If that. More like leaving Las Vegas.
Eight months to put the Alamo Bowl fiasco in the rearview mirror. If anything came out of Saturday’s nightmare in Corvallis, a 49-46 loss to lower division Eastern Washington, consider it mission accomplished for Oregon State’s football team. There’s a new landmark in town, or shall we say a new abysmal effort to stew over.
Shocking? Not really. The unrealistic expectations placed on the Beavers were based on last year’s record and a high number of returning players. Many people believed 7-0 was not just a possibility, but a probability. All this without playing a down. Welcome to the difference between statistics and reality. OSU’s emotional leaders from a year ago, Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton, play in the NFL now. Beaver Nation remains in search of such replacements on that level. Meanwhile, Eastern Washington’s all around leader, quarterback Vernon Adams, was a one man wrecking crew (411 passing yards, 107 yards rushing). Adams thrashed the Beaver defense from the get go, went out briefly, the Eagles went flat, he came back and the torching continued.
Deflating? Certainly. The offense did their part, scoring 46 points. Sean Mannion threw for 422 yards on 37-43 passing, with 3 touchdowns and NO TURNOVERS. Brandin Cooks had 13 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns. And if you are a Beaver fan returning to this planet after being gone for a while, they lost.
Disgusted? You better believe it. How one person can dismantle a defense like Adams did to OSU is ridiculous. The Eagles were without their top two running backs and their top three receivers from last year are gone. After scoring on all six possessions in the first half (the last one right before half hardly qualifies), where were the halftime adjustments by OSU? Why did coach Mike Riley stick with a zone defense in the secondary and three or four down linemen? The Beaver defense got worked. Instead of statement game, opposing offenses will be licking their chops.
Feeling sorry for anyone? Definitely. Victor Bolden. This freshman kick return specialist has supreme talent. As woeful as the defense was, an overlooked facet for OSU would be special teams where the effort wasn’t much better. Bolden has fantastic speed. Yet, against Eastern Washington, his teammates let him down. Thanks to the defense, Bolden had many opportunities. Upon receiving a kick, it was a mere 10-15 yards before a sea of white jerseys bestowed upon him. Where was the blocking? How frustrating it must have been to return kicks all on his own. His 19.8 average yards should be commended considering he had nowhere to go each time he touched the ball.
What now? Tackle better on defense. Change up the coverage in the defensive backfield. Improve the blocking on special teams. Blitz more. Blitz more. Blitz more (not a typo, a desperate plea). Defensively, start over.
Prediction? Not 8-4, that’s for sure. The defense needs a metamorphosis of epic proportion to even walk on the same field with the likes of Oregon or Stanford (nationally ranked 3rd and 4th, respectively). Games with high probability of winning (road games at Utah, San Diego State, WSU, California and ASU) all become dicey now. Sure losses (Cardinal and Ducks) keep their status as do 50-50 games (USC, Washington). Hawaii and Colorado were locks, but so was Eastern Washington. Oregon State’s defense threw a curveball no one saw coming. But a bowl berth looks as close as Las Vegas from Portland with a naked eye. That’s right, you can’t see it.