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…