Beaver Nation is disappointed. No question, the term “disappointed” is a major understatement of how the Oregon State community feels after the first three games of the season. Coach Andersen has put it out there that nobody is more frustrated than himself. I hope this is true. Not because I wish for Coach Andersen to suffer complications due to a season-long period of extremely elevated blood pressure, but because he might get desperate enough to make some changes.
Coach Andersen needs to re-evaluate his approach to the game. Go back to the very beginning and challenge every assumption he’s made going back from the off-season until now. It is pretty clear that the assumptions and the approach he has been working with are failing him.
Malcom Gladwell, the famed economist and and author, wrote a book about underdogs titled David and Goliath. One anecdote that Gladwell used to describe how underdogs can be successful is a story about a girls basketball team in the Bay Area. The savvy coach, recognized that his team wasn’t the tallest or most skilled, so he implemented an incessant and harassing full court press. This hid the fact that other teams should have been far superior due to better talent and years more of experience and practice. This brand of basketball wasn’t traditional or pretty, but the team overachieved and won a bunch of games they shouldn’t have.
There is no question that Oregon State struggles to attract blue chip recruits. The state as a whole shares this burden. The Portland Trail Blazers are notorious for failing to land big-name free agents, and that’s the big city. The schmucks (Oregon) found a way to differentiate themselves through the use of Nike’s branding team - but even the schmucks had to alter their approach at times in order to stay relevant. For all his quirks, former Coach Chip Kelly often changed his team’s playing style and went against the status quo. Going for it on fourth down? Commentators loved to call Coach Kelly an idiot if it failed, but there is a bunch of data that supports the aggressive approach of going for it. It was different, exciting to watch, and ultimately (to my dismay) successful for the schmucks.
For all the lack of perceived talent on this Oregon State team, it simply is not an excuse for the uninspired play that fans have had to endure. Coach Andersen has many players that would be starters on other PAC-12 teams. The question then essentially becomes, “so why do we suck so bad?”
Coach McGiven stated earlier this week that the schemes are more-or-less okay, it’s a matter of missed assignments.
In other words, maintaining the mentality that after a million, “if we had only made the block”-esqe assessments, there is a deeper root issue that needs to be addressed: how about implementing a game plan and calling plays that are more forgiving of a missed assignment?
The spread offense developed largely at schools that struggled to have the strongest and most powerful teams. Instead of struggling to beat the big-dog teams with the best talent and athletes, the spread offense changed the approach to create different angles and spaces that might provide better opportunity to a disadvantaged team. In other words, the spread originated as an attempt at changing the playing field and being more forgiving to less talented teams.
Let’s be clear, I’m not advocating for Coach Andersen to roll out a new offense on Saturday. I am simply pointing out the obvious that drastic changes are needed to level the playing field. Same goes for the defense. I don’t expect Coach Clune to change to a 4-3 against WSU - especially given their Air Raid offense - but I am looking for a drastic change in defensive calls. A tweak here or there is not enough. Through three games, the Beavers have zero sacks and Oregon State ranks 128th out of 130 teams nationally in scoring defense. Maybe it’s time to re-think the three man rush and call safety blitzes every other down.
Coach Andersen needs to take a step back and realize that minor tweaks will not placate a fan base that may have already given up on the season. People are looking for dramatic change in all aspects of the game. How the offense is run (like actually running Ryan Nall more than seven times), to how the defense runs (like running after the opposing QB for a sack rather than running after opposing players headed to the end zone). I’d be happy to lose to Washington State if the Beaver offense tries to run the ball with their plethora of talented running backs 80% of the time (serving the dual purpose of putting the ball in the hands of our most talented position group as well as potentially shortening the duration our defense has to stay on the field). I also wouldn’t be opposed to shorter, quick passes being executed.
I like Coach Andersen as a person and a leader of the Oregon State football team. That being said, I’ve been disappointed with his ability to execute game plans, make in-game adjustments, and get the most out of his players. There’s still time to turn things around this season. It starts with accepting that this team is more than just a few plays away from being successful. Big fundamental changes are needed. The worst that can happen is that we lose in a different way.