The 2014 season was supposed to be a big one for the Oregon State Beavers. They returned a record-breaking quarterback, two experienced running backs, arguably the best TE tandem in the Pac-12, eight seniors on defense, and both their kicker and punter.
All the pieces were in place for Mike Riley and the Beavers to make a splash. But instead, their season spiraled downward and eventually down the drain, as they lost six of their last seven games — punctuated by their seventh straight loss to Oregon, 47-19.
They finished 5-7 and won’t be playing in a bowl game. Fan apathy is at an all-time high. And sweeping changes will need to be made if the Beavers hope to compete in the increasingly competitive Pac-12. It’s a scenario that seemed unfathomable at the beginning of the season, when there was plenty of cautious optimism.
So where did it go all wrong for the Beavers?
Was it when Brandin Cooks and Scott Critchton declared early for the NFL draft? Was it when Isaac Seumalo was declared out for the season? Was it when it became obvious Kyle Peko wouldn’t be eligible to play? Was it when injuries piled up on both sides of the line? Or was it when it was clear the Beavers couldn’t win the games they were supposed to?
Whatever it was, this season didn’t go according to plan. And it hurts. This team was too talented to only win five games, right? For crying out loud, it had the all-time Pac-12 passing leader at the helm.
But as painful as the defense’s late-season struggles were (39 points per game during those six losses), the offense never got going at any point during the season. Along the way, the play-calling was baffling, the clock management infuriating, and the lack of preparedness alarming. Simply put, Riles and Co. were out-coached most of the Pac-12 slate.
That’s why heading into the offseason, the focus needs to be on the coaching staff. They didn’t take advantage of this season’s schedule and the talent they had returning. Quite frankly, they fell flat. This year’s seniors deserved better. Had they been put in better situations to succeed, they could be playing in a bowl game. All things considered, this was one of the most disappointing seasons in program history — and easily the most disappointing of Riley’s tenure.
And if Riley doesn’t take a long hard look at the program, and more importantly, himself, I worry that all of the good (and it’s a lot) he has done for OSU football will start getting tarnished, as the program clearly is on downward trajectory. Whether, he tweaks the offense, lets assistants go, or starts being more vocal, something needs to change.
In fact, you could argue big splash needs to be made this offseason. Better late than never, right? (RW)