Monthly Archives: November 2014

Your Senior Class

While there has been discussion of angst and anger around the fan base of the Oregon State Beaver football team, there is one thing that will not change. Tonight will be the last night as a Beaver Football player for many, many warriors in Orange and Black.

The 2010 and many of the 2011 class will play their last game at Reser and I want to say one thing to them:

Thank you.

For some, you were the only member of your position group to sign, and after two years, you found more and more of your peers from your class and the next dropping away and leaving you as the only leader to carry the torch.

Or some players that had to delay enrollment to get here, had to work hard when everyone else had forgotten about them either because of some young mistakes in schooling or because no one else thought you were big or fast enough to be a division one linebacker or running back.

One of you came here with your best friend, only to experience tragedy and be left with memories and the knowledge of that one hug you really want after your last game together won’t be possible.

There is the receiver who came and switched sides so that he cold see the field faster as safety.  The record setting Quarterback that came back to try one more time for a championship with his best friends.  The defensive end that one idiot writer (myself) was worried was too slow or too small or too fit coming in to really grow as a player, only to start as a true freshman and be the most consistent defensive lineman on the team over four years.

We will be saying goodbye to a giant Tight End who was an afterthought to his class for many recruitniks, yet worked his way into being one of the best tight ends we have seen at OSU.  A walk on from a storied high school program that always seemed to get the tough yards when needed.  It will be the last game for a linebacker who worked hard in the background, honed his craft and was there when they needed him after the starters went down, at least until he became a starter himself.

Tomorrow there will be some JC transfers that will part ways with the Beavers.  Huge defensive linemen that gave everything they had, whether it was transforming their body to be quicker and stronger, or continuing to go out and help their team when every joint in their body is screaming at them to quit.  Or a JC corner that came to Corvallis with a vision to get to the NFL and did everything he could to make that a reality. There will be a high jumping receiver who took a chance their senior year and moved to defense only to become one of the more dependable ends on the team.

A highlight reel tackler for kicker, a punter who admirably filled some Pro Bowl shoes, a defensive end who found their chance to shine returning kicks, a deep snapper who no one ever thought of because he always made the snaps, A transfer from Cal who gave OSU more than they expected and an offensive lineman who walked on and did everything he could to make the team better, even without the fanfare of playing every Saturday.

These players that play tomorrow have done nothing but work, struggle and grind to try and make the Beavers the best possible team they can be. While this year was not what they had hopped, it doesn’t take away from what they have done.  These players are kids of 21 or 22 years old who have had to carry the wishes and expectations of Beaver Nation on their shoulders, no matter how difficult or unrealistic of a burden it may be.

To you who play for the Beavers, I say thank you. Your passion and sacrifice is important to me and means a lot from someone who cannot suit up, cannot make a difference on the field and who, thankfully, no one wants to see play.  All I can do is cheer and write this blog, and both of those are nothing without players like you.

Win or lose, I will always give you a “Go Beavers” if I ever see you, because you have more than earned it.

Go Beavers!

So What Now?

With the loss to the Huskies, OSU now faces a do-or-die game with the ducks in the Civil War, and not just in terms of bowl eligibility — but also the possibility of two straight seasons of six or fewer regular season wins. While many disagree with the state of the team, here is what I do know:

1. Money is not flooding into the program. With two capital projects on the horizon, one that is desperately needed in terms of the Valley Football Center renovation, losing fan and donor interest in the program is the toughest hurdle the athletic department has right now.  OSU is financially in debt and is using its TV money to pay off debt, while other Pac-12 teams are using it to better their programs. OSU has the lowest paid staff, the lowest recruiting budget, and has visibly shrinking attendance.

2. Recruiting needs to pick up. The last two classes might have some very amazing players, but in terms of star ratings, OSU has finished 8th or lower in the Pac -12 the last four years.  There is a very star-studded group of high school seniors coming to the game this weekend. Should three of the half dozen players decide to go with the Beavers, it will be the first class in more than a decade to finish in the top half of the conference rankings, according to Rivals. If they don’t, then the Beavers are in danger of another 8th-ranked class. Should that happen, that would mean that seven of the teams OSU plays every year will have an entire team of players ranked higher than the Beavers. While the ASU game shows that doesn’t always mean that the Beavers are going to lose all those games, it does mean they have to play far better than their opponents week in and week out.

3. The Civil War series needs to change. The Beavers are going to be odds-on underdogs in this year’s edition of the century-old series. It will be the seventh straight loss for OSU if it happens. That one game is the game that means the most to every fan. It is the one game that forgives all the previous sins of the season, and it is the only way that OSU can lay claim to the few fans within this state who are poachable away from the dark side. This state cannot support an 80,000 seat stadium for either school. Both institutions have about 35,000 die hard, game-attending fans. Then there are about 20,000 fans that they fight over.

The last six years, there has not been much of a fight. With student attendance at Oregon State overshadowing the ducks by about 1,000 students a year, there are more and more Beaver fans being created every year.  And they need a win. They need to remember what it is like to be kings of the state. They need to remember what it is like to answer every retort with one simple word:

“Scoreboard.”

So how do we do it? How do we get more money, get better recruits, and win the Civil War? That is the $64,000 question. We all have ideas, from a clean sweep of all coaches, to a few new tweaks, to even just a “wait and see” approach because we are so close. I have my ideas that I will go over after the season.

What can’t be stressed enough is this: If Mike Riley wants to keep his staff and his team as it is, he needs to win this week. Watching the Husky game, I honestly feel like it has nothing to do with talent this week. There is enough talent on the Beaver team to win. It is about what team comes the most prepared. What team is ready to play and who makes the fewest mistakes. Outside of the ASU game, that has not been the Beavers as of late, and that is on the coaches.

A Civil War win clears all of that up and gives Mike Riley the time to figure out on his own what he wants to do. A loss, and I am afraid that the fans will decide for him, one way or another. So it is another big week, and Mike has his back against a wall. As many top-10 teams will tell you, Reser is a very dangerous place to be when Coach Riley has an ultimatum game plan.

So hopefully, he pulls another rabbit out of his hat, gets his team ready for the challenge of their lives, and the players respond. Otherwise, next year could be one with more changes than we have seen since the new millennium .

 

 

UW Post-game Thoughts

To say the Washington game was disappointing is an understatement. Coming off a thrilling win off then-No. 6 Arizona State, I expected the Beavers to come out against Washington fired up and ready to roll. Unfortunately, we all know what happened. In many ways, the game summed up OSU’s up-and-down season. Here’s several thoughts in wake of the game that have been running through my mind.

1. Play calling. Seriously, what’s going on with Riley and Co. when it comes to their offensive play calling? Why all the complex passing plays during short-yardage situations? At this point, I don’t care if they don’t get the first down, I just want to see the Beavers run the ball more. Maybe even more frustrating is that a lot of plays aren’t even close to moving the chains. Yes, the QB needs time to throw and WRs need to get separation, but too many plays are dead on impact.

2. Safety regression. Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman are fantastic athletes and were highly-sought recruits. But this season, they’ve experienced their fair share of lumps — more than you would expect from a pair of seniors. But I’m not saying it’s their fault. The coaches have asked too much of them, and aren’t putting them in position to succeed. They should be enjoying stellar seasons. If I am Riley, I’d be thinking of a way to get Mitch Meeuwsen back on staff to help coach up the safeties year.

3. Where’s the fire? Washington was reeling entering the game against the Beavers, having lost four of its last five games. And while their front 7 is one of the best in the nation, the Huskies’ offense leaves a lot to be desired. So Saturday was prime time for the Beavers to carry over the momentum from the ASU game and rout the Huskies. Instead the team came out flat, and judging from most of the coaches, it seems like their lack of emotion was infectious in a bad way. This was a game the Beavers needed to be amped for!

4. Poor TEs. I feel for a lot of the players on this year’s team. They deserved better than this. Honestly, this team should have 8 wins. But Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith espcially have been robbed. Yes, because of injuries to the offensive line, they’ve had to help more in pass protection, but these guys deserved to be targeted more this season. Instead, most of their receptions have left them sitting ducks and easy to take down. Not getting them more involved somehow was a crime.

5. Anything can happen. The Ducks are cruising and look unstoppable right heading into the Civil War. But as last season proved, when it comes to the Civil War, you just never know.Maybe the Beavers pull off the unthinkable and win this year. If that happens, this disappointing season is a success for the Beavers — and they are bowl eligible. That said, injuries will make this game more of a challenge then ever for the Beavers. (RW)

What were your observations during the Washington game?

The Candy Report Awards: ASU

For the first time this season, I am deciding these awards with just too many people to choose from. Two 100-yard rushers each with 60+ yard runs, two interceptions, one for a touchdown, a 100-yard receiver with a key 63-yard reception, a warrior of a cornerback who took on and shut down one of the best receivers in the nation, a defensive lineman who dominated the opposing team all night long, and is so physical that even just an average block by him sounds like targeting.

The coaches did a great job, plays got in quickly and, probably most importantly, they looked prepared. The team as a whole looked more prepared than they have in forever. They came out ready from the get go, especially on defense.

So who do I give the awards to? I kind of want to give them to everyone, but I am going to choose just three people.

1. The Halloween Spice Drop Award of Being Awesome
There are players who are warriors such as Dylan Wynn, who give everything they have every week. There are players that do more with the skill they have who Mike Hass, who are not denied no matter how good their opponents are. Some players are all of those things, and Terron Ward is one of those players. Finding out that his career at OSU may be over, I wanted to highlight a player who has always given all he had, been key to many great Beaver wins, and who came to OSU with no fanfare or recruiting service accolades — and yet, will leave one of our great backs of all time.

While he came to the Beavers during a time when the pass was king, Ward’s ability to block, catch the ball, and make the first guy miss made him invaluable. The speed and quickness that he hits the hole with led to some huge runs like the ASU game in 2012 or this last contest against those same Sun Devils. Terron has been a great member of Beaver Nation, never complaining about splitting time with Storm Woods, never complaining about a loss or a game that he felt he could have played a larger role in. He is a great ambassador for the program and a huge part of the last three seasons. I am sad his time at OSU came to an end too soon. He would have been a huge piece this weekend, as OSU has to find an answer to Washington’s great front seven. But for one week at least, he helped those around him have their best weekend of the season. For that, these spice drops are for you Terron.

2. The Jujifruit Award of Getting Better All The Time
There has been a lot of talk among Beaver Nation concerning the offensive line.  While I have my thoughts on them, I think some of the grief they get is not entirely their fault. That being said, this last week, the line played the best they have played all year. It was the first time since conference play started that OSU started the same line two games in a row. As Gavin Andrews got more familiar with playing guard, and as ASU brought everything, the offense was able to churn along and blitzes were picked up well. Josh Mitchell did an amazing job working at center as the interior part of the line created holes all game. When I think of the offensive line’s performance Saturday, i think of this photo I saw on Building The Dam (full article is here and is well worth reading). You see Andrews turning to go after someone else after knocking his defender to the ground. You see Mitchell attempting to block any defenders that flow back inside, and you have a hole that you could drive a truck through that Woods is running out of.

When we talk about what we want from a line, that was it — players who dominate their guy and then look for someone else, guys who keep working down the field to make sure that the play goes for as many yards as they can, and players who are physically able to execute what is asked of them. It has not always been that way this season. There have been other photos or film moments of guys standing around, confused in the face of twist stunts, or just chasing guys that they missed the block on.

So for me, a huge step was taken last week. ASU doesn’t have a great run defense, but it has a solid total defense that was ranked fifth in the conference, and Oregon State shredded them. So thank you offensive line, for not giving up and always getting better. Players like Dustin Stanton, Andrews, Mitchell, Fred Lauina, and Sean Harlow give us a lot of hope for the future. It was just one game, and the front seven they face this week is going to be a tougher test, but with a lineup that appears to be set, and players beginning to get healthier, there is a chance that we will see another solid effort by this group.

And that can only mean good things for the Beavers.

3. The Good N Plenty Award of Crapiness. 
To me, this was the easiest award to give. College Football has often lived by water cooler arguments and heated fan altercations. As part of the Civil War, a game so hostile that we use the same name as the worst war in American history to describe it, we all understand this. We understand that the point of the BCS was to anger people into a little extra passion every year. We know that the reason they don’t shrink the season to nine games and go to a playoff is because College Football is forever more popular when there is no clear winner and tons of speculations.

So it should come as no shock that with the new and-1 method of deciding the National Championship, that the people in charge of this faux playoff would find a way to make it infuriatingly controversial. Rather than just going with the BCS computer rankings or the AP Poll, the decide they need another BCS type system where such giants of College Football such Condoleezza Rice select who should play in the “playoffs.” So they get together every week and decide, publicly of course, who the top four teams are.

And it has absolutely no bearing on the final result. Many of the people I work with think it provides momentum, but it is false momentum that shouldn’t even be a factor because, as we saw this last week, until the last game is played, no one is safe. Momentum will do the ducks no good if they lose the Civil War.  All it will mean is that for weeks they were part of a discussion they didn’t belong in, because it was a discussion that was too early. It is like deciding four name choices for a child before you know what sex it is. Guess wrong and you may have to scrap four names that should never have been in contention.

All this total farce of a process does is become another money grab by the people who get the richest off college athletics, the networks. It gives ESPN more money, which they truly need, and allows them to occupy Monday through Wednesday with infuriated fans who feel their team of choice was jilted unfairly from being in the process. One-loss Alabama jumped unbeaten Florida State because they looked good that weekend and the thought of Alabama not being in the top spot feels wrong. But what if Alabama loses in the SEC Championship game?  Then that two-loss team will pack its bags and go to the Sugar Bowl or whatever. But they will not be in the championship, so all that their inclusion in the conversation did was piss off FSU fans.

So way to go College Football.  While the NFL is the reigning champion of a-holes in sports, you are doing your best to try and keep up with your rich, dysfunctional pro cousin. When this season is over and you have 10 one-loss teams to choose from, there will be plenty of anger to last all the way to next August. But right now all it does is make my life a little more unbearable in Eugene as I have to listen to different National Championship scenarios ad nauseum.  Just wait until the end, because unlike the BCS bowl game, there is no rhyme or reason to how these guys votes. There are no point totals to climb and reach, and there are no predictable scenarios. Just a bunch of people that have opinions throwing them out there.

Why don’t they just start a blog or something?

Washington Game Preview

What: Oregon State (5-5 overall, 2-5 Pac-12) at Washington (6-5, 2-5)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Husky Stadium, Seattle, Washington

On the Air: Pac-12 Network/Beaver Sports Network

Series: 60-34-4, Washington.

Last season: The Huskies rushed for 537 yards and seven touchdowns during their 69-27 route of the Beavers. Three UW running backs ran for 100+ yards (Bishop Sankey, 179; Deontae Cooper, 166; and Dwayne Washington, 141). Brandin Cooks (10 catches, 119 yards, 1 TD) and Chris Brown (7 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD) were the few standouts for OSU, during arguably the worst loss in team history.

UW’s last game: Washington is coming off a heart-breaking 27-26 loss to then No. 17 Arizona in Tucson, after Wildcats kicker Casey Skowron hit a 47-yard field goal as time expired. UW lost despite taking a 26-21 lead into the fourth quarter and 149-yard, 2 TD performance from running back Dwayne Washington.

Notes: The winner of Saturday’s contest becomes bowl eligible. The 69 points the Beavers gave up last year to the Huskies is the most in school history. Washington offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith is one of OSU’s most beloved quarterbacks and is known for being a Husky killer during his four seasons under center. In last season’s game against UW, Victor Bolden set the Pac-12 record for kickoff return yards — 305 on 12 returns, with one being a 98-yard TD return.

5 Keys to Victory

1. Pass Protect like Crazy. The Huskies are second nationally in sacks with 40. Senior linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha, UW’s all-time sacks leader, leads the country with 16.5 sacks (He is tops in tackles for loss at 22.5). So to say the Beavers’ offensive line will have its hands full is an understatement. They will need to turn in their finest performance to date for the Beavers to win.

2. Force Turnovers. While UW forces a lot of turnovers (lead the nation with seven defensive touchdowns), they also are good at taking care of the ball on offense. He might not get mentioned among all of the Pac-12’s outstanding signal callers, but Cyler Miles’ 12-2 TD to INT ratio is outstanding. In fact his QB efficiency rating is 33rd best in the nation. Timely turnovers could play a big role for the Beavers for the second straight weekend.

3. Convert Field Goals. A 7:30 start in mid-November in Seattle. Let’s face it the weather could be an issue Saturday, like it has been for several OSU/UW matchups in recent years. So whoever the kicker is for OSU this weekend is, he needs to channel his best “Alexis Serna” and make all his field goal attempts. Serna was like 18-for-18 in his career at Husky Stadium, including a 6-for-6 performance in 2005 that accounted for all of OSU’s points in an 18-10 win. Moving the ball could be tough, so you gotta take points any way you can get.

4. Stick with the Run Game. Terron Ward will miss Saturday’s game, but that doesn’t mean the Beavers should dial back its rushing attack. In fact, they should run right at the Huskies. Storm Woods has been a beast all season, and Chris Brown and Damian Haskins have shown they can make plays. The Beavers will need to be able to run the ball to take pressure off Mannion and the offensive line. Otherwise, the UW front 7 could have a field day.

5. Hit on a few Big Plays. A big play here and there could do wonders for the Beavers. Not only would plays such as a deep ball or breakaway run take the Husky defense out of its element, but the homecrowd as well. Husky Stadium is always a tough place to play because of how loud it can get, so if the Beavers can quiet the fans with some momentum-killing plays, it could help them get the upper hand they need.

Game prediction: 27-24, Beavers. I think OSU starts off strong thanks to a balanced offensive attack, and then holds of a Husky rally to emerge with a win and bowl eligibility. Points will be hard to come by because of the weather, but the Beavers score just enough to best UW.

What are your thoughts about the UW game?

 

More Hoops Thoughts…

Caught the Beavers’ 86-62 win over Corban University on Tuesday night. So I thought I’d share a few quick observations/thoughts. It’s hard to put much stock in this game because the Warriors are an NAIA team, but considering wins could be hard to come by for OSU this season, it was a a nice win.

Reid flashing long-awaited potential. Jarmal Reid was a decent recruit coming out of high school, but struggled to make much of an impact his first two seasons for the Beavers. However, the junior has played very well his past two games. Against Corban, he displayed good finesse and athleticism while being aggressive on the offensive end. It’s early, and the competition will get tougher (and taller), but could Reid simply have been misused/under-utilized by the previous coaching staff?

This squad has some serious athleticism. It’s obvious that Gary Payton II, Malcoln Duvivier, and Langston Morris-Walker are explosive athletes, but how about posts Daniel Gomis and Cheikh N’diaye? They may be raw, but they move well and are surprisingly agile for their size. If they continue to get stronger, they could become forces for the Beavers. Because you know Wayne Tinkle and Kerry Rupp know a thing about coaching up big men. I especially liked seeing Gomis’ turnaround jumper. It looked pretty smooth and natural.

Where does Olaf fit? Olaf Schaftenaar  turned in a solid performance about Corban but I couldn’t help but wonder how he fits into the Beavers’ offense — enough that I asked myself, “Is he the odd man out?” The coaches have talked about turning him into more of a post player, which is a good thing, but he’s not exactly getting the ball down low much. And when he’s been up top (his usual comfort zone), he’s been quick to pass the ball. So it will be interesting to see how Schaftenaar gets incorporated into this year’s offense.

Gridiron to Hardwood. It was interesting that the walk on who played the most against the Warriors was Tanner Sanders. The 6-4 freshman also is a wide receiver on the OSU football team. And the hometown hero (Crescent Valley) was pretty impressive, draining two 3-pointers and playing solid defense. Most impressive to me was that he didn’t force things and he boxed his man out after shots. Those are the little things that can go a long way. Who knows how much he will play against tougher competition, but Sanders might surprise.

Lack of mid-range game. My biggest concern through the very young season is the Beavers’ mid-range shooting or lack of it. They don’t really have a pure shooter such as Roberto Nelson, and that’s going to hurt against teams that play good defense. (OK, maybe using someone such as Nelson is an unfair example, but you know what I am trying to say.) Someone needs to emerge and start knocking down shots inside the arc more consistently. But at this point I am not sure who that will be. I’d like it to be Morris-Walker, because he elevates well, but he must be more consistent.

Overall, the Beavers moved to 2-0 for only the third time since the 2000-01 season (my freshman year at OSU, EEK!), and should have some momentum heading into their Friday evening matchup against Oral Roberts.

A lot can happen and the Beavers will probably lose more than they win this season, but I think they will surprise here and there — and provide a lot of hope for next year. Go Beavs! (RW)

What are your thoughts about the Beavers after three games?

 

The Official Candy Report: ASU

After a week of really, for me at least, railing against the coaches, asking for big changes, and looking to invigorate the fan base — as my wife and I walked from Pioneer Park to Reser to meet up with some friends, I felt justified in my complaints. While it was a frigid Saturday night game, the empty lots around the soccer fields and the vacancies around the stadium made me sad at how OSU Football has been this year. I felt bad for the players that give their all and yet are not able to fulfill the hopes they had for the season. I felt bad that they were playing in front of a 2/3 full stadium in their second to last game.

And that was the last time all night I would be sad.

Just like you cannot let the same mistakes go, I feel very strongly you cannot let good deeds go unmentioned. This game was a showcase of what people love about Mike Riley teams and why  writers think Beaver Nation is crazy for wanting someone else. The players were playing loose, fast, and like the better prepared team. While ASU tried to confuse them with constantly shifting outside pressure, OSU ran up the gut and got huge chunks of yardage. Unlike in the past, the Beavers didn’t quit. They ran all game long and used 3-yard gains as well as 76-yard runs.

There was one play at the end of the first quarter that sticks out to me. Dustin Stanton had a false start, but he at least went all the way and he set up for a pass protection look, but was also upfield a bit, so he was, I assume, trying to bait the defender into coming upfield for a draw play. After the 5-yard loss, ASU showed the same defense, and OSU ran it anyway, and it ended up being a 35-yard run by Storm Woods. The coaches knew what was working, they knew what they could block, and they knew how the runners were running. A second and 2 turned into a second and 7, which usually ends up in shotgun with no backs or a pass play of some kind. Instead, they trusted in their players, and the extra five yards that probably helped sell it, and got a huge gain from it.

Plays got in on time, they ran at the end of the game to eat clock, they did little hurry up plays, and sometimes calling two at once, just to change tempo a bit and kept ASU guessing all game long. When the ASU defense backed up off the line of scrimmage and had to ease up on the blitzes, the Beavers passed all over the field. Moving Gavin Andrews to guard played huge dividends this year, but the play of Josh Mitchell was inspired.

Even a player like Caleb Smith, who has taken heat this year, used his athleticism well. While I am not sure he had a shot on the first pass to the end-zone in the third quarter, I am sure a competitor like Caleb would say he should have had the fourth down one. But rather than get down on himself, he kept with it, blocked like a boss, and came up with a huge first down catch later in the game.

The Beavers were filled with stories like that Saturday. Stephen Nelson, who was basically in charge of shutting down one of the best receivers in the nation,  won more than he lost. Or Dylan Wynn who apparently had the refs out to get him early on, going out there, and shutting down their offense. Or DJ Alexander, Michael Doctor, and Rommel Mageo constantly flying to the runner, cutting between blocks, and playing at full speed.

All of the things we’ve complained about were addressed for at least one week and it resulted in a huge win against the 6th-ranked team in the nation and the potential Southern Pac-12 Champion. When this team, these coaches, and the fans that were there Saturday night are playing, coaching, and cheering like that, magic can happen. That is what a writer like Bud Withers or a coach like Rich Brooks sees when they hear Beaver fans malign Riley.

While we have not seen this from he Beavers consistently the last few years, it is still possible and it still can be done. Saturday proves this. It is up to the coaches now to find a way to do this week in and week out. To be the team that forces other coaches to use their time outs prematurely or to have their players running around on defense trying to figure out what to cover. It is up to the coaches to get the defense so ready that they are able to recognize what the play may be and shut it down.  We need to see a disciplined defense that is not getting burned, getting out of position, and making plays when they have the chance.

That is what we saw Saturday, as much as I have ever seen in watching the Beavers, and that is what the coaches need to do. Because while it was more than amazing to see this group of seniors get a big win, have the field stormed, and experience the fun of football, it was perhaps more important that 20,000 fans stayed experienced it. Because no matter what happens, we will all remember the fun and joy of this game and we will always look at this season a little differently.  There is nothing I can do about the past, and I have said my piece. One win doesn’t erase what ails this program. But what they do in the future, starting with UW this week, is what is going to be the stamp of this season. If we had to witness some bad losses, only to find an identity that gives us hope, and a strong finish that we haven’t seen since the mid 2000s, then I think there will be excitement during the offseason. If this is a great blip on an otherwise frowny season, then it will be more of an indicator of what could have been.

Regardless, no one can take away what I saw that Saturday, and it was not just the great final score, but it was the hugs, cheers, lost voices, the pumped up guy at the front of section 216 in the Beaver jacket. More importantly, it was the players smiling, laughing, and reveling in the victory as the students they go to school with and the fans who braved the cold swarmed them on the field, and for one night, reminded them that this game is not life or death, but sure as heck fun.

Go Beavers! Beat the dawgs!

A Tease? Or Sign of Things to Come?

First things first: The Beavers’ 35-27 upset of then-No. 6 Arizona State at Reser Stadium was one of the biggest shockers of the college football season. It also was a much needed win for OSU, which snapped a five game losing streak.

The Beavers started off strong, only to see ASU roar back and seemingly take control of the game. But OSU held strong, made plays on offense when it counted — and the defense came up big to seal the win. It was complete effort that the Beavers had been searching for all season.

I’m so happy that record-setting Sean Mannion finally got that signature win, that Storm Woods and Terron Ward busted off long runs showcasing their speed, that the o-line played tough and nasty, that the linebackers flew around making plays, that Steven Nelson shut down Jaelen Strong, etc. The players played their hearts out and were rewarded big time.

And I am really thankful that after ASU scored 21 unanswered points to take a 24-14 lead into halftime, that the OSU coaches didn’t panic. Instead, Riles and Co. made some superb adjustments. Major props to much-maligned defensive coordinator Mark Banker, whose unit held a potent Sun Devils offense to three points and less than 100 yards in the second half.

However… Will the ASU game be a “one shining moment” type of deal for the OSU coaching staff? Or can they build off this game and and finish the season strong?

By continuing to make adjustments and tweaks, and finding success with them, it sets up the staff to have a productive off season. Because even if there’s turnover among the staff, changes in philosophy and scheme are needed.

It would be deflating if the Beavers go to Seattle this weekend and lay an egg — it would totally mar the ASU win. It would be a giant step back and serve as further proof that the OSU coaching staff struggles with making strong changes.

So it will be interesting how the team comes out to play the Huskies, who are in the midst of an up and down season, and are coming off a tough last-second loss to Arizona. It would be great if the Beavers are aggressive from the start, and never look back. UW, right now, is the type of team that OSU can run away from…

But it will be up to the coaching staff to once again draw up a good game plan, put their players in positions to succeed, stick with what works, change up what isn’t, and coach with a sense of urgency. If they can do that, the Beavers have an excellent chance to beat UW and gain a lot of momentum heading into the Civil War.

Let’s hope the ASU game was a sign of better things to come for OSU, the coaches, and the players. Go Beavs! (RW)

Three great thoughts from a great game

First of all, that was the most fun I have had at ANY game since 2008. The win was super great and was a nice cap to a great weekend. While I was hard on the coaches last week about things I think were deserved, I also need to be balanced and praise them when they do things well. Here are three quick thoughts:

1. I love the way that the defense played. You would watch a read option play by ASU and what looked like a 15+ yard gain would be cut short by a streak with a “4” or “40” on their backs flying into the backfield. Or you would see a receiver who looked wide open, only to cough up the ball because they got drilled or harassed by a defender. The Beavers held ASU to 100 yards and eights points under its average — and only gave up three points and allowed less than 100 yards in the second half. They played very well and it was an effort that would have led to a few more wins earlier this year.

2. Likewise, I felt the coaches really came through this week. The Beavers looked prepared at the beginning of the game with a great plan that they stuck to — and it worked.  As ASU adjusted and was changing to stop what OSU was doing, the coaches went back and made more adjustments at halftime. On both sides of the ball, the Beavers came out better than their opposition in the second half.  And while ASU was wasting time outs and scrambling to figure out what OSU was doing, the Beavers were using up time when they needed and moving quickly when time was a factor. They manipulated their plan to try and expose weaknesses in the Sun Devils’ schemes, and when they found them, they attacked them until ASU moved and were forced to change  Then they attacked other areas that were softer.

Mostly, I just liked seeing them able to stay with what worked. The base defense was working so they stayed with it. Adjusting to ASU was the key. If they got burned by a running back out of the backfield, they adjusted and made sure there was someone there. If they got burned by a wide out screen, they adjusted how they attacked it.  ASU had a lot of med-length plays, but were rarely able to get the big play they sought. They could get what OSU was giving them, but when they tried for more, they came up empty.

I wanted the Beavers to manage the clock well, and they did. I wanted them to fight hard, and they did. I wanted to see them rise to the occasion and they did, over and over. While this game feels like the exception to the rule this season, my hope is that it spreads and continues through the rest of the season. Because while coaching changes and scheme adjustments build excitement, it is hard to replace winning.  So for at least for one week, I am excited because a win was earned by the players and coaches. Here’s to three more weeks of earned respect!

3. I had the pleasure to meet with some very special Beaver fans before this game. Before Raju gets all excited, it wasn’t him, (I kid! I kid!) It was a very good conversation and a very good reminder of something:

This is a game. These are kids who in many cases are not old enough to legally drink. They have families, they have friends, they have dreams, and they have fears.They make mistakes, sometimes mistakes that are not their fault, and they do what they are told, even if they disagree. Which is why I try to avoid getting too down on players.  They make mistakes, they do hurt the team at times, but they help the team so much more when they do things correctly. Not only that, but like us, they bleed Orange and Black.  While we can sit and complain and gripe, they are doing whatever they can to win games, but also to bring other players to OSU. They don’t see a sinking ship, but they see the team they love and the coaches they would run through walls for.

It is hard to be fan, to be dependent on others for your happiness and your identity with a team. It makes us angry at times, and starstruck at others.  It is why a whole legion of children, pets, and favorite cars are now called Quizz, or why we can express that someone doing something terrible pulled an “Avazanno.”  We are not above cruelty and we never treat coaches the way we want to be treated. Mostly, because we are powerless. The only thing we can do is not be there. The garbage number of 40K fans was a farce. It took only a quick look around the stadium to know that there were no more people there than when I watched OSU play USC in 1988. That is our power. We can give and we can take.

Unfortunately, when we take, it hurts those that play every week for us. I am not proposing people give, people need to do what they feel necessary.  What strikes me is how we deal with the players themselves. When I meet parents of players, I think about everything I have said, every unkind comment, even if it was under my breath, and I remember that I too can compound the results of my control over how much I give, by also hurting players and their families. The former is the best way to enact change, the latter is just destructive.

Parents read blogs, like this one, and they read recruiting sites and fan sites. They read them and they either react to what they hear about their sons, or they decide if they want their kids to play at that school. It is everywhere, for every team in every situation. There will be negatives written that hurt feelings, but we can control how much and where. I will hold the coaches to a different standard than the players because they get paid a lot to win games.

I just don’t feel the need to do the same with the kids that choose to go to Oregon State, that choose to fight every week whether it is in front of 40 fans or 40,000. For them, I feel like I need to be better, because I definitely am not working as hard as they are to turn things around. Conversations like the ones I had remind me of this.

Go Beavers and thank you for the best game of the last seven years that I have seen at Reser. No pressure, but it sure would be cool to top it in two weeks…

Bright Future for OSU Hoops

Wednesday marked a big day in OSU basketball history. The program signed one of its best recruiting classes ever — it consists of four stars Stephen Thompson Jr., Tres Tinkle, and Drew Eubanks, and three star Derrick Bruce. A fifth player, three star Gligorije Rakocevic, is expected to sign at a later date.

Some quick thoughts: My favorite signee is Bruce. How long has it been since OSU had a play-making point guard? In fact, I think he could make the biggest impact right off the bat. When Tinkle was hired, he stressed the need to focus on local talents and landing Eubanks (Reynolds High School) was a huge first step in the right direction. It’s nice that this class addresses every position, from point guard to center, because it establishes a good foundation to build upon.

I also love how the four signees have bonded already, and how Tinkle broke the news to his father that he wanted to be a Beaver. If you haven’t read this article from The Oregonian, please do. You can’t help but think this is going to be a special group — on and off the court for OSU.

 

And at the end of the day, the Beavers’ class was ranked 17th nationally by ESPN. Not a bad haul for first-year coach Wayne Tinkle.

It’s unfortunate that this class can’t play right away, but it will be worth the wait. These signings mark a new, exciting era in OSU basketball. So I thought it would be fun to go “crystal ball” and look ahead to the 2015-16 season. Here’s a probable starting lineup (Remember, this is pure speculation)

  • PG – Derrick Bruce, FR
  • SG – Stephen Thompson Jr., FR
  • SF – Tres Tinkle, FR
  • PF – Drew Eubanks, FR
  • C – Daniel Gomis, SR

Four true freshmen starting alongside a senior. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But the Beavers are in need of a serious influx of talent, and if this year’s commits are half as good as their rankings, they will see the floor a lot. Plus, expect some current players to not return next year. Such attrition is normal (and somewhat expected) when a coaching change occurs.

Wondering why I picked Gomis? He’s an impressive athlete who has shown a lot upside. He just needs to stay healthy so he can refine the raw parts of his game, and learn to cut down on unnecessary fouls.

However, I could also see Gary Payton II and Malcolm Duvivier making big strides this season, and starting again next season. At the very least, the Beavers should have some strong options off the bench in 2015-16. The big question for me is how much of an impact will Rakocevic have? If he’s legit and not a project, that would be huge (pun intended), because capable big men are hard to find.

With that in mind, it’s hard not to be excited about the Beavers’ future. They have nice blend of skill, size, and versatility coming into the program soon. If Wayne Tinkle can repeat the kind of success he had at Montana, it might not be long until the Orange Express is rolling at Gill again… (RW)