On Jan 1st, 2001, Oregon State destroyed Notre Dame 41-9 in a dominant effort that can be categorized as brash and aggressive. The Dennis Erickson-led team was described as playing with audacious attitude. For all his faults, Coach Erickson's teams played without fear. And they played with an edge.
So how did a then-53 year old man set that edge in his players?
I can only speculate, but there are stories that Erickson would routinely lose his breakfast before games and once hyperventilated during a halftime speech to the point where he fainted. That game where he fainted? He was coaching the Idaho Vandals and setting the edge for their game against Montana State (point here is that it wasn’t an important game). Note Erickson's edginess came before and during games, not after.
Coach Gary Anderson has been salty in his post-game press appearances and interactions since Saturday. Rightfully so. Things need to change. Anderson must create some aggression, some how, some way.
I believe that in football, having an aggressive nature yields results (note: aggression must be kept on the field). The multi-million dollar question that coaches must figure out is the part about how to get players to play with an aggressive physical mentality.
One data-driven answer points at re-evaluating the dreaded penalty. While fans, announcers, and coaches often bemoan penalties, the data seems to point to teams taking the penalty trade-off if it means a more physical brand of football. Full statistical disclosure, this was based off the NFL, not college, but I think there are certainly parallels.
The 41-9 Fiesta Bowl drubbing of storied Notre Dame? Oregon State had 18 penalties for 174 yards. That season, where consensus No. 4 Oregon State went 11-1, the Beavers averaged greater than 15 penalties and 145 yards per game. But they played with attitude. They played with swagger. They played with edge.
Anderson is known as a fair guy that tells his players the truth. Maybe he needs to be a little unfair these next few weeks. Not permanently, but long enough to get Oregon State back to where they were during last years’ Civil War. The team I watched Saturday is missing the swagger to run the ball 21 consecutive times. In terms of penalties versus Colorado State? Three penalties for 21 yards.
In response to Xavier Crawford’s post-game comment, Anderson was quoted to say, “If that’s the way he feels, then he needs to look in the mirror and get his own ass ready to play.” While I respect this sentiment, the team’s performance and readiness to play is the responsibility of the coach. Some teams and players can get ready to play on their own. Against Colorado State, the majority of the Oregon State team definitely looked like it was made up of players that were not ready to play. Seems to me that for now, the players need a fire lit under them from coaches, and maybe Anderson needs to break character and get a little mean. Yell. Scream. Withhold hot water from the showers. Allow the team to only eat plain chicken breast and Brussels sprouts. Compile a low-lights film from the CSU game and stream on the TVs at the Valley Football Center 24/7. Be unfair. Some how, some way, get his players to be more aggressive. Set that edge.