When I sat down to make my predictions for the season, I had Oregon State winning 3 games. ISU, Cal and Oregon. My goals for the season were to see progress, to see improved play and to see the Beavers be competitive. I figured that would come by an improved offense and a slightly better defense. After the first six games of this season, the Beavers are 2-4 and won the games I thought they would. How they won is a different story.
I have been very impressed with the way the defense has played. We are still not able to stop the run, but passing yards have come scarce and at a cost against the Beavers. The play of the secondary has been fantastic and the linebackers seem to get better every week. Now Utah is not an offensive juggernaut, and the weather was not ideal for passing the ball, but the physical play of the Beaver secondary has really done a lot to shake up opposing offenses.
The problem is, that OSU’s offense is not really very good. You can point to moments here and there, but for the most part, the Beaver offense has not done much all season. Last season, the Beavers ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense at 19 points per game. We have improved on that this year, but by only 6 points. At 25 points per game, we have the second worse offense in the conference (ahead of Stanford). We are averaging 14 yards more per game as well (350 ypg in 2016 vs 336 ypg in 2015). That was obvious in this game where the Beavers had only 1 passing yard into the 4th quarter, and finished the game with under 300 yards of total offense. While Marcus McMariyon provided a huge spark in the air (throwing in 9 passes for more than any other passer all game combined) we still saw the same effect that the BSU game had. A good drive by new arm followed by not much as they adjusted. I hope that Marcus provides a huge spark to the passing game, but I also know that if the coaches should be trusted to evaluate talent, that there is no way they have their best passer sitting on the bench. Something will have to give.
Which brings me to my point in this recap of the game. Bot teams played in terrible weather, both teams had terrible mistakes (interceptions, fumbled snaps, overthrows, missed blocks, bad play calls, etc.) but with as vanilla as the Utah offense is, they were able to move the ball consistently. They also realized that passing wasn’t going to be a good deal for them on Saturday, so they looked to the run game. They only threw 4 passes in their last five drives, and missed it on short run plays three times. That is a testament to not just our defense for turning them away, but for Utah’s understanding of what gave them the best chance to win. They had the lead and they needed to burn clock.
Our coaches continues to throw, even in a game that was under 2 scores difference at any point in the game. Our second drive of the game we got 34 yards on two rushes and then passed twice and killed the drive. Our third drive we got 4 yards on our first run, and then passed twice and threw a pick. Our fourth drive we ran for 28 yards in our first two plays and then passed twice to end the drive. Worse yet, had we ran even one of those we would have gone into the second quarter before having to snap for a punt (assuming we don’t get a first down running) and hopefully avoid the safety off of the bad punt snap.
Not only that, but we are becoming obvious. We passed on every single 2nd down of longer than 4 yards except one. That is a pretty predictable pattern. It was like clockwork, and the only time we didn’t was when we passed on first down and got an incomplete pass in the first quarter.
At this point, I feel like we have yet to see improvement from our receivers or our QB’s. in the last two seasons. I am not sure if it is just a talent thing or coaching. Coach McGiven has had to use 10 different starting QB’s in his last 3 years. That is over 3 a year, which is scary. Is it the offense? Bad luck? Regardless, the part of this team that will impede its growth is the offensive line, the QB play and the defensive line. Those three positions have had the most struggles this year, but two are getting better. The offensive line played a far tougher defensive front this week than Cal was and it showed, but they were still more than good enough to win the game. The defensive line is getting better and better, but still has some work to do. This Utah team was very injured on their offensive line, but still had two legitimate NFL prospects that played. So it was a tougher task.
Quarterback looked like the roughest position on the field for both teams, and in the case of Utah, I have to say it was because of our defense. In the case of us, watching passes to nobody, dropped balls and lack of separation by our receivers leads me to believe that there are still some serious issues to deal with. And that is not unexpected.
It is fine to be critical, because I am not sure that all the coaches are doing as well as their peers. Maybe we just need better players, because development isn’t as strong in those spots. I have no idea, but if you look back at the top of this report, I never expected it to be great. We knew coming into this game and this year that we were going to struggle. We wanted improvement, well we got it. And now we are starting to narrow down the parts that don’t work well. Will we overcome those? Maybe not this year. But the focus of what OSU needs to do is pretty clear. Improve on the lines, at QB and at Receiver. Do that, and you may see OSU start to pull through on these games and win more than they lose. This is year two and it was going to be a little ugly. We all knew it. But now that we see good parts the parts that still need work stand out that much more. It is frustrating, but it is also exciting to see the progress and realize a few pieces will make a huge difference!
The Halloween Spice Drop Award of Excellence
This week, I feel like this needs to go to Caleb Saulo. Caleb was all of the field and made some huge plays. He also played so aggressively that he literally made some Utes quit on a few plays. His sack was huge and came at a huge time and he seemed to be all over the ball carrier all game long. I really feel like the linebackers came alive this week and made the biggest leap of any part of the team. Saulo was a key component of that and showed a lot of leadership for the Beavers.
The Jujifruit Award of Improvement
While there have been a lot of players improving, I have to go with Marcus McMariyon. To come off the bench and pass better than anyone all game en route to a quick TD strike was impressive. Marcus gave OSU hope in a game that looked to be out of reach at a 19-7 deficit and an anemic offense. Marcus came in and lit it up through the air culminating in a TD pass to Hunter Jarmon late in the game. While they couldn’t complete the comeback, Marcus showed that he can come in and get points when needed. With the injuries to Garretson and Blount, we will need him to show that a lot in the next few weeks.
The Good ‘N Plenty Award of Shame
To me, this is pretty easy this week. It is obviously TV timeouts. While last week was specific to the Pac-12, this week it is at all of TV. I understand that they need to make their advertising money. The problem is as that model dies, and in the case of many P12 games, the audience will never be there to garner the big money because most of the country is asleep. This last week, we had Ohio State and Wisconsin playing at 5pm PST. That game took all eyes off of any P12 game that wasn’t those fans or P12 supporters. So what is the benefit of TV TImeouts? In the case of the P12network, how many of those breaks are just for P12 content? Is that effective use of advertising space? Is there more value to constantly stopping the game or having one big break at the end of each quarter.
We are in the era of smart phones and Red Zone TV. We are no longer a captive audience but a mobile and sporadic one. Rarely do we watch games in completion without doing something else or flipping channels for another game because there are so many available. The worst part is the effect it has to live games. it is hard to build momentum if you have a commercial break during a play review and then again one play later after a punt.
For me, there has to be a better option for a dying model. Superimposed logos, PIP adds in the corner of the screen. frequent sponsorship call outs, or even just higher rates for fewer slots. While I love that all the games are on TV, it feels like the live version of the game suffers, as does the play on the field. Which destroys the product. The product should be protected at all costs, and the flow of games can cut down on overall time and appeal to more patrons. If Football could be narrowed down to a 2.5 hour event instead of a 3.5 hour one, it might be able to take the next step in popularity.
As it is, we have a model where games are getting longer, play is interrupted and fans are choosing to watch other games or something else entirely during the big lapses, and are missing the game. Boo that for sure.
What do you guys think?
Go Beavs (PRO)