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