What the Hekker? Initial thoughts on OSU's 3-0 Sun Bowl victory

In what resembled a MLB game, or a bad hockey game, or a soccer game, or a 2nd grade youth basketball game, the Beavers beat Pittsburgh 3-0 in the 75th Brut Sun Bowl.

The last time Oregon State won 3-0 was against USC in 1967. 

The Trojans came to town with O.J. Simpson, with everyone assuming that the Beavers would just be another featherweight in the path of USC claiming the national championship and going undefeated.

In that game, it all boiled down to a second-quarter field goal by Oregon State kicker Mike Haggard. Of his three attempts, a 30-yarder with 5:18 left before halftime was the only one he made.

In the 2008 Sun Bowl, Justin Kahut (now pronounced kay-HUT, by the way) made a field goal with 2:18 left in the first half. 

The similarities between the two games are quite interesting.

"The whole game I didn't think that field goal would hold up," then-OSU coach Dee Andros said of the 1967 game in an interview with The Oregonian years later. "The conditions didn't bother O.J. a bit, and it was just a well-played defensive game by both teams."

Oregon State won the Sun Bowl due in a large part to their defense, which held LeSean McCoy to 78 yards on 24 carries in the game.

My schedule didn't allow for me to watch the game live, so I had to resort to watching the game off of my DVR several hours later. I will now spew out my thoughts stream-of-consciousness style, so I apologize in advance for poor grammar and anything that is unclear.

Offense: Coming into the game, we knew we would have to rely heavily on the passing game. Without Jacquizz being effective, the Beavers offense isn't the same. I had an inking that it could turn into a game where we throw the ball 50+ times, but after I watched Lyle throw his first pass of the game not even close to intended receiver Ryan McCants, I knew we were in for a long game. 

I didn't think Lyle played particular well, but I know the wind was a large factor. There were a number of passes in which our receivers were wide open and had to make diving catches, negating yards after the catch, but Lyle has been doing that in almost every game this season. 

We really needed our running backs to step up, and I thought they did fairly well. Nothing spectacular, but I don't think we expected a tremendous performance from either McCants or Francis. Like Lyle's incompletion that I was talking about above, another bad omen that came at the beginning of the game was McCants' fumble on his first carry. All in all, 99 yards between McCants and Francis isn't bad. This game was clearly a defensive battle, and Pitt's defense played well.  That being said, Oregon State misfired a bunch-- twice, the Beavers took the ball inside Pitt's ten yard line and came away with no points.

Defense: The defense clearly won this game for us. Coming into the game, I thought that it would be very difficult to hold Pittsburgh to zero points. I seemed to think that Pitt would score several touchdowns even if we played great defense, and our offense would have to score to win the game. However, it worked the opposite way, and Oregon State won by keeping Pittsburgh out of the end zone. 

Our defensive line was outstanding. Victor Butler, Slade Norris, and Stephen Paea all did a great job of leading the defense in dominating Pitt's offensive line all game. And when Pittsburgh did try to throw the ball, OSU's secondary stepped up. Pitt QB Bill Stull only completed (correction... 7) of 24 passes for 52 yards, and when he got hurt, backup QB Pat Bostick completed two passes for 37 yards. Both of Bostick's completions came on the final Pitt drive when the Panthers needed to get into field goal position to attempt a field goal to tie. 

Thinking back on the game, I can only remember one time that Al Afalava was involved on a tackle. The box score indicates that he had one solo tackle and one assisted tackle, but I can only remember him tackling LeSean McCoy late in the game. Really, it seemed like our front seven just stuffed Pitt's rushing attack to the point that the secondary didn't have to make many tackles.

Special Teams: The game wouldn't have gone the same way it did without the performance of the defense, but our special teams were outstanding as well. For Hekker to punt the ball ten times and average 45 yards is phenomenal, especially considering where he was at the beginning of the season. And he was drilling kicks into the wind. Punting wasn't a liability today, it was an asset.

We can't end this conversation without talking about Kahut, who made the eventual game-winning kick in the second quarter. And also, kudos goes to Taylor Kavanaugh, who got the snap down after bobbling the football. Even if Kahut did kick the laces, it showed how disciplined the Perry-Kavanaugh-Kahut combination is. 

Anything else I forgot? Chime in below.

GO BEAVERS!

(Sorry buthol, "What the Hekker" was too good to pass on.)

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)

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