In 2011, OSU went to Wisconsin to play the Russell Wilson led Badgers. Amid a QB controversy and an injury to Juice Andrews, OSU took a reasonably promising defensive start and stumbled to a huge loss at Whisky behind an anemic offense. While the defense held the future Rose Bowl champs to 3 points in the first quarter, the 3 and outs were too much for a young and thin defense to overcome the physically superior Badgers.
OSU is in the same boat here in 2015. A good defense that is razor thin in depth, inexperienced at linebacker and needs every hand it can get from the offense to keep going. That 2011 team was a far better defense than their stats will ever show because they were on the field far too much. Remember the Civil War? When they held the ducks to three straight fourth down failures, only to follow them up with two interceptions and a 3 and out? I do.
That was what seemed to happen in Michigan, though maybe a little more painful because it started so promising. OSU marched down the field with ease as Seth Collins found Hunter Jarmon in the endzone for a touchdown. Then, on a crushing blitz, reigning Halloween Spice Drop Award winner Rommel Mageo blew up the Michigan QB who I cannot be bothered to remember the name of and recovered the ensuing fumble. At that point, I think all of Beaver Nation was thinking ‘Oh hells yeah! This is on like Konkey Dong!*’
Which explains the virtual weeping and gnashing of teeth that blew up on the internet for the rest of the game. Like the Whos down in Whoville, the cries started out small and then began to grow. Unlike that famous story, no one’s heart grew three sizes, nor did we gain the strength of ten Bennys, plus two. Instead we basically threw everyone associated with OSU under the buss. That includes you Betty Crocker!
But lets face reality. OSU has two very distinct issues that need to be addressed. Quarterback and depth. It is not a lack of talent, they have a lot of that. Nor is it a lack of effort. That is there as well. It is just the little things. Avoiding silly penalties, using your blockers better, catching the easy catches, recognizing the same plays on defense, handing off when the defense calls for it and completing throws when they are there. That is a long list, but most of it is almost there. I know Jordan Villamin’s momentum carried him into the defense on that fourth down. Despite that liar “Instant Replay” making it seem like he had all day to adjust, the reality is he got his head around just in time to take a few steps forward and get blasted.
But what if the throw was easier to catch and led him rather than forcing him to contort to catch it? What if he had seen what was going to happen before it did based on where his blockers were, where the defense was and the fact that his best chance was to run at an angle for the sideline. Those are things that the team will see once on films and will stick in their minds. You want proof? Looks at the paths some of the blockers took this week. They were far better than last week because they saw what was wrong and corrected it. Look at Josh Mitchell and how well he blocked a great defensive front. It didn’t look like the same guy that struggled a bit in the 3rd quarter against Weber State.
All year long they will fix things, correct errors and get more efficient. They have to, or the season will be long and the next class will force them to the bench. The Beavers have a chance to do some damage in a weak Northern division as long as they continue to get better, stay healthy and do the little things. If you touch it, catch it. If the guy is open, get him the ball. When you line up, ask the ref if you are on the line or not. Little things make a huge difference and we will see that this week against San Jose. It just didn’t happen in Ann Arbor.
2011 was a rough year for all of Beaver Nation, but it led to a solid year the next season as a very young Beaver team learned how to play and win. 2015 is eerily similar. We can freak out over the second game of a new regime, or we can look at what is really there. Some small, fixable errors on a team that is going 180 degrees in every way (scheme, attitude and physically) from last year. The depth and experience is not there to win a championship, but there is enough to exceed our current low expectations for sure. There will be bumps, we saw a lot, but the team that drove down the field and scored on the first drive is still there. The team that got turnovers and held Michigan to 130 yards is still there. It just needs to stick around for four quarters in a tough game against conference opponents.
Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.
Go Beavs (PRO)
* Game name modified to avoid trademark violations.