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’.