It's the last game of the season, and for the second year in a row, it is a bowl game. And against an interesting, quality, regional rival too boot, in Boise St.
Oregon St. must win to avoid a losing season, and Boise St. must win to avoid their worst season since 1998. Both teams thought this season would be a bit better than that, though not necessarily that much better.
Indeed, with the brutal back end to the schedule, not many Beaver Believers believed Oregon St. would be more than 1 or at the very most 2 games better off than they are at this point. But a trip to the Sheraton Hawaii is possibly a better reward for the team than a trip to Albuquerque, Shreveport, or Las Vegas, even if the expense has kept most of their fans, as well as their band, cheerleaders, and even Benny, away.
This is a big game. A VERY big game. Not because the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl is in itself EVER a VERY big game. But because 7-6 is a MUCH better way to head into the offseason than 6-7. And then there's that 2 game losing streak to the Broncos. And a 2 game losing streak in bowl games. One Oregon St. didn't take seriously as an organization (much like this game), and one that the Beavers blew against a brand-name team that happened to be a lesser one at the time.
Coach Mike Riley has won a lot of games, but he's lost a lot of them too, especially some big ones. The program could stand to break through a glass ceiling one of these days, even if its a lowered on as is the case this time. The program could also really use their first bowl win in 5 years.
Which means the Beavers must come out prepared, and then play at least 60 solid minutes. Maybe more.
Sean Mannion is up to it. Brandin Cooks is certainly up to it, whether he's playing his last game as a Beaver or not. Kevin Cummings and Rashaad Reynolds, especially because they are playing their last game for Oregon St., are too.
Whether Coach Riley, or assistant coaches Mark Banker, Mike Cavanaugh, and Danny Langsdorf are, I have no idea. We'll find out soon enough.
Even without Coach Chris Peterson or senior quarterback Joe Southwick, Boise St. will doubtless do enough creative stuff to challenge the Beavers.
But the Broncos are a notch down from most of their teams in the last 15 years, and everyone knows what their best weapon is; running Jay Ajayi right at the Beaver defense.
If Oregon St. comes out with a reasonable game plan and executes it, the Beavers salvage the season. If not, they become another of Boise St.'s victims.
Beaver Believer's Keys To The Game:
1. Have fun with it. This is a bowl game with little to no meaning. Make it interesting, use some trick plays, keep the players interested, because they obviously lost focus for part of the year. Riley obviously has some odd plays in his bag of tricks, with a pass to Sean Mannion, a flea flicker, among many other plays. Against Boise State, who have been prolific with some of their trick plays in bowl games, the Beavers might as well try to match it.
2. Run the ball. The Beavers need to create some sort of balance on offense. It does not need to be much, as that was how the Beavs managed to beat other teams on their 6 game winning streak. The running game needs to at least be equivalent to the effort put forth in the Civil War. Terron Ward has been much better on the ground as of late, and should get the start and he needs to keep running like he did then.
3. Stop the run. The majority of this game will be won in the trenches, if the Beavers cannot stop the run, the offense will not be able to keep up as they will not get enough possessions to keep up. When the Beavers lose it was generally just because they were beaten on the lines, and there were multiple reasons beyond just talent. Both the coaches and the players need to step up their performance for this final game.
The Beavs have a chance with Brandin Cooks, but with the recent stretch for OSU and with Boise State being a well coached team I see the Broncos getting an edge. 30-27 Broncos.
Well, this is fun. I get to watch my favorite team play a regional rival, one night before my favorite day of the year. In Hawaii. This is why there are 35 bowl games, because football is fun.
As I see it, the key will be getting pressure on quarterback Grant Hedrick. If we are able to do that and force some bad throws, good things are going to happen. What is an absolute must is denying the Broncos the chance to open up the running game, because if they do that, Jay Ajayi will have a field day against us. He can run with power and I see something happening similar to what USC did to us on the ground.
On the offensive side of the ball, protecting Sean Mannion is as usual, the most important thing. If he has time to throw he can pick apart the BSU secondary, taking advantage of the increase of health in Kevin Cummings and Connor Hamlett. With those two back the Broncos can't solely focus on Brandin Cooks and Richard Mullaney, and our offense should put points on the scoreboard deep into the Hawaiian night.
As far as the running game goes, I just hope Mike Riley gives it a chance. Pounding and gashing Oregon through the middle was so much fun and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it from Terron Ward and Storm Woods. I'm also looking for the coaching staff to open up the playbook. Flea flickers, double reverses, WildBeaver, fly sweeps galore; this is the time to pull them out. What I don't want to see is any stupid fourth down play calls. Use the "It's a bowl game" excuse to run some trick plays, not give away points. If we have any fourth and twos or shorter, run the ball up the gut. Anything longer than that, send Trevor Romaine out there and take the three. It will be better in the long run.
As far as predictions go, I'll say the Beavers jump out to an early ten point advantage, but the Broncos battle back and we enter the fourth quarter with a tie ballgame. Mannion leads the team in a quick drive down the field, setting up Romaine for a 42 yarder to win it. It splits the uprights, and the Beavers end the season with a winning record. Cooks announces after the game he is returning for his senior season. Mele Kalikimaka.
First, I'd like to talk about how close this game was to not happening. Big, game-changing plays do seem important as they happen, but after the season's over and you've won 6 games, those become larger than life. What if the Utah DB catches Mannion's OT pass rather than have it slip through his hands? What if SDSU's Quinn Kaehler doesn't overthrow a WR screen by about 15 yards? Keep that in mind as you yell at your TV today. I certainly want to give the seniors and possibly-not-returning juniors another appearance as a Beaver, a chance to not end their careers on a lengthy losing streak. A win or a loss is a much better outcome than not playing at all.
That being said I think the Beavers should win this one. Boise State's resume is mediocre. A close loss to Fresno State and a win over Colorado State are the most "impressive" results BSU has. Mix in a quarterback urination controversy and a new head coach and the Broncos seem to lack bite. That said, the only thing the Beavers' resume does is bring up question marks. The Beavers at their best would beat the Broncos at theirs, but Mike Riley hasn't exactly gotten the best out of this team week-to-week.
Santa, this year all I want for Christmas is a close Oregon State victory. Oh and Brandin Cooks breaking the Pac-12 recieving yards record. And after that for him to come back. With Mannion. And Crichton. Thanks.
Ah, Hawai'i, what is it like 72 degrees and sunny there? Well I am now in Missouri, and it is snowy, icy, and 13 degrees right now; someone made the wrong travel plans! Anyways, enough about my woes and what about this game? Some specific thoughts/questions:
Run Offense? In the Civil War game the Beavs were able to FINALLY get a rushing game going, and against a top ten ranked team. But the thing here is was this was against a team obviously struggling against the run game, or was it a game that finally showed what this OSU team could possibly do with a more balanced offensive attack?
For me I think it was a mix, and sure the UO is leaking some oil on defense, but it also showed an OSU team who wanted to bounce back from a terrible loss to Washington and take it to a top-ranked team. Dare I say it, but it showed a very nice bit of coaching in the prep for a game that in the end should have been won by the Beavs. So now I will be curious to see if the Beavs can continue this balance against a team that does not have the advantage of familiarity with the schemes, such as the conference teams do against OSU. If they can find this again, they will be very hard to beat.
Cooks, Crichton, and Mannion? Is this their last game as an OSU Beaver? My initial feelings is that Crichton is most likely off to the NFL next season, Mannion is coming back, and that Cooks is very much up-in-the-air right now. How will this play out for this game?
Defense? The age-old question this season. The defense played both very good and not very good against the UO in the last game, at least I personally thought so. And so, what does this mean for the Beavs on this side of the ball against a team built around some very strong offensive schemes?
Boise State? With the recent change over at Boise State, will this game be one with a hungry OSU team with a lot to lose after an up and down season versus a team that is at a solid 8 and 4 with not as much to lose? This used to be the big non-conference match-up for OSU in the fairly recent past, but that seems like a long time ago now, so my guess that the spark of this past rivalry will not be present in this game. I also just don't have a sense of what the Broncos are going to bring to this game; it is an intriguing match up for sure.
In conclusion (for this game's analysis and for the 2013 season) I will again say I'm glass half full/glass half empty about the Beavs potential in this game. This OSU team will be yet again tested for their character and leadership. The team is coming out of a game that was totally there for the taking and they lost it in a pretty heartbreaking fashion, so how will they respond?
As I mentioned elsewhere, I really think it could go in a couple of different dramatic directions, with maybe some in-between possibilities too. It could be a deflating deal like 2009 when OSU lost another close one at Autzen and tanked in the Bowl game against BYU, or it could swing the other way, and this Beavs team has been given a sweet chance to finish strong and build on the positives of that almost Civil War win to be nicely fired up and find that offensive balance and defensive spark. Or it could be finally Trevor Romaine time to win this one in an epic back-and-forth slugfest.
In a way, I feel the Beavs have been given an early Christmas gift with this Bowl invite. It has been a hard fought season with spectacular last minute wins against Utah and SDSU; solid dismantling wins against Hawai'i, WSU, Colorado, and Cal; jaw-dropping losses to Eastern Washington and Washington; a couple lackluster losses to USC and ASU; and two spectacular last minute losses to the two best conference teams Stanford and Oregon. A bit of everything.
For me personally I think this Bowl invite feels right, and is something that the Beavs deserve, even with their unimpressive losses, and it is a game there for them to prove they deserve this placement. Against a top-notch program in a prime time Bowl game, this game is an opportunity for the Beavs to go into 2014 with a 7 and 6 record that an Andy noted will look and feel A LOT better than 6 and 7.
Go Beavs, and Aloha!