Here are a few thoughts I have running around about the final game and next year:
- The Civil War:
I will admit it, I was expecting a blow out. Honestly I am very happy for how entertaining the game was and really just happy for the players that made it through the gauntlet of this seismic shift in philosophy and in the program.
I am especially proud of players like Kyle Peko who made the most of their one year, even as the rest of the team crumbled at times. Or a player like Kendal Hill, who made constant strides all year long and ended by showing some real speed tracking down Taj Griffin on a sweep. I also am proud of guys like Marcus McMaryion who kept his head in the game despite not getting as fair of a shot as many other players to claim the starting job.
Through it all, it is still another loss, and another loss to the ducks. I am not going to pretend that doesn’t suck. The thing that struck me as I was leaving was this: This will be the worst it gets for OSU. We came in with 57 players, tons of back-ups and a bunch of guys that may never wear the uniform again, despite retaining eligibility to do so. And this team came within ten points of winning. At Autzen. With the full strength ducks riding a then 5 game winning streak.
I hope they enjoy it, because that was probably the end of the streak.
- 2016 and Beyond:
it is hard to separate ourselves emotionally from the game. Raju and I go back and forth about this year and about our expectations and how we sometimes feel kind of hopeless. Was this what we wanted? Was Andersen really worth his billing? Are we on our way up when everything feels like it is going down?
The Civil War gave us a boost, but that was similar to the boost we felt in 2012. Where does reality lie in all of this? Well, here is the deal:
Yes, this is what we wanted.
It feels terrible, but as players we love and have rooted for are packing their stuff out of their locker for the last time, some to graduation, some because they were told they might need to look elsewhere, or some because they just don’t want to do it anymore, we are left with a system, a vision and a team that is relatively untainted by compromise. We have seen some players leave early that would have been good for a few extra good plays. We have seen the sadness in parents eyes when their child is taken out of the game never to return all year and we have seen the disappointment in the look of the team as they trudge out after a bad play as if they are stranded in the middle of the Movie Ground Hogs day and they just realized that they cannot leave.
Not until the show is over.
So as we prepare for next year, as the coaches try and keep all the pieces of what promises to be the best class in school history (since 2002 when Rivals started keeping records) and as players start to evaluate what they need to work on to be better next year, we are left with a new start. This team, come fall camp, will most likely have over 50 players on it that have known no other coach at OSU than Gary Andersen. They are players picked by him and hist staff to achieve what those coaches desire in players. They are the right parts for the job. The right fit. Most likely all four of our QB’s (with the loss of Mitchell) will have had more time with McGiven and Baldwin than Riley and Langsdorf/Garrett.
We will have one more off season with Coach Simon to get physically where we need to be and we will have players that have a chance to work on what they know is really their biggest hurdles. Because they have film to prove it.
So as I finish this eternal blog post, that is meandering and repetitious, I end it with this. Right now, today, we are better off than we were at the end of the season in 2014. We have a unified direction from coaches we know, we have a vision of what our team will look like and we have the pieces coming in to make it a reality. Come September first, when we step on the turf of TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we will know far more about what to expect from our team that they will from theirs. And I am more than OK with that.