Arizona (1-4, 0-3) visits Oregon St. (0-4, 0-2) today in "Desperation Bowl II" to see which team [might] get their season turned around, and which one is almost certainly not going to.
How quickly things can change. Exactly 1 year ago, Oregon St. upset ninth ranked Arizona 29-27 to climb back into the top 25 in the nation. Now, the Beavers are a bottom 5 team nationally, and the 'Cats aren't far ahead, entering the game a 1 1/2 point favorite.
The Wildcats have used a combination of a murderous schedule, no defense, and an inexperienced offensive line, to forge a 9 game losing streak against FBS foes, despite quarterback Nick Foles' ability to throw the ball all over the place.
The Beavers have used 19 first-time starters, and played 10 true freshmen to extend last season's late season collapse to a 6 game losing streak, and only 2 wins in their last 11 games.
Oregon St. enters the day one of only 5 FBS teams still without a win, and the only one in a BCS automatic qualifier conference.
Everyone would like some answers, including head coach Mike Riley, though it does seem he's the one who should have at least some of them.
Unfortunately, I don't have any, and I'm not sure who does. We have diligently detailed areas where Oregon St. has improved, especially the promising freshmen defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn. And the Beavers are as aware of the issues with penalties, bad punts, and offensive inconsistency as their onlookers are.
But when will the pieces begin to fit together? Were the positives from last week, 3 interceptions, an early lead, etc., a sign that the Beavers are getting closer to winning games? Or that they are closer to being even more frustrating, as individuals make individual plays, but it still doesn't translate?
Wildcat nation has many of the same questions.
Over the years, I've observed that teams with as much relative inexperience as this Beaver squad don't usually put it together if they haven't already by this point in the season, though they often do become a force in another year or two.
The teams that do pull out of bad starts like this seem to have more battle tested veterans, and also good defense. The former isn't happening here, James Rodgers, Lance Mitchell, and Joe Halahuni not withstanding. But the latter could appear. And against noted Oregon St. annoyance Nick Foles, it had better.
Mitchell said yesterday that the Beavers can't keep using youth as an excuse, and that they need to put a complete game together, and (importantly) not make big mistakes when its crunch time. How many in Black and Orange understand what that means?
I'll be intently watching a lot of things about today's game experience, to see if I see evidence that real progress is being made, or if it appears that too many still don't "get it". I think it could go either way.
Connor's thoughts:This should be one of the more interesting games of the year. On one hand, I'm feeling pretty good about the game. Mannion should have a good outing if he can manage to throw it to OREGON STATE players, and not Arizona players. I like the mix of Terron Ward and Jovan Stevenson at running back. I love the way Jordan Poyer, Castro Masaniai, and Scott Crichton have played on defense.
But on the other hand, I'm scared. Our special team miscues have doomed us one way or the other in every game so far this year. Mannion probably will throw a few interceptions, and I keep having nightmares of Nick Foles tearing up the Beaver secondary. It all comes down to how well the Beavers execute. We have seen them execute and play like a good football team for a couple of quarters, but if we are going to win today, we need to play all four of them. And I think we will.
After going ahead 7-0 on a Foles touchdown pass, the Wildcats are driving deep into Oregon State territory again towards the end of the first quarter. Just when it seems though that Arizona will go up fourteen, Poyer steps in front of a bad pass and takes it back 85 yards for a touchdown. A deep Trevor Romaine field goal on the next drive puts the Beavers up 10-7 and the score holds going into the locker rooms.
From there it's the shootout that everyone was expecting. Mannion and Foles trade touchdowns twice in a row to keep the Beavers ahead 24-21 going into the fourth quarter, but Arizona isn't done yet. It appears as if the Wildcats are lining up for the game-tying field goal with five minutes left, but it's a fake. Oregon State is caught completely off-guard and gives up the touchdown, making the score 28-24.
Just when everything looks done though, it's Poyer to the rescue. Poyer returns the kickoff to the Arizona 40 and four plays later Terron Ward is crossing the goal line with the game-winning touchdown. It's ugly at times and heart-stopping as always, but for the first time this season, Oregon State fans have something to be proud of.
Prediction: Oregon State 31, Arizona 28
But (again), the BIG question really for me is if this team is going to start playing like a team. The season might be a bit too much in the hole but we still have a lot of games left. I want to see a team that plays smart, aggressive, and with a heart. Plus I want the coaching the staff to show these qualities too.
'Nuff said, GO BEAVS!
Cliff Kirkpatrick over at the Gazette-Times has a look at the history between these teams.
BTD will be at the game, and back later with full coverage and analysis. Go Beavs!
BTD will be at the game, and back later with full coverage and analysis.