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?

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