I usually have to take a few days before I post anything following a tough loss like that one. For starters, I need to watch it twice before I am confident that what I am saying is not an emotional knee jerk reaction to what I thought i saw, but what was really there.
The other reason is that I need to think about the real culprit for the loss. Some will point to easy targets, like the offensive line (which has been playing far better than they are getting credit for) or the receivers or special teams or whatever seems to be the mistake du jour.
And here is the deal, there are a few that are no longer just a coincidence or one-off issues. Unlike a fumbled punt or an interception off a tipped ball, you cannot view these items as isolated incidents because they happen so regularly.
Now we don’t want to take a single loss and blow it out of proportion, but I find the following four things to be too rampant to leave alone:
1. We abandon the run, the run doesn’t abandon us.
2. We are too slow to get plays in
3. We don’t try and confuse defenses at the line of scrimmage
4. We don’t stick with the hot hand
I am going to take a few days to post about each of these, because they are long topics.
Abandoning the Run:
In 2013, we often think of the rushing totals as abysmal because we couldn’t block. I have been on record that often falling behind early has kept us from running because we are catching up. Unfortunately, the Civil War last year, a game in which we started out 14 points down, was a game where we ran the best we ran all season. Oh and we almost won that game.
The truth is, we ran well in most games that were not the San Diego State game last year. Against USC, Ward rushed for 6.6 yards per carry, Woods for 6.7. That was on only 11 carries, but look at some of the series and when they happened. In the 2nd quarter, with 4:45 left in the quarter, the Beavers got the ball after just giving up a TD to make it 21-14 USC. A drive of any kind, that takes time and gets any points would have put the Beavers either tied or within four at half time. So what did they do? That drive they passed five straight times, with only one completion.
Consequently, USC the ball with 3:40 left in the quarter. OSU ran exactly six times in the second half. Twice with Brandin Cooks. Of those six runs, they gained 53 yards, for an average of almost ten yards per carry.
In fact, Brandin Cooks averaged over 6 yards per carry in all six of OSU’s losses. A vastly unused weapon.
This weekend was no difference. Down 4 with the ball in USC territory on the way to potentially taking the lead against USC to close the half. While the pass that ended up being picked was a good one, and the play was not bad, it was going to give USC a ton of time to score again. Running the ball to eat clock and try and get positioned for a field goal at least was a better strategy because the Beavers were getting the ball back the next half. While I am not a coach and I defer to them in most cases, I will argue this to them all day long because going into the half with momentum is ALWAYS better than the alternative. An alternative we got to see first hand a few minutes later.
Or the first drive of the second half, where the Beavers came out and ran twice for six and seven yards apiece en route to a first down, they then abandoned the run virtually the rest of the half. OSU ran 4 more times the whole second half.
In 2011 they did the same thing against ASU. While the game was close, OSU’s running backs were gaining almost ten yards per carry. Yet the Beavers continued to pass and the ASU rush was too much for OSU’s offensive line to handle when they didn’t have to worry about running the ball.
Running is not about single plays, but establishing a likely option at any time in the game. If you stop running, teams stop worrying about it and you now are less effective in your passing. Look at the stats of the five losses last year in the latter half of the year.
Stanford: 24 carries for 17 yards
– 9 of those “Carries” were sacks on pass plays, so OSU only actually attempted 14 carries for 78 yards. Or 5.57 yards per carry. That game was close all game long and the abandoning of the run was needless. After a third quarter run for a loss of a yard, we never ran again.
USC: 16 carries for 93 yards
– If you took out the 3 “Carries” for -22 yards that were sacks, you would have 13 carries for 115 yards, Or 8.85 yards per carry. I will take that any day.
ASU: 26 carries for 73 yards
– If you took out the 1 “Carry” for 9 yards that was a sack, it would be 15 carries for 82 yards. Or 3.28 yards per carry. This is low, but the two Fly Sweeps went for 15 yards. Something that probably could have been used more.
UW: 22 carries for 106 yards
– If you take out the 3 :carries” for – 12 yards, you would have 19 carries for 118 yards. Or a 6.2 yards per carry average. Now look, a few extra rushes were not going to do much to the avalanche of terrible that happened in this game. So I give them a pass on this one.
UO: 39 carries for 251 yards
– I am not going to worry about the sacks. Outside of some coaching decisions we will talk about later, this was a great rushing game and OSU almost beat what is probably the best team they played all year. While no one is excited about a 1 point loss, look at the reality of this game. They were down 14 points early, they fought back and used the run heavily to control the clock and keep the ducks off the field. I am not going to get into the benefits of the run game here, but give OSU just 14 carries or whatever paltry number we attempted the previous four games, and they lose by 28 points.
This is a trend that dates back to 2011 and through now two different offensive coordinators and two different play callers. You could say that it stretches back to 2009, where OSU went to a short passing game to Quizz over rushing yards to get their offense rolling. it may have been the line but I think it also started the shift to a pass heavy offense. Unfortunately, as I will talk about alter, OSU doesn’t have the tools implemented to be a WSU type team.
Sean is an amazing QB, but when he has to make four or five reads a play because everyone is covered, there needs to be something to help him out. He is going to get killed no matter how well the line, backs and tight ends block. IF guys aren’t getting open, you need to put the ball in the hands of your backs and at least make sure the game doesn’t spiral out of control. Especially when they are showing that they can get you 6 yards a pop if you let them do it.