3 Takeaways From the Cal Game

I wish that what I was writing about the three takeaways our defense made that led to a huge Beaver win, but alas, that is not the case. Instead, I have a few more negative takeaways, as well as a positive one.

1. Whether you are a fan or a foe of Mike Riley, what I witnessed in Reser on Saturday was something that is not acceptable. I am not talking about what happened on the field (that is for later), but rather what I saw around the stadium.

Back in the 1980’s, I remember going to see the Beavers play Stanford, and having Parker a little more full for that game.  While the ‘big’ crowds were reserved for the Civil War, a lot of people came to those other games not because Stanford was great (they were not), but because that was a game OSU might win. Outside of the big-name stars like Rodney Peete or Troy Aikman drawing the fans in, the winnable games were the bigger draw.

Saturday, against one of the easier opponents remaining on Oregon State’s schedule, the stands looked like a ghost town. On a cold Thursday night in 2008, there was more passion and electricity and fans in the stadium to witness a game between the top-ranked Trojans and the 32-point underdog, 2-2 record Beavers. The crowd played a huge role in that game and the passion was there. Against a team OSU should’ve beat, in a season where they need every win, the passion was gone. Sure it got loud in the third quarter, but in our section, all the pre-game talk was about how terrible the Beavers were.

And that is the deal. Whether it is the diehards on message boards, the season ticket holders, or the casual fans, people are just tired and bored with the direction of the program. You can point to whatever you want as the reason, and you can hold the fans to whatever standard you have, but the reality is that the fans have left the party. Whatever that means for the future, OSU as an athletic department has to rebuild that excitement or they will lose people for longer than they realize. One only has to look at the revitalization of the basketball program before Tinkle has coached a single game to realize that these days, if the long term plan seems to be the same year in and year out, people will drop off and maybe never come back.

Autzen is filled every week with fans that don’t know crap about the program or who could have cared less 10 years ago about the ducks. Now they like to go, make their ‘O’ face, flash their Vagina sign, and be ridiculous fans. And I am jealous. Not just of their success, but because of their fans and the fire their fans have. Now, that bandwagon is in precarious position, as are all top team wagons, because the slightest chink in your armor shakes the outer tier of winner-chasers off. But it will take a lot of losing for Autzen to resemble what I saw at Reser on Saturday.

And that has to change. Or else things will only get worse.

2. We need to recruit better. OSU crossed the threshold of manageable injuries in the trenches against Utah, and it showed this weekend. There were players out there that are not ready yet, and they struggled. Cal has put up yards on every team they have played, except UW. They have put points on the board as well. That is not the issue to me. The issue was some of the guys who looked lost and just were not physically able to make the plays. I am not going to call anyone out, but I will say this: I would much rather have another great recruiter who coaches safeties or tight ends, and also covers special teams than a dedicated special teams coach. OSU has finished no higher than seventh in the conference in recruiting (according to Rivals.com) over the last decade.

In 2011, Cal had the 17th-ranked class in the nation, the Beavers had the 56th. In 2012, OSU had the No. 39 class, Cal had the No. 23. In 2013, the Beavers again pulled a 39th finish, while Cal came in at 32. This followed a season in which the Beavers finished with nine wins and Cal finished with three. So the team that the Beavers played this weekend averaged 20 places higher than the Beavers. Oh, and anyone left from that 2010 class? Well, Cal ranked 11th and the Beavers ranked 44th. That is a HUGE gap and while it may not show up as much when it comes to starters, it certainly does as you start getting into your second- and third- string players.

OSU needs to find a way to win battles against teams like Cal. Watching Cal is like a watching a parade of near misses on the recruiting trail by the Beavers. Powe, Treggs, Davis, Lawler, and Harper were all top receiving prospects the Beavers wanted — and all chose Cal. You cannot face your A-list players with the guys you got instead, and expect to and win all the time.

So no matter what changes happen this offseason, and there will be some, recruiting has to be the top priority. Because there is a tangible reason that OSU seems to be losing to top teams all the time, and with the recruiting OSU gets it would be a miracle if they didn’t.  There are always stars and always great development, but overall, OSU has been very thin.

3. While there are a lot of negatives, and I am being tame, you cannot let that game go by without mentioning Sean Mannion’s feat.  Earlier in the day, the heir apparent to that record had his leg shattered by a gruesome hit during the WSU game. Football is a violent game, and Sean has not escaped unscathed, which I think is the most impressive part of his game. Many will say that Derek Anderson never fully recovered from the beating he took against USC his first year as a starter, and promising players like Lyle Moevao and Jeremy Perry were never able to reach their full potential because of injuries. Yet, Sean has overcome them — and came out and played hard every day.

I think about the Stanford game last year, where Sean came out of the game with hands that looked like raw meat and pain in every part of his body, yet, he stood in there among 10 sacks and constant pressure to pass 46 times and keep his team in position to win until the very last seconds.

I also think about games such as the 2012 Civil War or the 2012 UW game that would have wilted a lot of quarterbacks and sent them backward mentally.  Yet, Sean shook those off and came out and set records the next season even though he split reps all spring and summer in a position battle.

There are people who don’t like him, and there are people that think he is overrated. That is fine, there are people who think the same about guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Sean is a warrior, has done more than he was ever asked to do, and has never hurt the team off the field. He is a great leader and has passed for more yards than anyone in conference history. No amount of public opinion can change that. When people talk about great passers in the Pac-12 or Pac-16 or whatever it becomes, Sean’s name will always be in that conversation, and I cannot think of a better representative of the program to carry that honor.

Congratulations Sean, while I am sure you would rather have the win, you deserve recognition for this amazing feat.

And as always, Go Beavers!


3 thoughts on “3 Takeaways From the Cal Game

  1. Building the Dam (@BuildingTheDam)

    Spot on about Sean.

    As you note, we can pick apart anyone, even Tom Brady and Payton Manning, as everyone has their shortcomings, and that certainly includes Sean.

    But the current issues are much more about the inconsistent support he is getting than any of his limitations, and as time goes by, we will only come to further realize and appreciate what he has done. The line of great quarterbacks in this conference in the last 60 years or so is a long one, winding well out of a number of halls of fame.

    Also spot on about recruiting.

    Things are not as bad as it might seem; 2 drops Saturday night produced an 18 point swing, in a game lost by 14 points, and since the Utah game went to double overtime, by definition Oregon St. was a play or two from a win that night too. So with 3-5 plays being made, and not necessarily spectacular ones, the Beavers would be bowl eligible with 1/3 of the season still to go, and in control of their own fate in the conference.

    But no one with any football IQ doesn’t realize this team isn’t as good as it was even a month ago. The difference between contending and mediocrity is often a very thin line, and usually one that winds through the injury report.

    Oregon St. is down multiple linemen on both sides of the ball, and its not a coincidence that as that has happened, the Beavers aren’t playing with near the consistency.

    At the same time, even early on, it was also obvious this team has its deficiencies.

    The common thread here comes back to recruiting, where the depth and breadth and consistency of recruiting isn’t there to withstand many injuries, or diverse opponents once they get some game film.

    And all the mistakes, like the wrong unit on the field on 3rd down, having 10 men on the field when the opponent is in scoring position, or 12, and coming up short with the route on 4th down, wind up being the difference between winning and losing for a team like Oregon St. that has such a small margin for error, instead of meaning winning 31-17 instead of 45-7, like teams that can recover from a couple of miscues.

    Right now, Coach Riley is trying to win in the Pac-12 with what is down to a Mt. West roster.

    Improved recruiting, together with fixing scheme and system issues and unforced problems, which also helps recruiting (style matters, and so does not wondering if a lot of hard work will go down the drain over a few key mistakes), are the answer to that.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne Post author

      Yeah, I agree, I am about to do my Candy Report but the thing with this game that really stuck out to me was that our defensive line was just depleted and that had Grimble this week, I think the game ends up vastly different as they could keep Wynn outside all game long. The effort was there against a good offense, but OSU just needs to be a bit better. The worst thing to me is, this should be the last year for the 2010 class. The Fred Thompson tragedy, the failure of Molesi from qualifying and the early departure of Crichton means that a class that should be closing out their careers now, has 0 contributors to this defensive line.

      Even worse is the offensive line where you had only Sapolu in 2010 and the offensive line class of 2011 that included Addie, Gonzalez and Jackson had zero players make it to their senior year, let alone to the two deep. So now you have one player representing two years of recruiting. Since 2012, OSU has had at least two players and averaged five per year on the offensive line. That depth will pay off in the long run, but right now with all but four linemen on the team being redshirt sophomores or younger, you have the makings of a deeper squad but not a group you can throw to the wolves yet.

      That is why recruiting has to be looked at in larger scales. 3-6 years is how long it takes most classes to develop. As of now, every offensive lineman from the 2012 and 2013 class that is still on the roster has started a game on the offensive line. While most schools are dealing with three or four seniors in their two deep, the Beavers will say goodbye to one player on their line this year.

      That is the flaw in our recruiting and while I am not sure how last year or this year’s classes will turn out in the end, at least they bring depth and, in many cases, safer bets to qualify and be able to contribute than we saw from 2009 – 2011. I still shake my head at the sadness of the loss of Thompson. The thought of him the last two years and what he could have done here is just a small drop in the tragedy of his passing, but it sure would have been fun to see.


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