As we kick off the dust at The Official Candy Report, and prepare for another season of Beaver Football, we were excited at new beginnings, a new year, a new offensive coordinator, new ideas and a new look defense.
We got one of them.
The defense was pretty much amazing. While some may point to breakdowns in the first half, outside of a miscommunication on coverage and a particularly charitable drive where the Beaver defense handed Portland State a few extra first downs on their way to the endzone, the defense was stout. I recommend those that have a huge negative mask over the first half, watch it again. Watch Steven Nelson shedding corners and making huge and violent tackles on whoever comes to his side. Or Ryan Murphy baiting the PSU quarterback to pass to his side so he can jump in front of the receiver. Or Obum Gwatcham and Dylan Wynn shedding blockers like tear away slacks.
Sure there was a play here and there that they would love to have back, and I still wonder why we give such a huge cushion on receivers sometimes as PSU exploited that on a few plays to get a few extra yards. But the first half, sans mistakes and brain farts, and the second half, were a dominating defensive performance by a team that was obviously physically superior.
On the flip side, the offense was… well… not as dominant.
At first glace, I am sure many threw around words like ‘sloppy’, ‘pathetic play calling’ and a hearty ‘WTF?’ at least one or twelve times in this game. It is easy to pile on the offense and the coaches for all their perceived slights. I know I did during the game. The first drive was so bad it felt like I was watching a movie and not a game.
But to yell and complain about the game would also limit your ability to see what really happened. A seriously flawed offense, made mistakes all around, killed drives with penalties and blown opportunities and still stumbled to 505 yards and almost 30 points. Remove the opponent because A) false starts and holding are the same number of yards regardless of whether you are playing USC or PSU and B) OSU has lost to two of the last three FCS opponents they have played.
This first game, much like the super pedestrian win over a mediocre Wisconsin team in 2012 or the puke inducing suck fests that surrounded the Sacramento State and Eastern Washington losses, this game had a lot of mistakes. I think i have made that abundantly clear. The difference between two of the three above is that they won this game. The difference between all of them is that the Beavers actually were able to move the ball and stop their opponent regularly. They just did a lot of other, not so great things too.
Take for instance their second field goal drive. The first part of the drive was not great, with an illegal hands to the face call that negated a first down pass. The thing is the Beavers followed that up with a 50 yard run by Woods, two great catches by Smith, a reverse, another run by Woods and a catch by Connor Hamlett on the two yard line that was just a few inches short of a first and goal. None of those plays, except the first one, failed. They all worked and all did really well. In fact, a few slight adjustments, a better block here, a cut back lane there, and they all would have left that drive with six points. Instead, they get a false start on their fourth and inches play and have to kick a field goal.
That is football, that game of inches that people talk about.
The game was not about flaws with the program, with their system, or with their players. Not directly. They were so physically superior to their opponent that they were able to beat them despite having more penalty yards than their opponent had rushing yards. The problem was the chronic problem that OSU football has had and that is mistakes. Little mistakes here and there or giant ones. From being unable to pick up a linebacker on a blitz to holding on a huge first down play. It seems like time and again, early in the season, the Beavers cannot get out of their own way.
Right now, I am not worried. Just like I go through the film of the team and see the mistakes and the good things, so do the coaches. They see Harlow running down field and making a key extra block. They see Mullaney cutting down a defensive back so Bolden can get extra yards and they see Michael Doctor taking on blockers an twisting to take down the ball carrier. They see everything good and bad, and they will take the next week to correct as much as they can.
This team has the talent, and Mike Riley teams may start slow, but in most cases they don’t stay that way. Many will point to the last 14 years and say “We know Mike Riley and he always starts slow!” And they would be right. This was a slow start. The difference between this slow start and the last five or six is that OSU won. 2012 was not a slow start, and a win this weekend against Hawaii would seriously hamper the slow start argument. While they were far from perfect, their win/loss record is, and the longer it can stay that way the happier we will all be.
So don’t get lost in the mud. Watch the game again if you want and see the little things, the good and the bad, and see the reality that is this will be the worst they play all season. I have 14 years of experience that says this will be true.