Who can forget those classic shirts that read the good (Beavers, duh), the bad (Huskies), and the ugly (Ducks, super DUH)? In honor of those awesome (and so true) shirts, we are going to recap the 2013 OSU football season “GBU style!”
Rewriting The Records Book: Sean Mannion started the season on tear, and despite a rough end to the Pac-12 season, set the Pac-12 record for passing yards (4,662) in a season. He threw a school-record 37 TDs. His favorite target, Brandin Cooks, put up video game numbers to break Pac-12 records for catches (128) and yards (1,730) in a season, plus 16 TDs — en route to winning the Biletnikoff Award. The duo carried the Beavers offense and managed to put up great numbers, without a running game most of the season.
Six-game Winning Streak: After the Beavers’ stunning 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington to open the season, they responded by winning their next six games. Along the way, they earned a thrilling 51-48 OT victory at Utah and narrow 34-30 win at San Diego State, as well blowout victories against Colorado and Cal. The team showed great resolve during the streak, which set the stage for an epic Friday night game against Stanford at Reser Stadium. More importantly, it ensured the Beavers of bowl eligibility before they entered the brutal part of the schedule.
Young Offensive Line Delivers: The heart and soul of every offense is the five men up front. When one goes down, you are forced to bring in someone that has not worked with the other four as often, and the instinctual bond that was developed in the spring and fall is disrupted. OSU lost four linemen before the fourth game of the season and was forced to dive deep into its pool of freshmen and throw them into the fire. Those players, Josh Mitchell, Grant Bays, and Sean Harlow (as well as redshirt junior Roman Sapolu) filled in and did amazing. In Harlow’s case, the true freshman took over the position for good. This has to be a sigh of relief for Beaver nation knowing that they are replacing three very good players in 2014.
Bowl Game Win: You cannot overlook the morale and motivational impact a solid bowl win does for any program. Oregon State not only displayed no ‘quit’ after a disappointing stretch of the season, but the Beavers showed proved to be more like the team we hoped they would. The Beavers had not gone out a winner since the Sun Bowl in 2008 and in most cases, ended the season on an extremely disappointing note. This year, they sent their seniors out a winner and provided a lot of young guys like Gavin Andrews, who are going to have step up next year, some great game experience. Bowl wins are great for the team, great for recruiting, and a fantastic way to start the offseason. Avenging some previous bad losses to Boise State didn’t hurt either.
Whose No. 2?: What made Bradin Cooks’ performance in 2013 even more impressive was the fact that nobody emerged as a No. 2 wide receiver for the Beavers, which became a glaring weakness after Kevin Cummings injured his wrist in the Stanford game. Richard Mullaney, who showed promise earlier in the season, struggled with injuries and consistency, while Victor Bolden wasn’t much of a factor (though he did OK on fly sweep plays). As a result, opposing teams double- and even triple-teamed Cooks. A lack of other reliable WR targets also put a lot of pressure on Mannion, who at times locked in on Cooks.
Safety Struggles: A year older and another season season under their belts was supposed to mean a big season for safeties Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman. In fact, many in Beaver Nation expected the safety position to be a strength for the Beavers in 2013. While Murphy and Zimmerman had their moments and made some key interceptions and tackles, they were inconsistent in coverage and wrapping up. But the good news is they should be better in 2014 and be able to go out with bang their senior year. Both are outstanding athletes and Murphy has shown strong leadership abilities, so there’s plenty of reason for optimism.
Lack of a Return Game: Many in Beaver nation still remember James Rodgers responding to a Jahvid Best kick return by taking the ensuing kickoff to ‘the house.’ It turned the tide of that game in favor of the Beavers and they never gave it up. The same thing happened with Sammie Stroughter getting a huge punt return against the Trojans in 2006. OSU has a history of great returns dating back to Dwayne Owens, So the last two years of the new kicking rules era have been tough on Beaver nation. No return lanes and turnovers were costly for the Beavers this year, and something that you would hope a dedicated special teams coach would help avoid. Mistakes happen, but a two-year downturn of special teams play has been a tough pill for many in Beaver Nation to swallow.
Crank it like a Chainsaw: I admit that I lied the video. I liked the promotion and I liked that it got so many hits that it was easily the most popular video released from Oregon State ever. Sure, plenty of people made fun of it, but any publicity is good publicity, right? Well, not when you drop your first game to an FCS opponent. The song/video became less exciting as the season went on, and you don’t realize how long it is until you are listening to it between the agonizing third and fourth quarters of the Washington game. Great marketing idea, but the follow through, due to reasons that have nothing to do with the video, make it more akin to Robo Duck than a new tradition that Beaver Nation will embrace. Chainsaw good. Crank It Like A Chainsaw, not so much.
We don’t need no stinking run game!: Many offenses can be effective just passing. A mere glance at the wasteland just to the north east of us reveals a land-locked pirate tossing the ball around without a thought to running backs and their feelings. Yet, even they succumbed to the lack of running game gremlins in their bowl game (COUG’ED IT). The OSU offense is not built to use passes as runs outside of screens and, well, screens. Many point to the turmoil on the offensive line, injuries to running backs, and a lack of dedication to running, but there are other issues. OSU rarely ran outside the tackles except on fly sweeps. OSU rarely used fly sweep motion unless it were running it. In fact, fly sweep motion is like any other motion. You can use it to motion into the formations you want, while forcing the defense to cover it. So you could run it all the time and keep teams guessing. The point is that running the ball takes commitment from the coaches, not just execution from the players. And if you are going to win the Pac 12, you need to be able to run.
Not Again!: To say the 2013 season got off to a bad start is an understatement. For the second time under Mike Riley, the Beavers lost to an FCS-level school at home — this time 49-46 to Eastern Washington. The loss put a damper on the season that Beaver Nation never fully recovered from, even during the team’s six-game winning streak. The loss brought back memories of OSU’s loss to Sacramento State in 2011, renewed calls for Mark Banker’s job, and ultimately would play a factor in OSU’s bowl picture.
Five-game Losing Streak: Just as quickly as they won six games in a row, the Beavers saw their season derailed by a five-game losing streak to end the regular season. After hard-fought 20-12 loss to Stanford at home, the Beavers went into a tailspin, due to injuries and brutal schedule. In addition to the Cardinal, OSU went on to lose to USC, ASU, UW, and Oregon — putting its bowl hopes in jeopardy. The worst of the five losses was a 69-27 drubbing at Reser Stadium, courtesy of the Huskies, which was arguably the worst loss in program history.
1985 Retro Sucks: Sitting in amazing seats on the 50 yard line, compliments of a great Beaver grad who couldn’t use them, I was able to view something I had not seen, nor missed, since the 80s and 90s: the washington game.* When the fans are taunting a backup who happens to look at the crowd a lot, because there is nothing else to cheer about, you are in a bad spot. When I re-watched the game, it was not a lack of effort or heart. It was little things going wrong every play. A missed block, pursuing the wrong player on a hand off, a defensive back falling down, a dropped pass, and all the sudden you are looking at a blow out. The more the Beaver players and coaches pressed to make plays the worse they played. It was a game that will not go down easy in the minds of Beaver Nation, neither the players and coaches. I prefer the flashbacks that harken to a Rose Bowl season or a huge Giant Killer effort, not one that makes me think Avazanno is still on the sideline.
What do you think? Do you agree with our Good, Bad, and Ugly selections for the 2013 season?
* the 2013 uw game should never be capitalized. Capitalizing the word ‘washington’ in relation to the huskies is also suspect.