represents his team well. If he is not your favorite Beaver player, you may need to go back and re-watch games and post game interviews.

Jujifruit Award of Most Improvement
This was also easy.  As much as Dylan Wynn is probably 1b for the Halloween Spice Drop Award, he is solid every week. But Victor Bolden turned in a performance that reminded me of Brandin Cooks during his freshman year.  Lots of young mistakes early, and then the last three games or so, he really started to establish himself. Bolden made huge strides in his kick returns and also ran some good routes. He is starting to be more precise and show his ability to catch and block. Here is to him making more big strides this week, and in the off-season.

Good N Plenty Award of Shame
I never give this to Beavers.  Ever. But I also never leave games early and rarely ever make negative comments online or even in person. But I did all that this last week and I have to give this award to Mike Riley. Not because he should go, or because I hate him, but because his job is to get his team in the best chance to win, to surround himself with the staff that gives the Beavers the best chance to win, and to manage the emotions of his team in order to get the most of them on game day. It was senior day. Players should have been on the verge of tears and bursting with emotion for this game. It was the last home game, the crowd was large, considering the Beavers came in on a three-game losing streak, and it ready to be loud.

But the team was not excited. The game plan was not inspired and OSU looked like it just wasn’t prepared. Losses happen and mistakes are made every game. I was mad after the Stanford loss, but I had a ton of respect for the effort and emotion the team showed. I thought the coaches had them dialed in to take on a great team. Against USC, they just looked tired from the short week and they never got on track. But they never stopped fighting and were in it at points of the game. The ASU game was riddled with mistakes, but also had some great plays. OSU was close in that one and a few mistakes cost them.  A fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown were the difference.

Against Washington, it was what happened on the sideline. The players are culpable for sure, but Mike is the head coach. He gets the “big bucks” and good or bad, it all lies at his feet. And this loss was not just a bad loss, it was unacceptable and can never happen again. It will, but it SHOULD never happen again. So Mike, you get a big sack of this crappy excuse for a candy.  And I am sure that is the least of your worries and only a fraction of how angry you are about the week before. Hopefully we can see that cornered dog come out and fight Friday, and not a repeat of what happened Saturday.

Go Beavers! Beat the ducks!

*There are many interpretations of the word true. In this case I am using the version that means ‘false’.

 

What a week to get going

Was at the game last night.  Lets be honest, that was probably the worst game I have ever seen at Reser/Parker.  It was worse than the Avazanno or Pettibone era’s because I didn’t have any expectations back then. You could see it early on in the demeanor of the sidelines that OSU wasn’t going to be the aggressor.

As I think about my own playing career, I had many nights like that. Nights where you go so be hind, did so many things wrong, that there was not relief but the final whistle. That was the kind of games that get coaches fired.

All of that aside, there is a game this week, a big one. It is against an opponent that also had probably their worst game in this decade.  Every player on that OSU team needs to get up today, brush off last night and prepare like this is their last game ever.  A win, and it may not be for the seniors, but a loss and it could be. The season doesn’t stop because you had a bad game, just like life doesn’t stop because you have a bad day.

Go Beavers, Beat the ducks and let this game go.  It will do you no good to think of it another minute longer, unless those thoughts inspire you to do better Friday.

Watching the ducks and Arizona…

A few quick thoughts on this:

1. This game is super important to recruiting, but not for the Beavers.  Arizona and the ducks are virtual clones of each other.  With Rich Rod being a hose-hold name (good or bad) and Helfritch being the new guy following a duck legend, this game is a good indicator of who is on the rise and who is not. Now recruiting is a wild and crazy myriad of gut feelings, pizzaz, fit and proximity to girlfriends future and past, but in terms of key positions like Quarterback and Running Back, if Arizona looks better than the ducks, maybe playing in the rain isn’t worth it.

2. Like all games like this, I enjoy seeing my hated rival do poorly, but I really don’t see anything that I can point at and say “OSU should do that” because Arizona is a completely different beast on offense. Defensively, I see a lot of similarities, and if OSU can do what Stanford and Arizona have done and that is stop the run, I think we will see OSU in a close game against the ducks.  The problem is neither of those teams are like OSU.  Had the ducks played USC and the Trojans had moved the ball all day on them, I would be more hopeful.  All this is showing me is that the ducks are tired, are mentally out of it a bit and I will take that.

As long as OSU can win today and not come into the Civil War the same way.

University of Washington vs. Oregon State University

UW vs. OSU at a Glance

Kickoff: 7:36 p.m., Reser Stadium, Corvallis

TV: ESPN2

Radio: Beaver Sports Radio Network

Records: OSU (6-4 overall, 4-3 Pac-12), UW (6-4, 3-4)

Last meeting: Washington upset the No. 7-ranked Beavers, 20-17, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. It was OSU’s first loss of the season.

Series: UW leads 59-34-4.

Other notes: OSU can clinch third place in the Pac-12 North Division with a win and a WSU loss to Utah.; Seventeen seniors will be playing their final home game for the Beavers on Saturday.; If junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks maintains his season average of 10 catches per game, he’ll move into third-place (110) all-time in Pac-12 history  for receptions in season. He’s on pace to break the record of 112 by Marquis Lee set last season.

In response to last Saturday.

It has been a while.  As the The Candy Report team sits down to discuss the events of this past week, and as we peruse the message boards and twitter feeds (we hate facebook) to see fans in various states of hara-kiri whilst hoping to lay a trail of fire, starting with firing some coaches, I am left with a few comments that I think are meaningful.

First,  losses suck.  Every loss ends with what if questions and every win ends with prognostication of potential greatness. Well, at least a reprieve from negativity and a call for those that dared be negative to come out and take their lashes.  In today’s world of instant gratification, solutions for perpetual problems flow like the Mississippi River after each game, and each one promises a quick turnaround.

People say that they just want to see innovation or an indication that the coaches are dedicated to excellence, or maybe one less full time special teams coach.  I have heard talk of getting modern with our offense to match all the other teams that are getting ‘modern’ with their offense.

This year has seen OSU lose four games, all of which were winnable games except for some major mistakes.  There have been at least two games they won that were toss ups.  So the 2013 OSU Beavers are close to being 10-0 and closer to being 4-6.  Yet they are 6-4.  They have competed with everyone, holding Stanford and ASU well under their normal production on offense and aside from some big mistakes, would have won both of those games.  But they also lost to Eastern Washington and pretty much laid an egg against a surprisingly surging USC team.

So when we look at changes, and we think of the future, there is something we need to understand:

Meaningful, Long Term change is slow.
Super slow by today’s standards.  You need to look no further than our very own Linebackers to see it.  OSU toyed with an uneven coaching staff for two years hoping to improve on recruiting.  The unfortunate side effect was a two year lack of dedicated linebacker recruiting.  So here we are in 2013 with a Senior, two Juniors and then a grip of freshmen.  The drop off in experience and game speed between the upper classmen and the new kids is vast, but not surprising.  So when you lose a guy like Doctor or Alexander, you have no one to step in with any experience.

Most of the issues defending the run versus USC had to do with young, inexperienced guys getting washed into the pile and leaving no one to cover the cutback lanes.  Experienced linebackers coming fromt he backside fill that lane.  Inexperienced linebackers try and meet the runner at the point of their attack, where everyone else is. Fix that, and USC doesn’t score 14 of its points.

Or look at Washington State, Arizona and Cal.  Each one of those teams changed directions and leadership in the last two years.  Of those three, only Washington State has continued to show improvement, while Arizona is still trying to establish its identity and Cal is taking a bunch of players we wanted to play for OSU and putting together the worst season in the Pac-12 this year.  Washington State could make a jump next year, but the rest of those teams will probably need two more years at least to turn the corner into being a nine+ win team.  Oregon State making a big change to their philosophy, while probably not the same level of work that WSU had, would still potentially mean a year or two step backwards before OSU would even be back to where they are today.

Mistakes, not always scheme ruin the day
OSU is killing itself right now and that is what needs to be fixed. It doesn’t need a mobile QB, because guys are open and the plays are there.  They don’t need to run the read option because guys are open and the plays are there.  What is keeping OSU from winning these close games is sloppiness. I don’t mean that the players are not working hard or that there is not a huge emphasis on precision in routes and plays, but there seems to be just some simple mistakes that are made all the time. This guy out of position, that guy cuts a route short, the other guy lines up in the backfield when they should be on the line.

Everyone makes mistakes, and teams are not perfect.  The thing is, when games are close, which all of OSU’s losses have been, the team that makes the most mistakes loses.  The players don’t need to be reminded of those, they need to forget. Fans need to learn some of that forgetfulness. In our weekly hunt to find the cure for a loss, or the reason for a win, or what we can do to beat the ducks, we forget the basic reality that one play here or a play there and the Beavers are playing for the Rose Bowl the next two weeks.  We can but heads together to find a way that our Beavers can be like those damn ducks, but to be honest, it is just mistakes right now.  The talent gap is short, and while the Beavers’ depth is not quite there, it is getting closer, and the players are close and it takes one or two things going Oregon State’s way from being a special season.

Special seasons are not about complete domination.  Though that is fun.  Special seasons are brought about by teams making fewer mistakes than their opponents, by a certain amount of luck and by them showing up to work every day knowing they can win and that every opponent is going to take all they have to beat.  Even if their name is Eastern Washington or Colorado.

Four weeks ago, the ducks were going to play for the National Championship and the common thought was that it went Oregon and then everone else.  Three weeks ago just getting past Stanford was going to be tough, but then there was a break when USC came to town.  Now we realize that OSU has narrowly lost to the best teams in the conference.  And all of it, because a guy or two got dinged or had a bad day.  And as fans, we want solutions because if we lose, everything cannot be right.  But the difference between winning and losing  is most of the time a heck of a lot closer than we think.

Watch for my next post, On The Topic Of Recruiting

Washington vs Oregon State Preview (Peter’s Notes)

WHY OSU WINS: OSU Defense.  While not overly lauded, OSU’s defense has come up big against the last three up-tempo offenses they have played.  While it is true they gave up rushing  yards to Stanford, USC and ASU, they were able to shut down ASU’s Kelly and Stanford’s Hogan to well below their season averages.  In fact, they held ASU to over 100 yards less than their average in Sun Devil stadium.   With the QB Cyler Miles getting his first start and with this being a late road game, OSU’s defense might just have enough to come up big in a must win game.

WHY OSU WINS: Dylan Wynn.  As said before, the OSU defense has done a good job in the last four weeks (save the USC game) and a big reason for that is Wynn.  His disciplined yet ferocious brand of football has him stopping opposing offensive lines from doing what they want and has freed up other linemen like Mana Rosa and Scott Crichton to clean up the rest. The UW offensive line is improved but not on par with Stanford’s or USC’s so look for Wynn and the defensive line to be able to get penetration and disrupt UW’s plans.

WHY OSU WINS:  Brandin Cooks.  OSU has possibly the best weapon in the conference in Cooks.  Whether it is running, screens or out in routes, Brandin Cooks is the playmaker on this team.  If OSU struggles early to do what they want on offense, look for them to just start finding ways to feed Cooks the ball.  The coaches just have to want to do it, which should be a simple premise.  Fly sweeps, WR screens, bubble screens and crossing routes are all weapons OSU needs to use.

WHY OSU WINS:  Reser Stadium.  In the last four years, OSU has pulled it out at home.  And by pulled it out, I mean beat the stink out of UW.  While ever year is different, OSU has seemed to find a way to get to UW in the comfortable confines of Corvallis, OR.  Road games against the Huskies have been close and home games have been blow outs.  I don’t expect a blow out, but I do expect OSU to get a great boost from the home crowd and since they are used to late games, it will be a good chance to come out and try and start fast and keep the crowd engaged.

WHY OSU WINS: The last three weeks. I am not a huge fan of the term must win games.  If your goals are high, they are all must wins and none of the losses are acceptable.  Mike Riley will be back next year regardless of the outcome of this game, but that should be irrelevant.  This is the game where OSU decides who they are. Are they the team that gives up the ball and hands games to their opponents or are they the team that plays four quarters and brings their best snap to whistle.  They should be motivated after experiencing hear break against Stanford and ASU.  They are all must win games, and this one is no different.  But OSU has been able to play far less than their best and stay close to the top teams of the conference. It is now time for them to bring their A game.

Three Things to Watch For:

Sean Mannion: Sean is putting together the best season in OSU history.  That is a fact.  This is the game where he avoids the inevitable “but…” after that.  Sean has thrown for twice as many interceptions the last two weeks than he had the previous eight.  He also has taken a ton of hits.  The second half of last week against ASU was more like the Sean we saw weeks 1-8. A guy that is confident and accurate.  That Sean needs to come back and make an appearance.  I am betting this game has been circled on his calendar since last year’s close loss in CLink, so I look for Sean to bounce back this week and re-establish himself as the nation’s leading passer.

Mike Riley: Mike is a premium coach.  Regardless of the issues that Beaver fans may be upset about, Mike is respected because he knows how to call plays to achieve his current goal and to set up future goals.  Mike Riley has coached OSU to close games, even when his team is not sharp and making mistakes. OSU lost to Stanford by 8 in a game where they gave up 8 sacks, countless hurries and fumbled on the second half kickoff.  What Mike needs to do is get the team to look past their mistakes and take care of their assignments.  In the last decade, Mike has rarely had an even field in terms of talent and depth, yet he continues to win more than he loses.  The same cannot be said in Washington.  This is Mike’s time to shine, to take the mistakes of the last few weeks and hone in on this game.

The Trenches: OSU has played very talented defensive teams the last few weeks. The jump in talent during the Stanford game seemed to fluster the unit that was giving up a measly 1 sack per 45 throws heading into the game.  Against USC they saw some of the same issues against a defensive front riddle with four and five star players coming out of high school.  But it was getting better.  Against ASU, they allowed one sack and a few QB hurries against a very stout and aggressive defensive front that brought pressure almost every down.  This week, OSU takes on Washington who has talent up front, but not more than Stanford or ASU.  If the line continues to improve and give Sean time,  this could be the chance for OSU to show that their offense is not just a patsy killer, but a legit threat against good teams. It all starts up front, and this line, tight end group and running back squad is talented enough to deliver.