Oregon St. takes to the field at Reser Stadium for the last time this season today. - (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
It's hard to believe, but the college football regular season comes to an end today, as Oregon St. plays their last game before heading off to a bowl destination in either south Texas or southern California. Seems like just yesterday we were talking about the opener against Nicholls St.!
Now we are talking about the season's curtain call, against Nicholls St., a scheduling oddity made necessary by the storm disruption in Louisiana of Hurricane Isaac. The hapless Colonels, who haven't even beaten an FCS opponent in the last 2 years shouldn't provide a threat to the 16th ranked Beavers, but after their 48-24 loss to Oregon in last Saturday's Civil War, a particularly disappointing outcome considering the Ducks only led 20-17 midway in the third quarter, Oregon St. has plenty to work on as they tune up for a Big XII opponent in the days following Christmas.
After 5 consecutive turnovers (out of 6 total in the game) that fueled Oregon's explosive stretch run, ball control is certainly one of them.
While the game could and should be a send off for the seniors, and a fun time to enjoy the Beavers winning easily, something that rarely happens at any time in any year, its unlikely to be an exciting memory maker. But it doesn't mean there's nothing to gain, other than reps for reserves.
Oregon St. has lost 3 games this year, and while there's no discounting some other aspects about the opponents that defeated them, turnovers, whether it be Sean Mannion throwing 4 interceptions, or a single turnover game that nonetheless had a very untimely unforced fumble, were central to the unfortunate outcome that cost a BCS bid. And they are the 1 thing that could keep the Colonels in the game for a while.
With little to keep focus in this matchup, its all the more important for Oregon St. to play sharply, and to their potential. After losing 3 of their last 5 games, a good state of mind and a good days' work under their belts would be very good things before going up against a quality Big XII opponent, probably a ranked one. Execute, execute, execute!
Beaver Believer Believes:
The Beavs have had a pretty good season, not great, pretty good. There were some serious upgrades from last year, namely at offensive line and linebackers. The main difference though (at least for the first half of the season) was how the Beavs executed. Against Wisconsin, it was one of the best defensive efforts I had ever seen from OSU, tackling was superb, they contained the edges, and plugged the gaps. They would repeat those sorts of efforts, and the offense began to show off two of the premier wide receivers in college football with Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, leading to a top 10 ranking.
Then the wheels came off, and the Beavs began to wear down, showing their lack of depth especially at linebacker. The execution that had been leading to Oregon State victories gradually began to slip and they paid for it at Stanford and against Oregon. The coaches did play a part in those losses, playing Mannion before he was ready against Washington was a key error, and sometimes the play calling and clock management was poor.
This seems like a lot of doom and gloom, but there can be no improvement without identifying failures. Bottom line, this is a good football team that did not play completely up to their ceiling. The turnaround from last year bears mentioning, but even so this year was a decent one on its own. I'm not saying the Beavs have reached the end goal, which should always be a championship, but I enjoyed watching this team for most of the year (minus that last one). Not a success, not a failure, but a good step forward.
BB12's Keys to the Game:
1. Don't screw up. I'll be blunt, the Beavs should just crush the Colonels. Unless the Beavs beat themselves (and it would take a lot), they will win.
2. Don't get hurt. The Beavs had a mostly injury free year, hopefully the starters will only play for a half and then we can see the second string come in.
The Beavs are a good team. Nicholls State is not. Beavs roll for a half, second string comes in and does fairly well. Beavs win 45-14 (second string gives up some points).
It's kind of odd to be playing a game this week, especially against an FCS team. While this game will probably get out of hand quickly, Cody Vaz and Mannion will be playing for a starting spot in a bowl game, so there will be plenty to watch despite a (hopefully) lopsided score.
Cooks is on the list of things to watch. If they gave out mid-season awards, he would've been first-team All Pac-12. But his disappearance from the offense's gameplan as of late landed him on the honorable mentions list. The Beavers need production from him. That the Beavs have just two threats at receiver isn't ideal, and OSU can't afford to lose one of them.
Secondly is the QB battle. Vaz is returning from injury, Mannion returning from a Civil War performance that was...not pretty. Now, I'd say that Mike Riley will base his bowl game decision more off practice than this game, but the performance against Nicholls St. will surely be considered.
It's been quite a year, and there's only two games left. Let's enjoy it, and hopefully watch the Beavers finish 10-3.
As we start thinking about where the Beavs will be playing their Bowl game, and against who; what - hold on one more game? Oh yes, supposed to be commenting about the final regular season game against Nicholls State.
As the Beavs move from an extremely disappointing showing against their in-State rivals last week into the strangely rescheduled game against Nicholls State, we will be looking for no let down. I do not think we can go as far as calling this a trap game, for the Colonels are 1 and 9 this year and OSU is game tested against much higher competition. My worry is just coming into this game somewhat flat, and though we really don't need any type of total overwhelming victory over the Colonels, OSU needs to regain swagger and mental poise as they start to think about a high quality Bowl opponent in about a month (again a bit of my mantra for these rebound games!).
Additionally, with the weather and the strange timing (both in terms within the season and the early 11:30 am start) of this, with what I assume may be a bit of a lower attendance crowd, I would like the Beavs to give some nice highlights for the fans who brave the weather, and the students heading into their finals studying.
Really this one comes down to keeping mental focus and doing what the Beavs have done well for most of the games this season: hold to their game plans on both sides of the ball.
To me personally this game, even with its non-normal placement on the schedule, is one that can be a nice cap to a what I personally see as a remarkable season. Yes, I know there have been some disappointments, but this game and the Bowl can get the Beavs to a 10 win year. My apologies to the cynics out there, but that is a truly well coached and remarkable turnaround, a turnaround that looks to have lasting potential over the next couple of seasons. Let's continue the good part of this remarkable run!