1. I thought that the defense was going to really struggle this weekend. Partly because they were playing a very good offense with an up and coming, athletic QB. I also was concerned about a post USC letdown. The defense was on the field most of the second half against USC and they sustained a few major injuries to the defensive line.
Outside of a miserable 2nd quarter, the defense contained a very stout Colorado offense. The Beavers also managed to take out two of their major weapons, being the feet of their QB and their top receiver. I thought that the defense looked very good most of the time for a second road game in a crazy altitude following a very tough game the week before. I think about how OSU played USC last year, following a tough loss to Stanford that left them with some key injuries and just looking worn out.
There were obviously rough patches, and they need to get more pressure with their three rushers if they are going to go to a three man front, but the defense did far better than I expected and give me a lot of hope for what they can do with a week and a half to work with and rest. I have felt all season that this is one of the better defenses in the conference, and nothing I have seen has proved me wrong yet. Even in a week where I thought they might dip a bit, they held strong and got huge stops when needed.
2. After railing on Riley all week, I feel like he did a great job. Just like I didn’t want to overreact to one loss, I am not going to think everything is fine after one win. What I did really like was some very interesting calls. While my family got rapidly less enamored with me clamoring for fly sweep calls, I was pleasantly surprised and really happy to see Mike call one on their last drive. While Bolden should have committed more to his path on it, the great thing about that call was that everyone knew the Beavers were trying to eat up clock and the defense was stacked on the inside. There was som missed blocks on the outside and probably a better option on where to cut by the runner, but that play will pay dividends all season long because it means that OSU is willing to run or fake a fly sweep in clock wear down times. It means defenses have to cover the whole width of the field.
Everything OSU does sends ripples. You never know what is going to stick in someone’s mind when they are watching film, and you never know when that item is going to make them choose the wrong thing when faced with that choice. By opening up the playbook, by trusting his line and his team to run a play deep in their own territory, Mike signaled to teams that they need to be ready for more of his playbook than just an inside stretch run play.
3. Watching the Pac-12, I have come to three conclusions. 1. There are no great teams in the conference. 2. There are very few good defenses. 3. There is stupid football being played.
There is no coincidence that while the conference is mired in 1-1 conference records, that the teams that are faring the best are the teams that have solid defenses. UCLA, Utah, Stanford, USC and OSU all have probably the best defenses in the conference. Teams like Cal, WSU, UW, the ducks, UA and Colorado basically would probably do as well laying down on defense as they do standing up. ASU is just kind of in the middle.
On the flip side, you have amazing numbers being put up by offenses like WSU, Colorado, Arizona, the ducks and Cal, while the more pedestrian Stanford, UCLA, USC and Oregon State are forced to play smart and keep their defenses fresh. And ASU is somewhere in the middle. The problem with the fast paced offenses is, outside of Arizona and the duck, they are by and large the worst teams in the conference. That is not to say they are not scary, but they are not able to find ways to win because their defense will always be on the field longer, and their offense cannot burn clock.
Much like WSU was unable to win against Cal, despite throwing for over 700 yards, because their team cannot stop anyone on defense or special teams. Or Cal, throwing away a victory over Arizona by giving up 36 points in the fourth quarter. These teams without balance have a hard time closing out games. We saw it at USC in a negative way and in a positive way against Colorado. OSU has the tools to do very well this year because they can maintain a lead with the run and can also get stops when they need them. With a bye week this week and a chance to get a lot of players healthy, as well as only having two away games the rest of the season, the Beavers look like a team that can do some damage in the most equally matched conference in America. A good defense and a balanced offense is going to be the key to victory this year.
As we continue on the second quarter of the season, OSU has a lot to be excited about.