Monthly Archives: April 2014

Great news for Beaver Track and Field

As some of you may know, I was a thrower for Kelly Sullivan when he was at Willamette University.  I was not very good at it, but I learned a ton from Kelly and really respect him as a coach and person.  I was exceedingly happy to have him become the Cross Country/Track coach at Oregon State and have loved to see the evolution of the track program under his watch.  The new track is a beautiful introduction to Oregon State University athletics for those coming to visit the town.

Yesterday, I read this article on OSUBeavers.com and wanted to pass it on for anyone that missed it.  Andre Auskaps, a Beaver alumnus from the class of 1974 donated over $200,000 to the Oregon State Track & Field program to help them build new facilities. What makes this gift special is that it was given because of the great experiences Auskaps had volunteering with the team.  The interactions he had with the staff, participants and other volunteers moved him to make the donation.

We all secretly want some huge donor to come and drop $100 million on the football program or the Men’s Basketball program because we want to keep up with the trends around the conference, and honestly, want to try and help some of the short comings we see in those program’s ability to compete at a championship level.  I found this story refreshing because the gift was not based on success, but on such an overwhelmingly positive experience with the program that he felt compelled to help out.

I want big things for our programs, but I think the one thing I want is for people to experience the programs and see what is going on.  Going to practices is great, but all I have to go on is what I see.  As some have pointed  out, that is sketchy at best, but when you get a chance to experience the whole of a program, to see the interactions with coaches and players, to see the camaraderie and witness the attitude of the program, if it is positive, you get a much stronger relation to it that goes beyond wins and losses.

I have found my opinions of people and coaches do a 180 degree shift when I get a chance to talk to them and hear their responses in context.  I have seen my worries about Bob DeCarolis soften when talking to him and hearing the reasons for why they do what they do, or in many cases, don’t do what you want them to.  I have learned a lot about Mark Banker by my interactions with him and understanding of what he wants to do in the grand scheme of things.  i cannot ignore results and pretend everything is great when there are clearly issues, but I find that the more I get involved with a program and see how it runs, the more I can see the motivation for what they are doing and decide if that is something I support or something I don’t.

In the case of Andre Auskaps, he found that Track & Field was something he could overwhelmingly support. Which makes me more than excited about the program and its future.

Texas Ho!

Over the last few years, Oregon State has had a lot of success recruiting out of the state of Texas.  Much to the chagrin of Texas State, the Beavers have found a way to pluck the best of the rest from a talent rich state.  While the above statement might sound like OSU is getting the cast offs of the Texas area, the reality is that the names we get were more overlooked than underwhelming.

In 2009, Oregon State had two players from the Lone Star State, James and Jaquizz Rodgers.  You might recognize those two names, but if you need help, just look at the conference and Oregon State record books and you will see their names all over them.  These were not the least of the state, but merely players that were overlooked in a state filled with Division I prospects.

Now, just five years later, there are six players from Texas on the team and most of them either starting or on track to start in the near future. Storm Woods, Jabral Johnson, Damien Haskins, Will Hopkins, Kendall Hill and Hunter Jarmon are all players who will be contributing either this year or next. Then if you look just outside of Texas and expand that reach to Louisiana and Oklahoma, you will find four more players that are going to be in the two deep this year. From Oklahoma you have Michael Doctor and Zach Robinson, while from Louisiana are  Darrell Songy and Cyrill Noland Lewis.

So that is ten players from one recruiting area that are almost all going to be on the two deep this year.  They will all contribute on special teams at least and the trend will most likely continue.  Currently OSU has 21 offers to players from Texas and six more from Oklahoma and Louisiana.  One of which, Tyrin Ferguson, is from Louisiana.

As recruiting changes and the ability to communicate easily with coaches, players and families gets easier and easier, more of the map is open to Oregon State.  So far they have done a great job building relationships and making the most of their bowl games and trips to the great state of Texas.

Oh, and did I mention that I was born there?

What could have happened? 1985

“Well, we really think Dave Kragthorpe is going to be the future of this program.”

“I understand that, but if you value my opinion on football, you will give that kid from Idaho the shot.  Erickson is a rising star.”

“All right Dee, we will go with your selection, but this is all on you.”

In the Winter of 1985, Dennis Erickson was named head coach of the Oregon State Beavers football team.  There was a lot of head scratching at the Big O and Squirrels about the hire of a 35 year old from Idaho, but the Avazanno era had been so bad, many fans in Corvallis just wanted to see a winner at Parker.  It had been a long time.

The first thing Dennis did was hit the road recruiting. “We have hard workers, but we are going to need more speed on defense to compete and whole different attitude.”  Coach Erickson brought in friend Craig Bray to coach the defense and Bray responded by hitting the JC’s hard for defensive linemen and secondary players that could compete.  Prior to the first week of spring ball, Erickson challenged his players saying “I will never get on you for going too hard or playing too tough.”

In the fall camp, Erickson singled out young Erik Wilhelm to be hist starter and had him work tirelessly with standout wide receiver Reggie Bynum.  They also brought in some tough and big offensive linemen from a few California junior colleges to help block. The result was a season opening domination of Erickson’s former Vandals to the tune of 63 -12.  Wilhelm had four passes of over 50 yards, two to Bynum and one to freshmen stand out Robb Thomas.

The following week, they took their talents to Portland to face California.  The revamped Beavers beat the Golden Bears 46 – 20 as Wilhelm passed for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns and the Beavers recorded a dramatic safety at the end of the fourth quarter.   The momentum was palatable, and Corvallis was a buzz at the new high flying offense and stingy defense that Erickson brought to Corvallis.  A 30 point home win over Fresno state gave the Beavers their first three game win streak in over a decade with a tough trip to Grambling State the following week. The Beavers got caught up in the sites of New Orleans a bit and had to send a few players home.  The result was a less than impressive 23-3 loss.  Wilhelm fell back to earth with just 112 yards passing and the running game went for 44 yard total.

Much of Corvallis had a wash of the “Here We Go Again’s”  which were quickly squelched by a miraculous road victory against the might USC Trojans as the Beavers recorded 7 interceptions and beat them 23-21 in what many were calling the Return of the Giant Killers. Unfortunately the 4-1 Beavers had four of their offensive linemen suspended for one game for fighting outside of The Beaver Hut, which led to a less than impressive 34 – 15 loss to WSU.   After starting out hot, Wilhelm was now averaging just under 200 yards per game.  With the mighty Washington Huskies on the horizon, it didn’t look like any relief in site.

Fortunately for the Beaver faithful, the Giant Killers part Deux era was in full effect as the words of Wikipedia best explain it:

“With 1:29 remaining in the game, Washington was forced to punt from right outside their own end zone. Oregon State’s Andre Todd rushed the punter and managed to block the punt, sending the ball flying into Washington’s end zone, nearly causing a safety. However, the bounce went Oregon State’s way and ended up staying in the end zone, allowing the Beavers to recover it resulting in the touchdown. The extra point was good, giving the Beavers a 21-20 lead, which would prove to be enough for the win, resulting in the biggest overcome point spread in college football history.”

The Beavers were back on track and at 5-2, they had a great shot at being bowl eligible.  A rough trip to Arizona left the Beavers at 5-3, but a game against Stanford in Parker could be their last legitimate shot at that sixth win. The Beavers come out ready to play and Wilhelm puts on an aerial show that had a few national journalists asking if he should go to New York for the Heisman.  644 yards and 6 touchdowns later, Wilhelm led the Beavers to their first Bowl Eligible record in over 14 years. Coach Erickson was found celebrating throughout town as the newest Celebrity in Corvallis was greeted with with Cheers like chants of “Dennis!”.

Of course with another trip to Los Angeles to take on the 13th ranked Bruins of UCLA on the horizon, the celebrations came to an end as the Bruins beat the Beavers 41 -24.  At 6-4, the Beavers needed a big win in Eugene to secure a bowl slot.  The pressure was on and practices were filled with skirmishes and pent up aggression towards their cross state rivals.

Riding a wave of emotion, the Beavers stormed the ducks jumping out to a quick 21 – 0 lead on two blocked punts and a 70 yard TD reception by Bynum.  A huge fight broke out on the field in the second quarter and stadium security was required to separate players and coaches.  Rich Brooks called it a travesty and wanted the OSU players kicked out, while Coach Erickson smiled and said “Relax Rich, I just didn’t know your players were bad at fighting too…”

After a few ejections and order was brought back to the game, the Beavers continued their march to victory scoring touchdowns on each of their next seven drives.  They scored so many points that the Benny The Beaver mascot who was asked to do pushups for each point was forced to go on an IV because of exhaustion. Duck announcer and superfan Jerry Allen was so disgusted by the points being scored and his job of actually announcing them over the air, that he quit at the end of the third quarter, leaving just dead air for the whole fourth quarter.

Outside of Autzen stadium, fleets of fire trucks were sent to the grounds to put out dumpster fires started by duck fans burning their ‘lucky’ shirts, hats, sweatshirts and parachute pants. In Corvallis, DaVinci days changed their name to Dennispalooza, which was visited by a young Perry Farrell.

The Beavers went on to win five or more games over the next five seasons before Erickson was wooed away by a job at the University of Miami.  Wanting a change in culture, AD Dutch Bauchman wanted to bring in a strong disciplinarian to run  a program that had a reputation for unruly behavior on and off the field. So he hired successful Texas State coach Jerry Pettibone to bring a powerful rushing offense to a team that had made a living through the air.

Corvallis Police were sent in droves to The Big O to put out dumpster fires started as Beaver fans began burning their gear…

What could have happened? 1996

September 6, 1996, Oregon State Beavers coach Jerry Pettibone tells a hand full of local reporters to watch out for what Oregon State will do this year.  Many in Beaver nation just shrugged it off and figured it was coach speak because few coaches start off with “Well, we are going to really suck this year.  Bad.”

Saturday morning, after an inspired speach by defensive coordinator Rocky Long, the Beavers take the field against Division II Montana for the first few snaps of a historic season.  Rushing for 333 yards and 5 touchdowns against an over-matched Grizzlies, Oregon State jumped out to a 21 – 0 lead before half time.  The second team played the whole second half yet the Beavers still only gave up 118 yards and 10 points en route to a 35 – 10 victory.

After falling to USC (55 – 24) in LA, the Beavers get a rare road wina against Baylor (21 – 17) and California (28- 21).  After 27 years of losing, the Beavers started 3-1 as they take the field in a rare, packed Reser Stadium to face Northwest Rivals Washington State.  Jumping out to a 28 – 14 lead, the Beavers give up a few quick TD’s on turnovers and end up losing 33 – 28.  3-2 is rough, but much better than what many Beaver fans expected.  Pettibone would be heard saying “People better come to play against the Beavers this year. We are not just going to lay down.”

To prove it, Pettibone’s Beavers come out and delight 33,436 fans at Parker Stadium with a decisive 26-12 win over the Cardinal of Stanford.   A trip to nationally ranked Arizona proves to be a tough task for the surprising 4-2 Beavers as they fall 33 – 28 in the desert.  Hoping the the return to friendly Corvallis would prove to be a panacea to their loss in Tucson, Oregon State tries to improve to 5-3 against the Sun Devils.  A rocky start sees OSU down 21-10, but after an emotional speech at half time from former coach Dee Andros, the Beavers come out and narrowly defeat the Devils 35 – 29.

Being one win away from bowl eligibility for the first time in thirty years, Pettibone’s hope to reach that milestone in Seattle against the hated Huskies.  The trip turns out to be too much of a task for Oregon State as they fall to UW 42-28.  This means that the Beavers have two games to reach .500 or greater and go to a bowl game, thus ending their record setting losing streak. Fortunately for the Beavs, they had Northern Illinois coming all the way to Corvallis.  a 67 -10 whupping in front of a standing room only Parker Stadium saw Coach Pettibone storming the field in jubilation as the stands emptied and the streak was over.  Even at 6-6, the season would be a non-losing season and break the streak.

But no one at Oregon State was satisfied just not losing, and with bitter rival the oregon ducks on the horizon, a 7-5 season would be more than anyone in Corvallis could ever have hoped for.  The Beavers came ready to play in Autzen on that brisk November morning.   Jumping out to a quick 45 point lead in the first quarter due to several exciting interceptions thrown by the ducks, the Beavers went on to set a Division I record for most points scored in a game with 127 to the ducks 0.  The defeat was so bad, that the NCAA ruled it was worth three wins and thus rescinded the previous two duck victories. The fans at Autzen were so mad they could be heard rapping “I hate my ducks” in the stands while tearing their seats out of the ground and throwing them on the field.

The University of Oregon decided after that loss to end their football program and instead focus on lacrosse and competitive cheer. President Dave Frohnmeyer said later “The University of Oregon wants to focus on being an education first institution, focusing on long standing programs that have a bright future in the new millennium like Journalism, Banking and Sociology.”

Jerry Pettibone was signed to a 12 year contract after a narrow Liberty Bowl loss to UNLV but never reached the glory found on that magical 1996 season and was fired after the 2003 season.  Fortunately, new head coach Mike Riley, fresh off of a stint as USC’s associate head coach seems to show promise.  Hopefully we will against see the seats of Parker Stadium filled with riotous fans again some day…

How do the Beavers stack up with their peers historically?

I am a big fan of frequent BeaverBlitz.com and Pure-Orange poster OSUProf.  He has a great blog that I have pointed at in the past, but he also has a great table that details Oregon State’s record against other Pac-12 teams historically and how many wins they need to tie or lead the historical series. You can find this post here, and I recommend everyone checking it out, Very interesting information if you are a stats nerd like me!

Baseball Galleries

Check out our Galleries section to see the latest baseball photos from Dave McLean (Eugene Dave).  You will be able to see more on BeaverBlitz.com soon.

Great work Dave and Go Beavers!  Beat the ducks!

GALLERY 01
GALLERY 02
GALLERY 03

Crow-Eating Time!

If you followed my short-lived blog while I was a sports writer at the Gazette-Times, you know that I often was taken to task for my outlandish but well-intentioned predictions, forecasts, whatever you want to call them. As a result, I also ate a lot of crow.

So in keeping with tradition, I am here to eat another heaping plate of the stuff (It’s an acquired taste and believe me after while doesn’t taste too bad.)

It’s early and it’s just spring ball, but I totally admit I was wrong about new offensive coordinator John Garret.

Initially, I wasn’t too thrilled with his hiring. To me, he appeared to be a status quo hire. And I’ll admit, I was hoping for someone maybe a little more “hip” and established on the recruiting trail.

But Garrett appears to be just what the Beavers needed: a fresh and energetic breath of air. I love hearing and reading about his enthusiasm, attention to detail, and his ability to teach. Most importantly, I like that there’s a sense of urgency in  the way he coaches.

During my years covering the team, it always seemed like practices were too laid back, and at times, very disorganized. But Garrett, so far, appears to run things the complete opposite way. That’s a good thing because it means players will always be learning and improving.

Also, I am hoping since Garrett is more seasoned and established than Danny Langsdorf that he might have Riley’s ear more — helping foster more positive changes and tweaks to how the Beavers operate, especially on offense. I think he will especially be a boon for OSU’s backup QBs.

 

Bottom line: Hopefully, Garrett is reflection of a new era for Beaver football, one that doesn’t have teams stumbling out of the gates, but teams that are well prepared and aggressive. This season could be a big one for the Beavers, so a strong start is crucial!

Go Beavs! (RW)

Can OSU be 4-0

USC since 2011:  35 4+ star recruits, 10 of which were 5 stars.

OSU since 2011: 4 4+ star recruits, 0 of which were 5 stars.

Head to head record since 2011:  0-1, 31-14 USC @ Reser

Those numbers don’t look good for Oregon State going 4-0 this year.  With Sarkesian being a slight step up from Kiffin (though is he a step up from Orgeron?) and Wilcox being a rising star at defensive coordinator, I am not sure that Oregon State has the bullets to win.  While many poo-poo star rankings from sites like BeaverBlitz, part of the Rivals Network, the reality is that they are good indicator of who is ready to play now and, lets be honest, they have roughly an 80% success rate of predicting who will go in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.  That is pretty good odds.

So OSU surrenders a pretty huge talent gap, in theory, to USC.  The Beavers have also only won 3 times in school history on the road at USC.  That is out of 11 total wins against the Trojans in 74 tries.

But that is history and this is today.  While USC has definitely out-recruited the Beavers, they have always done that.  The decade prior to 2011, OSU was 4-6 against the Trojans, with a narrow loss in the Fog Bowl of 2004. Winning in LA has plagued the Beavers, but here are reasons to be hopeful:

1. USC is replacing four offensive linemen from an already sketchy group that has three players missing spring practice this year for injuries.

2. Like Oregon State with Scott Crichton, USC is going to have to replace Uko at defensive end and will be looking at a bunch of changes to their corners, safeties and linebackers with their new coaching staff.

3. They do have a new coaching staff that will be changing a lot of what they are doing down there in LA.

4. Their quarterback situation is a little sketchy, though Kessler looked really good the few times I saw him last year.  It will be interesting to see what going to an up tempo type offense will do to him. In comparison, OSU’s QB situation looks amazing.

5. It is spring, and optimism is eternal.  Last year Oregon State was gouged by huge cutback lanes due to issues up front on their line and linebackers getting washed into the pile.  This year, OSU will hopefully have a much better defensive tackle situation as well as getting Michael Doctor back and having a very experienced group of linebackers.  An extra year with Coach Bray doesn’t hurt either.

If Oregon State can stop their run, with a receiving unit that lost their leading receiver to the NFL draft (sound familiar) and two of their top prospects missing the spring due to ACL injuries (hopefully that never sounds familiar) it might be difficult for the Trojans to move the ball with a shaky offensive line anchoring their attack.

So yes, the Beavers can win in Los Angeles.  They can be 4-0. but like the two other times that Oregon State has been 4-0 in the last half century, they are going to need nearly perfect efforts.  In 2000, it was a great defensive and offensive effort that allowed them to shake off two suspect wins against Eastern Washington and New Mexico to finally hit their stride at home with a opossum aided 31-21 victory.  In 2012 I would take either the UCLA effort or the Arizona effort to go into the home town of two of the hottest teams in the nation and take wins from them.  I would probably enjoy a UCLA type effort more as it was less stressful.

Regardless, that is what OSU will need to win and I hope they do it.  Riding into Colorado for a potential trap game at 4-0 would be a huge boost for the Beavers, especially if they win and return to Reser to take on Utah Bowl Eligible. I will have to see how the first 3 games for each team goes before I make any predictions I would wager on, but there is a huge hurdle facing OSU in week 4 and this time it is not just themselves.

(p.s. I never bet on my own team)

Welp, it’s officially rebuilding time…

Always had a hard time thinking as 2014-15 as a rebuilding season for the OSU men’s basketball team. After all, I wasn’t sure the program had improved wins-wise enough in recent years to really take much of a fall and need to be rebuilt.

Well, in wake of Monday’s news that sophomore guard Hallice Cook is reportedly transferring from OSU, it definitely appears that next season is going to be a long season for the Beavers. Not that it was looking particularly good with the loss of its four top players: Roberto Nelson, Angus Brandt, Devon Collier, and Eric Moreland.

But now OSU’s hopes for the future have taken a serious hit.  Cooke was one of the lone bright spots for the Beavers this past season, outside of the aforementioned players. He showed good athleticism, a solid mid-range jumper, and a certain scrappiness to him.

In fact, I was counting on him to be the Beavers’ go-to-guy on offense next season, with the hopes that Gary Payton Jr. would take on more of the distributing duties. But those hopes have been dashed.

Simply put, for the Beavers to have a chance next season, Langston Morris-Walker and Malcolm Duvivier are going to have to step up big time. Or incoming recruits such as Chai Baker and Isaiah Manderson need to be impact players.

It’s hard to blame Cooke for his decision if he was homesick or wanted to play for more competitive program, but one has to wonder if this is a sign of a larger problem. Because Cooke is passing up a chance to be the MAN at OSU next season, and that’s hard for any talented player such as Cooke to do,

It begs the question, has Coach Robinson lost his team before the season has even started? (RW)

Friday Practice Report: Overview

In a last minute change of plans, I was able to attend today’s practice at Oregon State.  What started out as a chilly overcast morning turned in to a nice sunny event, though a bit windy.

Since last week’s reports were pretty sunny, I thought today I would focus on the receivers to see if they had made any strides since last Friday.  I feel that this group has the least amount of experience and the biggest loss of any of the other positions.  So below are a few items I noticed today, and by a few I mean a lot.

1. Richard Mullaney is most certainly feeling better.  The Beavers started off with some blocking practice involving the receivers in kind of a skeleton drill without the defense.  The coaches were really trying to hammer home the technique required to block in space.  You could hear them yelling “belly to belly” to get the players to work on staying engaged and in front of the defender.  Mullaney had this down, bringing his hips perfectly and engaging the ‘defender’ in perfect position.

Later they would do a GREAT drill where the receivers, tight ends and full backs were blocking man on man against the corners, safeties and linebackers.  Again, Mullaney looked pretty good in terms of technique on those blocks. The most epic battle of the drill was Richard on Steven Nelson.  Both of them were really aggressive and it was pretty violent at the point of attack.

2. More on that fun drill.  The defense across the board was very active with their hands and feet and really proved difficult for the offensive players to manage.  Not may player running the ball were able to get past the defenders untouched.  Sometimes it was a yard or two down the field but often the defenders were able to shed their blockers and get to the runner. One play that stood out to me along with the Nelson and Mullaney battle was one with Victor Bolden.

Victor is not a big guy or super violent, but he was trying to block and was losing, so he sold out and just lunged in one direction.  The move worked as the runner was able to just go around him.  It wasn’t good form, but Bolden didn’t give up and just did what he could to block his guy.  You don’t always get a chance to load up and block with perfect form, but the effort you give can still yield results. This was one of those cases. I am sure he got talked to about his form, but I definitely was happy with his heart on that one.

3. The defense wants to hit.  The whole practice, it felt like the defense was getting tired of letting up all spring.  There were some huge hits, some scuffles and some very physical play.  In one of the team drills, there was really not much room for OSU to run or pass in because it felt like players were coming from nowhere.  I saw about four real tackles and a few receivers that got banged up by big hits. You don’t necessarily want your defense beating up your offense in the spring, but at the same time, there is a certain amount of aggressiveness you want to see in your defense.  I feel that despite their size, Nelson, Hunt and Patrick are not afraid to mix it up.  And I saw huge hits by Noland-Lewis, Songy and Saolu on anyone going across the middle.

4. Tight ends will be the focus.  Now having seen 3 practice and getting to see how much time they spend on it, I can say with some confidence that Tight End is going to be a focus this year.  Lots of drills set up for getting the ball to the big guys.

5.  Mullaney and Jarmon battle for catch of the day.  Mullaney came down with a huge pass from Vanderveen deep in the secondary. He was being blanketed well by Hunt, but was able to punch the ball up and then come down with it after Hunt had fallen for what would have probably been about a 60+ yard TD.  Pretty amazing play.  Jarmon had the short catch of the day on a throw that was behind him that he dove backwards to pull in.

To be honest though, Mullaney should have had two as he had beaten his man on a deep post play and was wide open, but the ball was a little far away.  Had the throw been on, it would have been another huge play, if not a TD.

6. The linebackers this year are fast and aggressive.  I don’t like to compare them with players I don’t know, so I am not going to say that they are better than everyone else in the conference, but if we had this group in 2009 we would have already had at least one Rose Bowl game under our belts in the Riley era. It is not just that they are fast, but that guys like Mageao, Saulo and Songy would be starting most years.  This is good as I think all three starters will be gone after this year, but for now, this is a very talented and very deep group.

7. The offensive line had a really hard time dealing with the defensive front seven today. Not a lot of time for the Quarterbacks and not a lot to work with through the air or on the ground.  Some really good plays were made by Del Rio and Vanderveen. Brent avoided the rush and was able to roll out and hit Mullaney on that long pass.  Del Rio scrambled out of the back field and hit his receiver about ten yards down the field while on the run in a throw that really showcased his arm strength.

I think Vanderveen has really stepped up this year and he and Del Rio can really get the ball out there on those deep outs to the wide side, which is an NFL caliber throw.

8. Lots of great coaching out there.  Everyone was very active and there were a few times that Brennan and Garrett were really trying to hammer in the details of what players need to be done.  Precision of routes and blocking with good form were constantly being critiqued.  The coaches were very vocal trying to get the players to do the little things.

Overall it was a great day and a fun time.