There is a ton riding on the season for Oregon St. Even though a few pundits have announced before the season it doesn’t matter how OSU fares in 2012, fans aren’t having any of it and are desperate to avoid a 3rd straight losing season. Short of a bowl game in 2012 many think the program could be at a time where new leadership is needed to right the ship and bring new energy to a struggling program. The performance in 2012 is entirely on the coaches and players and starting well will be absolutely critical this year.
A quick start is needed because the schedule gets pretty stiff for the last 5 games. Beaver Byte will break down the games one by one and give its official prediction for 2012. Let’s get started:
Nicholls St. – On a beautiful late summer day in Corvallis and temperature around 84 degrees OSU comes out sharper than they did last year against Sacramento St. Mannion thinks to himself “If I could have had the whole game last year I could have saved Riley from the most embarassing loss of his career.” Wheaton scores a first half touchdown and OSU goes into halftime up 21-7. In the second half Cooks breaks free on a slant for the last TD before garbage time and OSU wins the game 35-20. Not a spectacular start but OSU is 1-0 and thinks it can put up a fight against the Badgers.
Wisconsin- Badgers are known for being ferocious and OSU knows they are going up against a premier team in their 2nd game of the season. The defense is proven to have more holes than were visible against the Colonels the week earlier. Despite being told OSU would turn around for the ball, in 2 key 30+ yard passing plays OSU is beat deep despite being in relatively decent position. Their failure to turn kept the players from having a chance to knock down the ball. OSU trails 24-14 at halftime but comes out better in the 2nd half to get a quick touchdown and amazingly is within 3. It doesn’t last as Wisconsin responds with a 75 yard drive after a touchback. OSU plays respectable to close the game but never again gets the lead below 7 and loses by 13 for a 44-31 loss.
@UCLA- OSU feels like it showed fight against Wisconsin and confidence remains pretty good despite being 1-1. The players and coaches know they must make the most of a bye week before taking on Mora and the Bruins in Pasadena. In a key early season battle the action is pretty good. OSU doesn’t fully capitalize inside the opponents 30 yard line on 2 occassions in the first half though and trails 17-13 at the half. In the 2nd half Obum has a beautiful fade TD catch but the defense fails to get UCLA off the field quick enough. UCLA scores 1 more touchdown and two more field goals in the 2nd half to OSU two TDs but it is enough to win 30-27 and OSU is now 1-2.
@Arizona- OSU had to have the previous game and Riley needed to prove that a vet was worth more than a new coach. He didn’t and the UA matchup presents his 2nd chance to prove that being the Pac-12 longest tenured coach has some advantage. Rich Rodriguez though is in no mood to go easy on Mr. Aw Shucks. He spreads out OSU and their lack of speed at Inside Linebacker and Banker’s insufficient game plan have OSU down 20-10 at halftime. OSU shows more fight in the 2nd half and Mullaney pulls in a stunning TD catch but it is not enough as OSU cannot equal the offensive production of Arizona and loses 37-27. OSU is 1-3 and reeling.
Washington St.- OSU next faces WSU and there are already planty of calls to replace Riley. Banker, Langsdorf and the whole crew realize they are on very thin ice and put together a better game plan. Feeding off a lively Fall crowd after a quick TD, the energy is better this week. Leach also spreads out Banker’s defense but OSU has learned a thing or two from UA and does a better job in this game of limiting the big plays of the Cougs. The game is close at 17-14 OSU after the first half and OSU gets two more TDs in the 2nd to WSU’s 13 points and wins it 31-27. Not a commanding victory and an overall hard fought game by both sides but OSU is atleast at 2-3 and has limited the calls for a new staff for atleast another week.
@BYU- The better feeling makes for a good week of practice but Bronco Mendenhall is ready to show his old school he makes a better head coach for the 2nd straight year. The game is close at halftime with BYU up 21-17. The 2nd half gets away from OSU though and after Mannion throws a costly interception BYU is able to walk away with a 38-27 victory. OSU is now 2-4 and the voices get louder that the staff is not producing the wins fans expect.
Utah- Again the coaches realize they must win to quiet the disturbance of Beaver Nation. After flirting with giving Langsdorf more play calling duties against BYU, Riley realizes he doesn’t have the luxury and ends up making 90% of the calls against Utah. Whittingham and Utah will take alot to beat and luckily the offense is firing in the first half with a balanced attack to take a 21-14 lead at halftime. Utah comes back to tie the game in the 2nd half at 31-31 but OSU scores a late TD and then Poyer seals it with an interception as Utah tries to rally at the end. OSU walks away with the 38-31 victory and at 3-4 and after a good win the players spirits get a modest lift. Riley again seems to be Houdini in that twice in a row when the heat could have gotten incredibly hot he has squeeked out wins to escape from a very bad situation.
@Washington- OSU comes into the UW game with purpose but the offense is too often forced to take field goals over touchdowns as Justin Wilcox’s defense does a good job of frustrating the Beavs. UW leads 17-9 at halftime. In the 2nd half Price gets more productive as the OSU defense is unable to stop two consecutive drives by UW. Even though OSU also scores a TD between those drives they find themselves down 31-19 for most of the 4th quarter and end up losing 34-22. Fans aren’t satisfied and realizing that UW was so effective at forcing the Beavs to accept field goals, more fans start to think that Justin Wilcox would be a good catch as a head coach to replace Riley in 2013 along with the new branding. OSU is 3-5.
Arizona St- Riley knows he has another big Pac-12 contest facing a new coach in the conference when the SunDevils come to town. The game is extremely close in the first half with OSU up 21-20. It stays tight in the 2nd half and after Agnew runs for a 20 yard TD OSU is up 35-27. Having to get 8 points to tie the game ASU makes a mistake and Reynolds picks off a pass that would have gotten ASU into the red zone. The Beavs just need two first downs to take knees and finish it but only get 1 and then punt. ASU only has enough time for one 17 yard out pattern and then their last desperation heave is knocked down as time expires. OSU is 4-5 and the season feels like it is going OK. OSU has won a couple of important home contests to stay in the bowl hunt even if it won’t be easy down the strectch.
@Stanford- OSU goes to Stanford intent on making it a game and not getting blown out as in recent years. They stay somewhat close and trail 21-10 at halftime. Stanford plays about as well in the 2nd half and OSU just doesn’t do enough scoring and can’t get Stanford off the field defensively as much as they have to to stay in the game. Stanford cruises to a 38-17 victory and OSU fans are grumbling that the Beavers and Riley put up a relatively poor fight and did not show the fight to stay in the game. OSU is 4-6 and realizes their bowl chances are now very slim as they must win their final 2 including Oregon.
California- The lessening optimistic say that OSU always plays good against California. They must have forgotten last year as OSU looked very bad and did not stay with the Golden Bears in AT&T Park. Cal is determined to start a new trend against OSU and the first half is active by both sides as the game goes into half time tied 17-17. OSU takes a 2nd half lead into the early 4th at 31-27, but Cal has 8 minutes left as they start a crucial late drive. Cal is successful in beating Banker after a 4th down and 3 conversion and a TD puts them up 34-31. OSU drives late and gets as far as the 29 yard line before facing 4th down and 2.5 yards with 2 minutes to play. Riley decides to go for a 46 yard field goal but it is missed wide right. Cal makes a first down and then takes knees to ice the game. OSU is 4-7 and bowl hopes are completely eliminated. Fans are not very happy as most expected atleast 5-6 wins.
Oregon- The Ducks come to town amidst plenty of turmoil for Riley and Co. There are still Pollyannas but they are getting fewer and further between. Fans want to think OSU always has a shot at home but Oregon is bristling through the conference as usual. The fans don’t think Riley can match Kelly in any contest. They are essentially proven right. Oregon takes a 24-14 halftime lead and in the 2nd half OSU does not get closer than 10 at 31-21. Not being in it and only clawing somewhat seems too predictable to OSU fans. Kelly is very nice and takes 3 knees to end the game on the OSU 25 yard line and seal a 41-28 victory. OSU’s last touchdown is in the final 6 minutes and down 20 at that point it feels more like a consolation gift from Kelly.
OSU ends the season at 4-8. Fans largely have a repeated sour taste in their mouths. There are more voices for a new staff from top to bottom then is comfortable with the status quo, but at the same time there are Pollyannas saying that we should be better next year. That isn’t enough for the majority and BDC is left in an awkward situation. Attendance was only 40,112 for Nicholls St. Wisconsin had 45,000, WSU 43,500, Utah 43,100, ASU 42,900, and Cal 43,020. These represent diminishing numbers for the program and 4-8 is not amusing Beaver Nation after Ted Miller was confident the Beavs would break the losing record trend and return to a bowl game.
Jon Canzano writes a big piece after the Oregon game and says that although a nice guy it is time for a change at Oregon St. BDC contacts Justin Wilcox after Washington finishes 8-4 and wins the Holiday Bowl in a nailbiter over Nebraska and ultimately decides to make a change. Wilcox negotiates a 6 year 1.75 million a year deal with OSU with much smarter year extensions for only 8-4 or better. Sure there are small incentives for any bowl and each win 7 and up also comes with small bonuses but OSU decides it is not wise to reward mediocrity like it is golden.
The branding is revealed in around the following 4th of July. It has 14 possible uniform combos and an alternate helmet. The center of the field gets a diagonal OSU and the endzones a sharp beavertail waffle checkerboard like design. Recruiting picks up under Wilcox and OSU announces a Top 35 recruiting class with two 4 star athletes and numerous 3 star athletes taking almost all the other spots. Only a couple 2 stars have to be taken.
OSU has a real Spring Game and opens the 2013 season to a sold out Reser Stadium. Attendance in 2013 averages over 45,200 as they go 7-5 in Wilcox’s first year and get an invite to the Sun Bowl. This time instead of scoring 3 points, Wilcox and OSU hang 30 on NC State and win 30-20. OSU Football has solid energy and momentum and hopes are high that a 2nd consecutive Top 35 recruiting class and experience will have OSU in a Holiday Bowl or better in Wilcox’s 2nd year at the helm of a now talked about OSU program that is gaining national respect and attention.