It's been a while since I've posted a real rant on BtD but with the economy in the shape that it is in my priorities have been with work. I hope you can understand. But with Beaver Nation experiencing what could be one of the greatest seasons ever I couldn't hold in my thoughts any longer.
First of all, I love that everyone is dedicated to the "one game at a time" philosophy. Not just the players, but especially you, the fans. I truly believe that your thoughts and hopes for this team help in every single way. It may seem "hippie and holistic" but I truly believe if you can focus and imagine good things happening for your team, it will happen. You just have to have faith and Beaver Nation has that with this team.
So what about this game against Cal? Every week it seems like each game just becomes bigger and bigger and the stakes become higher and higher. OSU is facing a very tough Bears team that has won its past two games inCorvallis and in convincing fashion. The last game in Reser was over well before OSU got on the board. It was especially annoying for me because I was living in San Francisco at the time and got suckered into bringing a Cal fan up for the game.
(Actually, the Cal fan was pretty gracious in victory but he should have been after dropping one of my Beaver flags on I-5, puking on my brother's living room floor and hopelessly hitting on OSU coeds in embarrassing fashion. We referred to him as "The Cal Guy" because we just met him through a mutual friend/Beaver fan and he was being That Guy. He was a good enough dude but he was the DB of Destiny that weekend. But he did buy me three other Beaver flags for the one he dropped on the freeway and I still rock those flags to this day)
Regardless of recent history in Corvallis, I think OSU will win this game and do it in convincing fashion (although I will take a squeaker if it means the W). Here are my reasons why.
This team is focused: I know, I know, I just said this, but you can see that this team is taking things one game at a time and not looking ahead to any opponents. They didn't look past Hawaii, WSU or UW and while we've seen many teams say the same things that the Beaver players and coaches are preaching this team is really pulling it together. I don't think this will change against the Bears, especially since you cannot even get a cat nap in againstCal without the Bears taking advantage.
The home crowd will be fired up: While I wasn't particularly impressed with the Beaver Crowd's enthusiasm against ASU (although the die hard fans are always exempt when I make these kinds of statements) I think the crowd knows how important this game means to Oregon State. Not only is a Pac-10 Championship within reach, but this game will be broadcast regionally on ABC. Every Beaver fan should know that voices come back, tired legs will prevail and nothing buys you more respect from your piers from other schools then a great home crowd. And if you are still worried about being sore for cheering too much at this game, don't forget that God invented beer for these types of occasions. Just be responsible and don't be a jerk to the Cal fans that drove a long ways to do the same thing for their team.
(And I hope the rumor that the Student Section is planning a black out is true. That would look really cool)
This team is really confident: While some people might be discouraged that the Beavs couldn't put a slumping ASU team away at home and were sloppy on offense against UCLA in the first half, the way that this team has responded shows that this team knows how to win games. Sure, I would love to see OSU coast to a victory in every game, but I find it more comforting seeing so many different players stepping up to make plays throughout the game. When this happens, your teammates know that they don't have to carry their team and they just have to go out there and do their jobs.
How else does Sean Canfield recover from three costly turnovers in the past two games? He knows that he doesn't have to do it all because he has a great offensive line and the best freshman running back in Pac-10 history (let alone the best RB in the Pac-10 this year).
What about Victor Butler rolling out in coverage to intercept the game tying two point conversion against ASU? Would he have been able to do this if Slade Norris and Stephen Paea couldn't get pressure on the passer with great consistency?
How about Greg Laybourn's game clinching interception last weekend against the Bruins? How is it that this guy just seems to be in the right place at the right time at the most important times in the game? I'll tell you why. Coaching.
Greg was saying that his coaches told him before the play "watch for the wheel route." All he had to do was wait for Kevin Craft to throw the cheese (pun intended). Give the pressure that the Beavers d-line was putting on the Bruin QB, it was just a matter of time till things floated into his hands.
And this last Laybourn example just shows how much the faith these kids have in their coaching staff. Mike Riley knows he would never have to pull his pants down at halftime to get their attention. This team knows that if they execute the game plan the way they practiced it all week they will be successful. It doesn't matter what "cage" the other team has planned or how many 4 and 5 star players are lining up on the other side of the ball. If this team executes, they win. It's as simple as that.
I have a lot of respect for Cal but: The Bears will have to be better then the Beavs on all these counts to beat them and I don't see this happening.
But let me kiss up to the Bears for a second. Cal has a great defense and the 3-4 look with a very talented linebackers could cause the offense some fits. Let's also not forget that Cal always has playmakers on their offensive side of the ball and their o-line is one of the best in the conference.
OSU fans shouldn't forget that if it wasn't for Joe Ayoob completing 2/3rds of his passes to the field turf worms in 2005 ("an embarrassment to the forward pass" was what one of my Cal friends texted to me after the game) and Kevin Riley's bonehead mistake of thinking he could outrun Pac-10 linebackers with no timeouts and less then 10 seconds remaining, Cal would own a four game winning streak over the Beavs coming into this game. With Nate Longshore being the more effective QB against the Trojans last week and his impressive outing in 2006 against OSU, the Beaver DB's better have their heads on a swivel.
But that is why they play the games.
OSU might be catching Cal at the perfect time. If there is one thing I know about the Bears, is they don't recover well from hangovers. All last week the local media was playing up the "program changing" opportunity the Bears had against the Trojans. This was the Bears "Super Bowl" and the key to their run at the Roses. When they lost to USC, the feelings coming out of Berkeley was that their season is now a disappointment. The team's goals have regressed to hopes of a Holiday Bowl appearance and fans in the Bay Area are taking a more cynical approach to the Bears. Anyway you slice it; this is not good for the Cal faithful.
Don't worry Cal fans. You have a great program and have one of the best coaches in the Pac-10. You will have your opportunity in this conference and a tough defeat to the Trojans is not that bad. You might figure this out someday, but not this weekend against the Beavs.
One final thought: We have some of the greatest fans in the nation and I am not saying that because I am a blatant homer, but we can be better. While 50% of you cheer like this is the last game you will ever see, the rest of Beaver Nation needs to step it up for this game. This is especially true if you are one of those fans that say "we" when talking about OSU sports teams. If you really truly think you deserve to say "we" when referring to the Beavs, then you can earn it by doing your part and lifting up this team with your undying support. This is even more crucial when your team isn't playing well and they need a lift. At this point in the season, this is the biggest game of the year and as much as I believe that the fans were an integral part in the victory over USC, you will be for sure during this game.
So stand up, yell loud, wear Orange (unless you are in the student section), and give a Cal fans a beer to show them who the best fans in the nation are. They may need it after the whooping they receive this Saturday. This week is your chance to deserve to say "We."
(photo via photos.oregonlive.com)