When an unexpected outcome comes out of a common event, you're caught off guard. It's surprising, scary even. And it changes the way you think for a certain period of time. Finding a bug in your shoe means in the future you'll be shaking it out before putting in your foot. Stubbing your toe means in the future you'll take that turn extra wide. But eventually, things go back to normal. You blindly slide your feet in. You brush by the table as you go.
The time it takes to recover from losing to an FCS team and go back to normal is certainly longer than 2 years. The Sac. St. references and jokes were flying well before kickoff on Saturday. Although they wish they could, nobody had forgotten. I don't think there was a single Beaver fan taking the game for granted. We're much too close to the last unexpected outcome to assume the expected one. Yet I don't think there's a Beaver fan out there who predicted a loss. Because who loses to Eastern Washington? We're not UCONN. We're not South Alabama. We're a top 25 team coming off a 9-3 season. We don't lose to Eastern Washington.
I'm not sure how anticipating the very real possibility of a loss affected other's feelings about the game, but it just made everything feel surreal--but all too real--to me. It was the cliché train wreck (other notable train wrecks include this article) that I just couldn't look away from. I caught myself smirking in (dis)belief at times while watching Vernon Adams tear up the Beavers defense. I shouldn't have been able to believe it was happening again, but I could. We do lose to Eastern Washington.
I'm not going to be doing any of the "I wish w had done x," or the "Now y needs to z," in this thread. Myself and others have done plenty of that elsewhere, and will likely do plenty more.
But for now, after the disaster, we're at a crossroads. Actually, it's more like one of these:
Unfortunately, many fans seem to think we're on a one-way road to 0-12. I don't think any of us are particularly qualified to make a prediction about the rest of the season after being as disarmed as we were Saturday, but I find it hard to believe we just watched the best game the Beavers will play this season. I don't think it's reasonable to say that last year's defense lost 3 starters and suddenly their best effort is to give up 600 yards to EWU. That just seems impossible. As Andy pointed out in the recap, Poyer did play the all-important role of making on-field adjustments, which increases the His departure hurts a lot, but that still doesn't translate to the performance we saw Saturday.
Nonetheless, it's up to the players and coaches to respond. Obviously just because they can do better, doesn't mean they will. But if they only win 2-3 games, we can't blame it on talent or poor coaching. We can place the blame firmly on an inability to regain any confidence after such a demoralizing loss. My opinion is I don't think a team that went through the 2011 debacle and came back in 2012 openly admitting they were using the previous year as motivation, is going to roll over and make 2013 a repeat of 2011, but I could be wrong.
Don't forget, however, that the road to success has been paved. In 2010, Virginia Tech lost to James Madison in week 2, and went 11-3 with an Orange Bowl victory. Surely you remember 2007, when #5 Michigan fell to Appalachian State in the first week. But do you remember them knocking off Florida in the Capital One Bowl? Barring a Civil War victory, this team will likely be known, on a national stage, as the one who lost to EWU. But if what the Beavers wanted was a chip on their shoulder, they just got one. I'm confident they can still make some noise in the Pac-12.
The Sacramento State game was a sucker punch to the gut. This year, fans were flexing. We just have to hope the players were too.