Oregpn St. (1-5, 1-2) and Washington St. (3-3, 1-2) meet tonight in the "Struggle In Seattle" to start the second half of the season, with both teams needing the win in a big way if the rest of the year is to be a pleasant end after a challenging start.
The Beavers will remain technically able to become bowl eligible even if they lose, but realistically a bowl is an unlikely outcome to the season. But this is one of the games that meets the criteria of a winable game, and bowl or no bowl, a win would help with the atmosphere around Reser as a very young team goes forward.
A win in this game is generally viewed as a requirement if the Cougars are to reach a bowl game, because its a winable game for them as well, and they won't be favored in all that many games the rest of the way at best.
Oregon St. is also looking to atone for what happened last year when Washington St. rolled into Reser, and rolled to a 31-14 win. Ironically, it was the Beavers' loss that had a lot to do with Cougars' coach Paul Wulff keeping his job, and once again, what happens against the Beavers could be as important as anything in determining Wulff's fate come the end of this season.
Oregon St. comes in rather banged up after the physical beating they took last week in their 38-28 loss to BYU. Fortunately, in "Cougarfest", round 2, the damage up the middle, which eliminated DT Castro Masaniai for the rest of the season, and left LBs Feti Unga, Tony Wilson, and Cameron Collins all bruised and battered, isn't where Washington St. is going to primarily attack. The Cougars aren't a particularly dangerous running team, and what they do best, roll out quarterback Jeff Tuel, the Beavers are better equipped this year to control with DEs Scott Crichton, Dylan Wynn, and Rusty Fernando off the bench. I don't expect Tuel to have the all-star evening he had last year.
WR Marquees Wilson is another matter, though. UCLA's combination of Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith, Arizona's Dan Buckner, and BYU's Cody Hoffman, among others, all had field days against the out-matched Oregon St. corners. Now, here comes Wilson, and also Jared Karstetter.
Jordan Poyer has really progressed, but he's still 4+ inches shorter than either one of them. And they are a good half foot taller than Rashaad Reynolds, who is already being treated for third degree burns after being torched repeatedly. The loss of Brandon Hardin has really hurt, both in terms of size and experience.
Tuel and Wulff know this as well. How much pressure the Beavers can bring off the edges could well decide this game.
And given that its reasonable to assume the Cougars will get some big passing plays, it will be necessary for the Beavers to put some considerable points themselves. Marcus Wheaton has proven he's consistently a big time receiver, but Sean Mannion must find James Rodgers, Joe "The Tank" Halahuni, and preferably Jordan Bishop as well, early, often, and all night as well.
Last year, no part of the Oregon St. organization took Washington St. seriously, and they got run off their own field as a result. It could well have been even worse, and it cost the University a trip to either the Holiday Bowl or the Sun Bowl. I can't imagine Mike Riley will allow that mistake to happen again.
I think the Beavers will get back on track offensively, as Malcolm Agnew will make up for a banged up Jovan Stevenson, and Mannion will take a step ahead with the passing game. The Washington St. pass defense isn't daunting, ans while Mannion is no Andrew Luck, but his numbers shouldn't be that far off the 336 yards and 4 scores Luck threw for against the Cougs in beating them 44-14 last week.
Oregon St.'s special teams have been producing a big play with some regularity as well, despite the difficulties with field goals (I keep reminding everyone this will be a struggle), and that will put them over the top in what will be one of the more exciting, if not elegant, games of the year.
Connor's thoughts:This might just be the biggest game a 1-5 team has ever played. In terms of postseason, our year is over, but I think you can learn a lot from a team in a game like this. For one, we will see what kind of fight these guys have. They were embarrassed last year, AT HOME, and if they go out on Saturday night looking for revenge it could tell us a lot about what kind of character, hustle, and heart next year's team will have. The rest are the usual football things; make your field goals, hang on to the football, don't stare directly into your receivers eyes while they run their routes, the normal stuff. Things like these seem so easy, yet this team has gone away from those basics in our first six games and it has led to a 1-5 record.The rest of this season should be used for both figuring and ironing things out, and beginning tonight, if we don't see small signs of improvement, both from the players and coaching staff, then there will be some serious questions that Beaver Nation needs to be asking. I truly think that this game is going to have a big effect on next year's team. One of the positives of having such a slow start is that you can use the second half of the season like a first spring practice session, one with six games being played. That is why I am sounding so desperate for improvement; because if we don't use this time to our advantage we are going to get left behind next year and in years to come.Things I'd like to see tonight
1. No interceptions from Sean Mannion
These are killers, especially in the red-zone. Riley keeps saying that we are "building for the future" with Mannion under center, and that is fine with me. But the constant-interception phase of the this building process needs to end tonight, or I say that Ryan Katz gets the start against Utah next week. You can't tell me that Katz would have thrown half the INT's that Mannion has at this point in the season.
2. No fumbles
I know we were spoiled with Jacquizz, but having more than one fumble per game isn't only bad, it is terrible. Once again, if we are going to be a good team next season, we have to get this ball-security thing figured out NOW.3. More great play from Jordan Poyer
The only way we have a chance tonight is if Poyer has another great game, which would mean at least one interception. I know that's a lot to ask, but at some point during every season you have to look to a guy and just say, "We need you to have a great game in order to win". Poyer is that guy today, and most likely will be for the rest of the season.
Oregon State's new thing is to take the ball on the opening kickoff, and this time they put it to good use. Mannion and Markus Wheaton lead a commanding drive down the field, only to have Sean overthrow Markus on an easy touchdown pass on third and goal. Hey, at least it wasn't an interception. The drive goes for not though as Trevor Romaine shanks his field goal attempt badly, and the score stays even at 0.Jeff Tuel and the Cougars take over from there, marching right over a depleted Oregon State defense for two touchdowns in a row. Quickly it is 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. Oregon State finally manages to move the ball on the ground on their next drive, giving it to Malcolm Agnew, time after time after time. Agnew finally crosses the goal line on a 13-yard scamper, pulling the Beavers within seven. That looks to be the score at halftime, but a last second bomb from Tuel to a wide-open Marquess Wilson puts Washington state inside the OSU-20 with five seconds left. The field goal attempt is nearly blocked (Again), but it sneaks by the outstretched Beaver-arms and through the posts to give the Cougars a 17-7 lead.The third quarter is full of offense, most of it belonging to the Beavers. This time the Beavers find a nice balance, mixing the run with the pass (What a novel idea). Oregon State scores back-to-back touchdowns, the last of which a 35-yard strike from Mannion to Rodgers, giving the Beavers a 21-17 lead at the end of the third. After trading punts, Jeff Tuel leads Washington State on a magnificent drive, going 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:10 left in the game. The extra point though is missed, giving the Cougars just a two-point advantage and leaving the door open for a game-winning field goal.This is the point where everybody thinks that I am going to make Romaine the goat by missing the chip shot to win it. Unfortunately, we don't get that far. On the first play of the drive, Mannion stares at the back of Gwatcham's jersey for all of Obum's fifteen yard route. The ball is picked off and taken back for six, giving Washington State a 30-21 win and sending the 8,000 Beaver fans back to Corvallis unhappy.
"Have after. To what issue will this come?"
Final thoughts? I feel like I have been saying much the same thing and going around and around the central issue of this season, and it continues to swirl around the question if there "is something rotten in the state of OSU fooball?" Now I don't like to be an alarmist, and I try my best to see the multiple angles of things, but now I'm just feeling like we are at a stage where we need to see if this team can build on the positives and show potential that can be carried on into next season. Yes I think the "young" argument holds a bit of truth to it. But I don't think it all comes down to youth and inexperience though, and this team needs to play a solid 60 minutes of football for gosh sakes. Or as someone might call me out by saying "He waxes desperate with imagination."
Last week I brought out the exorcising demons bit, and if I am going to be desperate in my imaginations here, if the 2009 "Leave it in Vegas" Bowl had some un-exorcised demons hanging over the program (which look to be still haunting us until at least to October 15, 2012) then the program has even bigger ones haunting us since November 13 of last season. One thing I can at least say about the BYU loss is that it was non-conference, this WSU game is conference and I want to see this team take it personally.
Once again I want to see this team play like a team, they cannot rely on two or three players sustaining the energy and spark for the entire game. Sure with the inexperience the team has at the individual level and how they are inexperienced playing together it is a bit game by game this season, but I'm starting to feel like the coaches and the players need to play for the program too. One example: I'm surprised that none of us have commented on the half time adjustments by the coaching staff and the players (although I have been crabby about it all so might have missed it). Where is the second half spark, the second half taking chances, the second half take control of the game? This needs to happen no matter what the score is going in at halftime.
Ok, I hear the voice in my ear telling me to wrap it all up and call it a season, don't worry about it all for basketball is around the corner, and yet I have to say back "'tis not fit thus to obey this voice" for there is still a lot to play for and the game must go on.
So what do I expect out of this trip to Pullman to play WSU, oh yes sorry meant Seattle and UW, no wait a minute it is Seattle and WSU isn't it? "I say, away! Go on; I'll follow thee" wherever thee goes as long as I can watch the game on TV (finally)! Yes, expectations, well I expect once again for this team to step it up as a team. We saw glimpses of that against Arizona, but the BYU game just seemed like such a step backwards. The team now needs to take a couple steps forward: one on offense with an attack that keeps the Cougs' defense on their heels and guessing; and one on defense where the team keeps the Cougs' offense (an improved offense by the way) on its heels and guessing. And yes I expect payback for all the demons and ghosts haunting this program at this time (and my apologies to Will S.).
Here's Cliff Kirkpatrick's thoughts from over at the Gazette-Times. It's hard to argue that the Cougars, who are 3 point favorites to extend their series lead from 49-43-3 (Curious side note that might favor the Beavs tonight: Oregon St. leads the series in games played in Pullman and at neutral sites but Washington St. had had the best of it in Corvallis), are the better team, but as far as BTD can determine, Cliff if the first person to ever relate WSU to USC in terms of quality of an opponent for OSU.
BTD will be at the game, and back later with full coverage and analysis.