I am going to be honest, I hate writing this after a game like Saturday’s. It is hard as a fan to relive some bad moments. It is also rough to look at what is there and realize that a golden opportunity slipped by you because of basically choices made by the coaching staff.
I also hate having to undo all the really wrong and uneducated announcing that went with the televised broadcast. I am sure the announcers are nice people, but here are some things I need to get off my chest first and foremost:
1. Mannion was under pressure because of coverage, not because of breakdowns on the line.
2. Mannion did not look stressed in the pocket, his dump off play to Woods and a few huge throws that were either tipped or dropped were not because of issues he had with protection.
3. When you want to promote all the Leonard WIlliams does, don’t show the play where he gets knocked to the ground by Roman Sapolu one on one.
4. The Hail Mary was not the turning point. The interception prior to it was.
And that is it really. There is no way you can watch that game and think that OSU’s defense is anything but spectacular. They were able to weather almost anything, until the constant 3 and outs on the offense and injuries took them out of their game. USC sped up the pace, OSU matched it and stopped them. USC made a lot of huge plays late, but the real damage was done on the other side of the ball.
I don’t want to rehash it too much, but when both of your main backs are averaging over 4 yards a carry, and you basically shelve the run in a close game, you are not going to win. Especially when you not only abandon the run, but other plays that worked great. It is easy to look at plays that failed and say “you should have run the ball!” You are always smart when the offense makes a mistake and you say they should have done something else.
But dang it, RUN THE BALL! Not only because it worked, not only because it controls the clock and gives your defense a rest, but there is one more thing we need to be 100% honest about. THE BEST player on that field Saturday was named Storm Woods. The guy was running with his hair on fire, averaged 6 yards per carry, blocked like a demon, caught ridiculous passes and got extra yards and protected the ball. When you have a guy playing like that, GIVE THEM THE DANG BALL! This used to be a staple of the OSU offense, from Simonton to Jackson to Bernard to Quizz, you get your top guys the ball. And guess what, Storm Woods is playing his ass off.
I love Ward as well, and think he offers a lot, but if I am being honest, at times it felt like any time someone not named Storm got the ball on Saturday we were not putting our best foot forward.
So mistakes, tipped passes, luck job Hail Mary’s and the ridiculous disregard for holding against the Trojans (did you guys see Alexander get spun around by his jersey? FREAKING RIDICULOUS!) aside, the reason this game turned out the way it did was because of a conscious, or unconscious, decision to stop putting the ball into the hands of the player or players having the best game. Mullaney was our best receiver, easily, and Woods was running like a man possessed. Oh, and our line? The guys people like to bitch and complain about and wonder why we still pay Coach Cav? That line was driving USC linemen three and four yards back while getting free releases on the linebackers. They blocked so well that I thought I was watching the 1994 Dallas Cowboys.
So no, this game had some bad moments, but in my opinion, as a card carrying Orange Glasses Lifetime Board Member, this game came down to coaching and OSU chose to continue to go to the part of their team with the least experience and that was having the toughest time. The receivers.
Go with what works and you have a shot. If OSU runs at the end of the first half and even just goes for a field goal, the game ends up being 14 – 13 at halftime and the Beavers get the ball back. Instead? 21 – 10. You don’t want to get all caught up in one bad game or one bad loss and throw out the baby with the bath water, but lets be honest. These are not new issues and the game was not about a USC team that was just far superior to OSU. It was about efficiency and decisions and those have not been our strong suit for a while. Colorado is going to be a tough offense to contain, so we need to make sure we are ready and that offensively, we are putting our best foot forward.