I have new respect for the media. Day after day, members have to go out and report about what they see — so staying engaged must be rough. It’s so hard for me to do anything after a Beaver loss, let alone go out in the community and read what I am sure will be angry and bitter posts.
This past weekend, OSU had a chance to really put a stamp on the season, and they came up just short. It was not due lack of effort or planning, but just some mistakes that were far too costly for the Beavers to overcome. A dropped pass, a turnover, a penalty, and a few head- scratching calls amid a mostly well-called game.
What hurt me the most was watching a SUPERIOR defensive effort go to waste due to some of these mistakes. It was a tough loss, but one that didn’t outrage me like others. We are halfway through the season and on the horizon I see a chance to match the record of the first half or exceed it. I also see a chance to end the season flat, and that ultimately is the issue at hand. There were many players who played amazing against Utah such as Dylan Wynn and Justin Strong. There also were many players who continued to battle and came on strong at the end when they were needed such as Sean Mannion and Jordan Villamin. There also were some players that saw the field for the first time against a very good defense such as Dustin Stanton.
There was a little bit of everything, but in the end, Utah’s defense was too strong and DeVonte Booker got loose.
What did OSU need to do to win? Less mistakes would be first thing to pop to mind, but there is something more. OSU needs to do something with its run game. We saw two fly sweeps that went for a total of 35 yards. We saw them run a lot of fly sweep fakes that ended with inside stretches and counters. The Beavers need to take the next step and start running bootlegs and options off it, or backside screens. They need to run it out of Wildcat formation or do double passes out of it. In short, they need to change how they run. OSU’s vertical passing game is one of the best in the nation, even as it’s searching for this year’s deep threat (Is it Villamin, Bolden, or Jarmon? All three have multiple plays over 20 yards), they also need to take some pressure off their line and make the defense think a bit.
There is no reason to move to a total Air Raid offense or to jump on the read option bandwagon. Keeping their defense fresh gives the Beavers the best chance to win, and much like UCLA and Stanford, that starts with being able to run the ball well. The Beavers could have the best offense among those teams if they can invigorate their ground game. They still amassed 100+ yards, but had a few of those sacks been running plays, they could have had many more yards.
The loss of Woods, Andrews, and Mullaney definitely limited the Beavers, but it also was all the more reason to attack the outside. There were very few outside run plays in general, and that is sad. As the box narrowed and narrowed, the Beavers had less and less opportunities to break off a run.
So while the Utah game may have come down to a drop or a snap, the larger picture rests on how the Beavers innovate and refresh their running game. That alone, will take them to another level. This weekend was the most they had run fly sweep motion since the Maryland game in 2007. In fact, it was the most fly sweep fakes they have ever run. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come. And hopefully, in tight games such as the Utah one, they take shots with a flea flicker or a double pass, just to get points on the board and give the defense some cushion.
Regardless, Stanford looms as a team that OSU not only has to beat, but honestly should beat. The Beavers just have to find a way to get the ball to their playmakers and avoid mistakes. The defense will take care of the rest. That has been the recipe all year long, and OSU has yet to get the dish just right. No better time than now I guess.