Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Oregon State picks up the pieces
By Ted Miller
After he sliced and diced Oregon State's defense last Saturday, Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams recalled his team's dispiriting conclusion to an otherwise good 2012 season. Just like the Beavers, the Eagles had seen their strong campaign a year ago end on a down note against a team from Texas.
The Eagles lost to Sam Houston State in the FCS semifinals, a massive comeback from a 35-0 halftime deficit falling just short, 45-42. The Beavers self-immolated in the fourth quarter and lost to Texas in the Alamo Bowl, 31-27.
Sort of a vast distance betwixt the two, eh?
The Oregon State defense yielded big numbers in the loss to Eastern Washington.
So Eastern Washington, after beating the then 25th-ranked Beavers 49-46, moves on to the Big Sky Conference -- Cal Poly, Weber State, UC Davis -- with big intentions in the FCS playoffs, while Oregon State … well, does what?
Serves as a national punch line? Suffers through another season like 2011, when a loss to another FCS team -- Sacramento State -- presaged a horrid 3-9 campaign that had folks calling for coach Mike Riley's head?
Or Oregon State rights itself and redeems its season, transforming the inglorious opener into a fluke, a tough lesson that can be later referenced after a bowl victory as the touchstone for ultimate and satisfying success.
"[Cornerback] Rashaad Reynolds said something great in the locker room," quarterback Sean Mannion told reporters after the defeat. "He said that there are two ways that we can go about this: We can either lay down or stand up and overcome this by working harder than we ever have. Obviously, that is the route that we are going to take.”
Of course, that's also pretty obvious. The same thing was said after the Sacramento State loss, though it's worth noting the Beavers were riven after that game by the QB switch from the popular Ryan Katz to Mannion, then a redshirt freshman.
Still, the perception of Oregon State has taken a hit. Again. The preseason take on the Beavers was they were headed for a 7-0 start and potential top-10 ranking that would make the Oct. 26 visit from Stanford a red-letter date nationally. Now the visit from woeful Hawaii on Saturday doesn't feel like a sure thing.
Oregon State welcomed back seven starters from one of the nation's best defenses in 2012, yet it yielded ludicrous numbers against the Eagles -- 625 total yards, 8.8 yards per play, 31 first downs, 448 passing yards, etc. The big preseason question for the Beavers was the quarterback competition between Mannion and Cody Vaz, but Mannion was lights-out and the offense rolled up 46 points, which would have been enough to win every game the team played since 2006, other than matchups with Oregon in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
Think of all the great offenses Oregon State has faced over the past few years. Yet when the Beavers gave up 29 first-half points, it was the most they'd yielded since 2008 against Oregon. The Eagles’ 23 second-quarter points were the most the Beavers have surrendered in any quarter since UCLA scored 28 in the fourth on Sept. 29, 2007.
No matter how dynamic Adams was, this probably ranks as one of Oregon State's worst defensive performances of the modern era, particularly when you factor in that the foe was from a lower division.
So what was the problem?
"We got totally disrupted," Riley said. "We were way out of sorts in pass rush, pass-rush lanes, we were misaligned defensively. We made some crucial technical errors, just playing Cover 3 and giving up a deep ball right down the middle of the field. Just kind of simple football mistakes, whether it's just lining up or maintaining a pass-rush lane or maintaining position on a receiver."
Throw in poor tackling and that just about covers it. The defensive failure was a total team effort. All-Pac-12 defensive end Scott Crichton was invisible, recording just two tackles.
"The quarterback gave us fits," Riley said. "Scott could never quite get there or finish a play."
The Beavers were the only ranked team to lose to an FCS foe on the opening weekend, but they certainly weren't the only AQ conference team to get toppled. Kansas State, the defending Big 12 champions, lost to North Dakota State. Folks aren't going to start questioning Bill Snyder's coaching acumen, at least not anyone with a brain.
The question now is whether this is just one of those games -- an anomaly -- where things go haywire. The answer to that only will be revealed in coming weeks. But know that the visit to Utah in Week 3 suddenly seems freighted with far more meaning than in the preseason.
Not that the Beavers should be overlooking anyone at this point.
"I think everybody takes it on themselves, coaches, players," Riley said. "Everybody has to take responsibility."