I am dealing with a huge dilemma. I want to make sure that we are getting this report out rapidly, but I am also finding that my spare time is left with bigger issues. While the WSU game, in and of itself, had some highs and lows, it more so outlines larger issues — and the need for bigger changes within the organization.
As a semi-public figure, I have had the fortune of talking to a lot of players, their parents and families, as well as some people within the program. I have watched a lot of film and seen a lot of games, as have most of the people reading this. So I am left with a lot of comments that I can’t share. So I am left with writing about this game as it was, and trying to hint at things that may be needed.
Lets start with something concrete. Sean Mannion starts the game with two passes, two completions, 63 yards, and a TD. He then goes 4-for-5 on the next drive, but comes up a yard short on third down and the Beavers settle for a field goal. Two drives, 6-7 passing for 127 yards, and 10 points. We also had 21 yards on four carries and one fly sweep. Up 10-0, this game started out perfectly for me. While I would have been OK with a run or two more, and I would have gone for it on fourth-and-one on the second drive, overall, I cannot ask for more. On the flip side, the defense was doing it’s best “bend-not-break” style of play and had held WSU to zero points.
Then the wheels kind of fell off. The defense gave up 10-20 yard passes at will, and a few mistakes by the Beavers, one in blocking a fly sweep and a drop here and there, allowed WSU to come back in the game. A big sack in the second quarter kept the Beavers from taking a 17 – 14 lead. Instead, they kicked a field goal, leaving too much time on the clock, and end up down 21 – 16.
This is the part that kills me. This is the third game this season that OSU had a late drive in the first half, ones during which a touchdown would give it a halftime lead or a field goal would put it within one point. But rather than just get first downs and burn clock, the Beavers passed every down and left too much time on the clock. In both the USC and Cal games, they got the ball with less than 3:30 on the clock and rather than eat up clock with a long drive, the Beavers passed, passed, and passed — or even worse gave up sacks or turned the ball over.
In the USC game, the Beavers had 1st and 10 on the 22-yard line with 2:38 left and chose to pass. Interception.
In the Cal game they had the ball with 3:23 left, got a seven-yard run and then lost yards on two passes, giving Cal the ball back with 2:38 on their own 16. Even two more runs by OSU even if they didn’t result in a first down, would have left Cal with just one time out and not enough time to get that last TD. Of course, the Golden Bears only needed three yards, so there is a good chance they would have gotten it.
In the WSU game, the Beavers had 1st and 10 on the WSU 15 yard line with just under three minutes left on the clock. Three straight passes led to not only a sack and an eventual 3rd and 14 situation, but left 1:51 on the clock for the Cougars — and they drove down and scored.
This to me is the problem. It is not the players who were playing their guts out. It is not the scheme necessarily, as the Beavers were moving the ball well, but it is the stubborn disregard of clock management and not putting your team in position to succeed. In each of these games, OSU was running well, at a 4+ yards per carry. It also was in position in all three of them to give opponents either under one minute to score, or with one or no time outs. When you are in the red zone with two minutes left, and you have a 35-second play clock, you work your butt off to score a touchdown using those minutes. Two plays, assuming the actual play takes six seconds, will use up almost 1:30 if you don’t stop the clock. TWO PLAYS! If the other team uses their time outs, even better. Because you can call the perfect play AND they won’t have those on their ensuing drive.
So while I want to write about great performances by players such as Sean Mannion and Chris Brown, and Obum Gwatcham, I am left with visions of our opponents scoring late TDs in the first half , an unprepared defense looking at the sideline while a play is being run, and another example of terrible clock management.
I want to celebrate players such as Dylan Wynn for their hard work and being so reliable week in and week out. I want to praise a guy such as Jordan Villamin, who has worked hard in a few short months after a year off to become our best target among three promising receivers. I want to talk endlessly about how excited I am to see how good Justin Strong gets or how Bud Delva is quietly becoming our best defensive tackle since Stephen Paea.
That is what I want to talk about, but I am left with negatives that are not spot accidents or correctible with film watching because they are so common that they are ingrained in the staff’s psyche. It starts at the top, and Mike Riley is the king of this kingdom. He needs to set a tone that is different than ever before, because this year the Beavers’ talent is not the problem. And that tone needs to carry into the offseason. It needs to be devoid of pride and filled with discovery. It needs to be sweeping and complete in its changes, and it needs to be so obvious that even casual fans will be excited.
Because right now some really good plays and really good players are not being allowed develop because of mistakes they have no control over.
Of course, as always, Go Beavers! Because there is no alternative.