There is something magical about the Civil War. Not just the fact that its place in history nearly rivals its namesake, but also that it is the one week out of the year that every Beaver fan’s “Perfect Week” boils down to one game, rather than having to rely on some crappy other team to beat the ducks, and OSU to win against their inspired opponent of the week.
As you can tell, I am an incredibly loving and objective fan.
Unfortunately, the 2013 Civil War had me anticipating a rough ride. Sitting in my employer’s, (CBT Nuggets) suite (shameless plug), I figured that the game would be highlighted by free soda and tasty ribs.
As usual, the sporting gods had a different plan. Whenever I get negative, positive happens, and whenever I get positive, negative happens. So to be sure, we should all hope that I become a skeptical sad sack. For that season, OSU will rise from the ashes and take the Rose Bowl crown like a fiery phoenix giving me the symbolic (and slightly ironic) “bird”.
So imagine my surprise when, down by 14, OSU came back and pretty much dominated the rest of the game. Unfortunately, two of those 14 points proved to be too costly, but the game was exciting and had the feeling of Oregon State setting the stage for a new Civil War tradition:
Winning the game.
OSU played so well, they took a late 35 – 30 lead, despite numerous costly mistakes. I don’t like call out players so I won’t, but they know what happened. And so do you. To make that many mistakes and only lose by 1 means a few things:
1. The Talent Gap is Narrow
Say what you want about Oregon State’s talent, recruiting or injuries to their opponents. It either takes exceptional coaching to compete with a team that is far more talented than you or you have comparable talent. Mike Riley has had the title of “Doing more with less,” but at the same time, there has been a lot of trends at Oregon State that need addressing from a coaching standpoint. What has quantifiably (not a word) improved has been the recruiting. Recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint, so the changes are incremental, but the results are there. Even in lean years like 2010 and 2011, there is some NFL talent from those classes on the field in the orange and copper and black and more orange. Scott Crichton, Brandin Cooks, Dylan Wynn, Sean Mannion, Connor Hamlett, DJ Alexander, and Ryan Murphy just to name a few. Those are talented and committed individuals that came to OSU at a time when they were really trying to address their depth and recruiting needs.
During the time they were recruited, OSU brought in two young recruiting-centric coaches in Chris Brasfield and Brent Brennan, ramped up the duties of the Ryan Gunderson as recruiting coordinator, and moved Jay Locey to hire Trent Bray full time. For the first time in four years, OSU has a balanced staff (for the most part) hitting the road on the recruiting trail. We are on the cusp of seeing what those results will be like, but Friday Night, we saw that what OSU has is pretty close to what the ducks have in terms of team talent and ability.
There is no doubt that Brandin Cooks is one of the best offensive players in the nation this year. There is no doubt that OSU has some playmakers on defense and there is no doubt that those two teams are closer now than they have been in the past.
2. Next Year Feels Better
Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot that did not go the Beavers way. I feel (and will talk about this more later) that there is a lot of changes that need to happen to get OSU into the driver’s seat in the North. Most importantly, so much credibility that Mike Riley and his staff had built up was dashed on Senior night when the Beavers went 28 years of losing retro and lost a horrible game to UW. This season started out on a terrible note and then imploded. Most Beaver fans were just hoping that the ducks didn’t put 50 on us and were calling for backups to come in and play because the starters were obviously not getting it done.
Fans are silly, but I cannot argue with the frustration.
So what OSU did on Friday, though not enough to end the most horrid streak known to man (Six straight CW losses. Not even Pettibone did that . . . though he wasn’t here for six years), was restore hope that OSU has something in the tank, that next year could be a good season, that when they get it together they can play with the big boys, and most of all, our coaches do know something about football.
Depending on who Washington brings in as their new coach, the North may have gotten easier with Sark (and more importantly Wilcox) leaving for USC. So with Stanford clearly being the cream of the crop, the ducks looking like they may be slipping a bit, and WSU looking like they might jump up in the pecking order sooner rather than later, where does OSU fit in? What do we as fans have to be excited about? Well, actually, quite a bit. There is still a lot of work, but every year we go along, as long as recruiting continues to improve, OSU is drawing from a better and better pool of athletes. Many freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores got a lot of great reps this year. Michael Doctor is coming back and most of the starters on offense will be on the field again next year.
The key will be what Mike Riley and his staff do this offseason to improve their stock. We rail on Riley for his loyalty being a downfall of the team, but we forget that every year since 2010, he has made a move to some degree that changes the team. The loss of Keith Heyward Johnson brought about the Rod Perry era. Kyle DeVan is in at GA for tight ends, Jay Locey was moved to make room for Trent Bray. What will this offseason bring? If Mike makes another staff move, that could be the difference between ticket sales going up or going down. But the players, the men taking the field every week, they showed that they can bounce back and they can compete. I fully expect them to bounce back this offseason and come out swinging next year.
But to be honest, I feel that way every year.
THE HALLOWEEN SPICE DROP AWARD OF AWESOME:
There are a lot of people that deserve this award to be honest. Mannion turned the game around, made some great throws and did just about everything he could to put OSU in a position to win. Brandin Cooks had some huge plays and some huge near misses. Scott Crichton was everywhere on the field, and Rashad Reynolds dominated just about every play.
But this award needs to go to someone that has long been in the shadows and really has proven that he is the man. Coming out of DeLaSalle High School, he had a ton of accolades and no offers. He is small in stature but enormous in heart and biceps. Terron Ward has done everything he has been asked, even to sit back and be the second option at half back. He has blocked like a demon, caught screen passes for huge gains, played at fullback when needed, and ran into brick wall after brick wall all season long, just looking for a seam.
This weekend he found it — leading all rushers in the game with 145 yards, an 8.3 average per carry, 21 yards through the air including a great touchdown reception, and highlight reel block after block. Terron has done everything he was asked to do and done it to the best of his ability. Even on special teams he makes plays or at least is the next player there. My only hope for the Junior running back is that while UCLA is not on their schedule next year, he still finds a way to run around the field in Pasadena.
I think we all would be happy about that!
THE JUJIFRUIT AWARD OF GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME:
I think this award has a clear winner this week. Though he had a bad false start or two, Sean Harlow has been getting better and better each week. I will be honest that the lineman I was most excited about this year was Gavin Andrews. I really thought his huge body would give OSU a big boost in the running game. But watching Harlow progress week after week has showed me two things:
1. I need to pay attention more when I am at practices and:
2. If Sean gets stronger and heavier this offseason, he will dominate next year. He is the most physical lineman we have had since Jeremy Perry and he has zero quit in him. As he gets more familiar with the scheme and spends more time at the training table and with Coach Miller, we are probably going to see one, if not the best, lineman to go through OSU. As much as I love Isaac Seumalo and the other members of the 2012 class, Harlow could be the best of the bunch. Sean is one of the main reasons I think that next year could be a much better season for OSU than we experienced this year.
Great work Sean, you inspire me to be better at what I do.
THE GOOD N PLENTY AWARD OF SHAME:
This was a tough one this year. The refs were not particularly bad, and the ducks didn’t do anything excessively egregious. So who really sucked for the sport of football this week? Who did more damage than anyone in the nation?
This week was a week of excitement, amazing finishes, unexpected results, and everything I love about college football. Even with the Beavers losing, the fan of college football, of its interesting offenses and amazing fan bases, of its pomp, circumstances and superior overtime to the NFL there was so much good this weekend that it left me no choice but to award the shameful award to . . .
The end of the college football season. Why the crap do you have to end? Now I am left with a few conference championship games, a fun bowl season that will be a bittersweet reminder of the impending end of the season and the time in sports where I have nothing to look forward to but baseball and free Saturday afternoons. This season felt like it was over as soon as it started. It is the last BCS season and what a season it was. Football is fun at its core, and this year was fun times 10. Sure, the Beavers season was not at all what I wanted, but college football as a whole was. And now it is basically done. Less and less games, less and less at stake and more and more annoying predictions until next season.
So boo college football for being so great that your end makes me so sad. My only hope is that just like Oregon State opened the BCS era with a splash, that they will open the playoff era with a similar splash.
Go Beavers! Boo season ending.