One thing about football is its complexity. There are so many players, and others, involved in a game that typically takes over 3 1/2 hours to play, never mind everything that goes into the run-up and the aftermath, time enough for all sorts of circumstances to arise, that there’s always multiple storylines, and both positives and negatives most everything.
Today’s home opener against Portland State is no exception. I’m not generally a fan of an 11 AM start, and most others aren’t either, but given the unseasonable heat, being relegated by the Pac-12 Channel to the early part of the day will actually be a good thing.
The quality of Oregon State’s depth is an under-discussed component in the second half meltdown in the heat at Colorado State, which is comparable to predicted temperatures for this game. Rotation players couldn’t get the job done in some cases, and unable to use as many of them as desired, staying with the starters more than planned under prevailing conditions meant they got hot and tired, moreso than Colorado State’s. Make no mistake, even though the Rams are a Mt. West team, 1-50 they are overall a better team than Oregon State is, even if some of the Beavers individually are better than their Colorado State matchup.
Playing FCS opponents is a controversial issue a lot of people involved with FBS would like to see go away. Given how things went last week in Fort Collins, a more manageable game to make a bounce back in is actually a good thing just at the moment.
There will actually be position matchups where the Beavers are actually bigger or faster than the Vikings. Not all of them, but more than a few of them. That’s much more positive than the matchup situation against the Rams.
The injury report can even have both good and bad sides. Given how the Oregon State offense bogged down as the game went on, and the stakes got higher, the continued absence of a dynamic play-maker like Seth Collins, one of a very few on the Beaver roster capable of making game changing plays, is a big negative.
At the same time, given both how badly the Oregon State defensive front played, and how bad it looked when Titus Faliauga, below, was hauled out using a John Deere, the news that he wasn’t injured all that seriously, and will be back to help out the middle of the Beaver defense is a big positive for a unit needing all the help it can get.
Oregon State should win this one, whereas while the hope was they could pull out the last one, the understanding was it would be close at best, and a loss was a very real possibility, even with a much better effort than Beaver fans got. And a loss counts as a loss regardless of the margin.
The 31 point blowout, and especially the most points allowed yet in the Gary Andersen era, were particularly hard to watch, or tolerate. And the problems that were the cause of this latest road debacle are very real, and many will not be going away any time soon. But a win over Portland State will send the Beavers into the Labor Day Holiday 1-1, the same as if the opener had ended in a 48-45 nail biter.
Some have said this is a “Must Win Big” game for the Beavers, and while a confidence boost a big win might provide would help, especially if its the result of a number of issues are fixed, or at least improved on (its doubtful that Jake Luton will suddenly become highly accurate, but a jump up from a 57% completion rate to something in the mid 60s, accompanied by a drop in interceptions, would be a good step in the right direction), a win by any margin avoids a 3rd loss to an FCS opponent, and the program’s first loss ever to Portland State.
A close game in which the Beavers improve on the much discussed communication issues, and decrease the number of coverage blows, missed coverage reads, and turnovers, and beat a quality effort by the Vikings would actually be better than a sloppy blowout that is more the result of Portland State melting down in the heat, and against a second FBS team on the road in 8 days.
Regardless of the level of the opponent, there are things that Oregon State can correct, and will need to if they are to beat Minnesota next week, in the next “Must Win” game on the Beavers’ schedule.
Some sort of system adjustment on defense that doesn’t result in large undefended areas for the opponent to attack on the edges will be easy to spot just by looking at the amount of available greenspace Portland State has to operate in.
So would a departure from the fire-drill nature of the defense, where its hard for the players to even know who is in the game, much less how they might work together.
Some semblance of basic reads and progressions on other than an occasional basis would also help, and should happen.
So would some good decisions about when, and where from, kickoffs should be returned, which would indicate improvement in the understanding of time and distance, a fundamental that has nothing to do with talent, and everything to do with coaching.
Figuring out some blitz packages would also not only help, it would be encouraging, and necessary, as the real problems with the defensive front line and interior linebackers largely can’t be fixed in the near term.
If none of these improvements are apparent, Andersen and staff will (and should) really begin to come under close scrutiny.
I expect we will see some improvements from Oregon State, but I’m really interested to see how much, and where.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)