Last week was a tough one for Beaver fans. While a win of against Utah would have not only put OSU in a tie for first in the North, it also would’ve been much better to be 5-1 — with what now looks like four very winnable games on the horizon. Instead, just being one game back, feels like a “Been there, Done that” routine. Many Beaver fans, some for more than 50 years, are frustrated that they might never see OSU reach the pinnacle of the conference.
Younger fans wonder why some teams can put up gaudy offensive numbers, and yet OSU seems to be stagnant in the offensive department. And many fans look 37 miles down Highway 99 and wonder why the crap those guys have so much success, while the Beavers seemingly have to fight just to be in the middle of the conference.
The reality is that there’s a myriad of reasons, some legitimate, some more urban legend than reality. I am a huge fan of OSUProf’s blog. If you look at his statistical analysis of OSU since 1999, the results are quite frankly alarming. While there are a lot of ups and downs, the general trend is downwards. Equally damning is his report on the ducks’ rise, showing that they are trending upwards in most categories during the same time span.
This is unbearable to many Beaver fans, and has nothing to do with the heart of the players playing or the effort they are giving. While the down years of 28 losing seasons were rough, many of those were shared suffering with our nemesis to the south. At the same time, even as recently as the 2000s, OSU was trading annual state dominance with the ducks. This ended abruptly in 2008 and has yet to be relinquished. Last year was close, but even that would have turned an eventually 7-win season into an 8-win one, something that while good by historical OSU standards, is not the sign of dominance Beaver fans are looking for.
While I tend to run a bit on the positive side, I have noticed that next year looks to be extremely tough for the Beavers, because of a lot great players graduating. I won’t be shocked if the Beavers are paraded out as the worst team in the conference by pollsters. So what is the solution? What does it take to make this program into an elite one?
I am not sure — but I don’t think it starts with getting rid of Mike Riley. Utah is a single loss, and a rough one against a solid team, but it doesn’t signify the end of OSU’s hopes. It does mean that the margin of error is very thin the rest of the season and eliminating errors has not been OSU’s forte this season. At the same time, I really can’t say that the Beavers are out of any game with the defense they have on the field this year.
And I guess that is the problem. Every year we see a team that has some aspect that is fantastic and some aspect that needs work. Last season, the offense was great and the defense was suspect. The year before they were both pretty good, but injuries revealed a very thin team. In 2011, there weren’t many areas that didn’t have flaws, and in 2010 and 2009, depth and wholesale replacement of multiple position groups led to teams that could have been better than their seasons showed.
OSU has had a hard time building depth and getting elite players to Corvallis. There also are trends in play calling and clock management that leave many fans frustrated. Additionally, there are staff issues, such as highly-paid assistants whose units finish near the bottom of the conference. While OSU may turn the corner and win 4+ games the rest of the year and make some noise in November, the outlook in 2015 and on does not feel like it’ll be an upward trajectory.
So what should we do? What is the answer? Who do we get rid of? Well, those questions are up for debate for sure, but here is what I know. Fewer and fewer high school teams are running Pro-Style offenses. Also, in modern terms, blocking in Pro-Style offenses is getting more and more difficult, and running backs are having a hard time turning down 2,000-yard seasons and tons of touchdowns to join a team where they are going to block as much as they are going to run the ball. In the long run, I think that OSU and Mike Riley need to re-evaluate more than a few plays, but re-evaluate a lot of what the program does. It doesn’t require a huge cleaning of house, but they need to find something that is going to give the Beavers an edge and change how they do things.
Some want the Beavers to go for an athletic QB and pattern themselves after the ducks or Arizona. I would prefer something more like Cal or WSU to go with the offense we already have. Regardless of what it is, while a big close to this season would be a fantastic change of events and would brighten up so many spirits, I think there needs to be a longterm plan for getting back on track — one that is willing to start from ground zero and change how they do everything. The alternative is not exciting for Beaver fans. I will not give up on this season until it is over, and I think that there will be improved football if the team can avoid further injuries. That being said, no matter how this season ends, more needs to be done to build excitement for next year and the future.
So my only thought is that in this era of football, like Paterno, Bowden, and Bellotti before him, Mike Riley needs to make sure that he is constantly evolving as a coach and brings in new coaches with fresh philosophies to adjust the OSU offense so it doesn’t get left behind. I want OSU to win out, get 11 wins, and go to a BCS bowl. I want that more than anything in all of football-dom. I just don’t think it will happen, and I worry about the continued apathy toward the program. Right now, I can barely bring myself to visit fan sites because it’s the same thing, post after post. Until OSU wins some big conference games, I am afraid I can’t blame those frustrated posters.