Sometimes, when you start a trip, say to Mexico, you prepare by getting your flights, packing your bags, making sure any details like paper delivery and pet feeding are taken care of and that you have your passport. The whole time you are prepping this, you tend to have a vision. The vision is the result of all the prep, and that is the place you are going. Whether it is a resort in Puerto Vallarta or a Pac12 title, the process is the same. You have a vision of where you want to be that you keep as you tweak and adjust your program to get there.
Washington is that vision. A fast, aggressive and talented team that plays disciplined and impressive football. Oregon State is in the packing and planning phases of this trip, but they are making strides. Whereas last year they were still booking their trip and looking at flights, now we are in the meat of the rebuild. The part where you are taking care of the details, trying to improve your pass rush or get the right personnel on your offense to get the most of it’s nuance is what OSU is in right now.
In looking at the game, you can see a few scenarios that show the tightening needed. In the first drive of the game for the Beavers, nothing worked. They were adjusting to the speed and the talent of their opponent. 3 and out, with some really poor execution across the board. Then in the second drive, while it started out shaky, Marcus McMariyon hit on a few big passes to drive down near the red-zone. Going 5-5 for 50 yards, Marcus guided the team down the field and culminated with an 8 yard Tim Clark run that left the Beavers with a 3rd down and 2 yards to go at the UW 21. At 14-0, the Beavers could cut the lead to one score or at least get on the board.
Then, they run two plays in a row that have Seth Collins making a throw and in WildCat formation.
This is not a burn on Seth who has done great things this year but kind of a weird call by the coaches. Even if the plays were scripted, they took the ball out of the hot hand (McMariyon) and put them into someone who has thrown two passes all year (both way out of bounds) and who has a 1.9 yard average on 13 carries this year. That was not the date you took to all the way down field to the 21, so why the switch? Unfortunately, both plays failed and the Beavers chose to go for it on 4th down. Rather than use Tim Cook, their monster bicep-ed power runner who had just gauged the Huskies up the middle for 8 yards, they instead called a play for Paul Lucas, the speedy running back/receiver hybrid on an outside play. Unfortunately for the Beavers, the Husky defender was just as fast and aggressive and pushed Lucas out for no gain.
This felt like a theme on offense. As the defense got acclimated to what the Huskies were trying to do, the Beaver offense felt like it couldn’t get out of its own way. The very next drive, while getting 14 yards on 3 Tim Cook carries, they then passed on (on 2nd and 6, which of course we always pass on) and then ended up with a 3rd and 6 which also fell incomplete after a pass break up by the Huskies.
Of course the next two drives the Beavers went for runs on 2nd and long and got 5 yards each time, giving them much more manageable 3rd downs. They converted one but got cute on the other and didn’t get the 2 yards needed for a first down.
My point is that I think the Beavers are close to being a good team. Not Elite like UW, but good. Right now the issue with the Beavers is that while they have a pretty great offensive system, capable of huge plays at any time, and a decent offensive line that is working their butts off to make plays, their play calling can be head scratching. I am not an Offensive Coordinator and I don’t know all they are doing or trying to do. I could be way off base, and part of play calls is execution, which is out of the coaches hands. But another part is putting them in position to win. When the Huskies knew the play, it never worked. When they could pin their ears back and run to the ball, it was really difficult for the Beavers. So for Oregon State, they need to be able to keep teams guessing, keep them horizontal and not vertical.
I felt like that was missing in this game. I am proud of the effort and proud of the progress, but I can see huge leaps this year, with 4-5 winnable games left, every little bit will help. Sticking with what is working is good. But maybe I am over simplifying it. Maybe, just maybe I should trust them. After all, this year is turning out exactly as I predicted so far, and they are making the gains we all wanted to see.
Maybe I should respect the process a little more.
THE HALLOWEEN SPICE DROP AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
A repeat performer, but I cannot give this award to anyone but Victor Bolden Jr. He has been one of the MVP’s of this season for the Beavers and he has really elevated his game to be a legitimate Pac12 star. When Victor was recruited, may called him the next Brandin Cooks. Which was unfair to him. What we are seeing now is how his hard work has led to a closer comparison to Mr. Cooks. Victor demands attention on every play and is the name that opposing teams are conscious of when they play the Beavers. His performance against the Huskies was one of the bright spots of the game and had the big play of the game for the Beavers.
JUJIFRUIT AWARD OF IMPROVEMENT
I don’t want to minimize the work of the defense by giving all these awards to the offense. The defense led by Caleb Saulo really did a good job against one of the best offenses in the country. That being said, Tim Cook really needs a shout out. Not only was he a 100 yard rusher against a team that averaged giving up less than 140 yards on the ground per game, but he did so in his first major action of the season. Despite a few big plays and catches for the Beavers sprinkled throughout the year, Tim has been largely behind Ryan Nall, Art Pierce and Paul Lucas. But Cook took advantage of his chance to play and ripped off over 5 rushes of 10 yards or more and did a great job in blocking the Huskies.
Great work Tim and this award is well deserved.
THE GOOD ‘N PLENTY AWARD OF SHAME
This award goes to everyone involved in the Friday night abomination between the ducks and Cal. First, the Pac-12 is punching their own nuts putting two weekly game extenders with their quick hit/long night offenses and almost non-existent defenses. Watching those is like watching a home run derby and thinking that it is a real baseball game. Bad calls and terrible decisions aside, this game had 0 chance of being under 4 hours. So when do you want to put that game? Well the Pac12 thought that putting that on a 10:30pm Eastern would be a great way to have people talking about how great the game was the next day. Because the game probably would just be getting over in time for Dan Patrick to report on the full overtime live.
For some reason, the Pac-12 is fine with picking non-football type football games with two hot seat coaches with questionable game time decisions to be played when they are the only game on Nationally. You know, to represent the conference. That game was the worst. Neither team deserved to win, yet one had to because one team tried losing harder. Way to go Pac12 and Cal and the ducks. Way to make football something that I feel I will skip the next time those teams play because I do like football and that, my friends, was not football.