Beavers: Underdogs with a Big Bite
The OSU Beavers have had some great runs in the last decade, and perhaps none were more exciting than 2008 and 2009. While both seasons brought plenty of excitement, they both ended in misery with OSU losing out on the Rose Bowl in the last game of the season.
Come 2010 and 2011 and it’s a different story. The Beavers have been broken down and defeated, posting a horrid 8-16 record over the last two years.
2012 brings hope and the belief that this team can make a Pac 12 run. However, that’s only if the Beavers can do what must be done.
Here are the things the Beavers must accomplish if they want to create their own Cinderella story in 2012:
Play Hard at the Line (on Both Sides of the Ball)
During their two year decline, line play has been a notorious enemy of the Beavers. Offensively, they’re averaging 7 yards of loss on 62 sacks since 2010. Defensively, it’s been OSU’s Achilles heal—they were ranked last in 2011 in run defense, giving up 196.8 yards per game.
Despite their troubles, there’s hope for 2012.
The first is Isaac Seumalo. There’s not enough I can say about this kid. He was touted as the best OG prospect for 2012, and chose his hometown Beavers. At 6’3 and 275 lbs. he’s got the explosive first step and intensity you look for in all your linemen. There’s talk that the Beavers might try Seumalo out on defense as well as offense, so right there is a step in the right direction.
The other key is Scott Crichton. Rated as a fringe 2/3 star prospect entering 2011, Crichton proved critics wrong. His standout freshmen campaign garnered All-American honors, as he had 74 tackles—14.5 for a loss—6 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and one blocked kick.
If the line play is going to get better in 2012, it’ll start with these two young men.
Return to Fundamentals
Mike Riley is a fundamentals kind of coach, but it certainly didn’t show in 2011. Three things the Beavers need in 2012: less penalties, fewer turnovers and tackling.
OSU has always been a disciplined program under Riley, but it didn’t show last season. The team ranked 10th in the Pac 12 with 68.7 penalty yards per game. You can’t play well until you play smart, and Riley needs to get that back into his player’s heads.
Turnovers were a plague for the 2011 Beavs. Their turnover margin was dead last in the Pac 12 last season, forcing 23, but giving up 31. The 19 interceptions is a really ugly number, but so is the 12 lost fumbles—it’s worth noting they had 25 total. Seeing that the Beavers had just one 2011 game in which they didn’t give up a fumble, ball control is an obvious key to 2012.
Though it’s a little harder to find stats that illuminate the tackling problem at OSU, any Beaver fan knows what I’m talking about. The games became almost unbearable to watch, as the defense became an acrobatic show of tacklers trying to drag down ball carriers. Use your body’s natural force, drive into the ball carrier and wrap him up. That’s the technique OSU needs to learn to return to the roots of good defense.
These fundamental flaws are important ground work for a sound football team. Without improvement, the Beavers have no shot in 2012.
They’ve Got to Run
The landscape of college football is changing. What used to be about hard nosed football is now about pure speed and dynamic athleticism. Though OSU’s high flying offense is football noir to the run and gun style of play developing across the Pac 12, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance.
With that said, OSU still needs a running back. Now, I’m not talking about a LaMichael Jamesbreak into the open field and run like the dickens type player, but at least a run down the clock and take some of the game load type guy.
The Beavers ran with three tailbacks in 2011, and each was as ineffective as the last. In fact, the Beavers were the worst rushing team in the Pac 12 last season, running for just 86.9 yards per game while averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry.
Though it shouldn’t be their first and best option on offense, the Beavers need a steady running game to succeed in 2012. It will help establish option plays, take some pressure off Sean Mannion and expand the teams time of possession.
Win the Games that Count
September 8th, October 27th, November 10th, November 24th. Wisconsin, at Washington, at Stanford, Oregon.
The Beavers want respect in the Pac 12. They need it. They deserve it.
They need to earn it.
If the Beavers can’t win the games that count, then what’s the point? 2008, they beat #1 USC at home, but lose out on roses because they underestimate the new look Ducks. 2009 they beat everyone they should have, but lose to #18 Cincinnati, #4 USC and #7 Oregon—once again losing their Rose Bowl bid.
A single loss can turn a season upside down. In 2008 and 2009 all it took was one more win for something special. OSU has an exciting schedule this season, and if they want to win the Pac 12 they need to win the games they’re not supposed to.
Dare I say “win the day?” No. Win the division. Win the Pac 12. Defeat everyone in your way.
That’s the only mentality the Beavers need to be a great football team.