COMMENTARY: Where's the fire?

LOST. NO, NOT that television show about the castaways and smoke monsters and wait, was it all a dream or what. No, in this instance, "Lost" is where the Oregon State football program currently resides, and it's no dream they find themselves in -- it's a nightmare. And you only had to see one play early in the game this past Saturday to know that.

Bear with me for a moment, here. I love to box. But I'm not the most skilled boxer on the planet. I'm not the fastest or the strongest. I'm sporting a recently broken nose that bears that out. But in my mind, I'm ferocious. I'd like to believe I embody in the ring the same qualities I love about Oregon State's football program – fearless, tough, tenacious, blue-collar. Determined. Gutty.

My worst nightmares are where I'm moving at half speed, as if I'm swimming in concrete, unable to muster the strength to swing at my enemies, unable to move my feet quickly enough to act. If I can raise my hands at all, it's barely enough to even move them towards my opponents.

I can't help but feel that OSU is stuck in that same kind of nightmare.

I LIKE TO talk X's and O's, to look at matchups and figure out how things shape up, where the advantages and deficits reside. But this week, I don't think it's about chalk talk. It's about something else.

And I don't believe the OSU coaches have suddenly gone from brilliant to brain-dead overnight – despite the recent outcry, and from many who were calling them geniuses last year, and the year before. I don't believe that the players have suddenly forgotten how to execute, and I don't think that they have lost their heart.

What I do believe is they are stuck in a nightmare.

The million dollar question is, how do the Beavers wake up, and turn it around? In a nutshell, I believe it's on the staff to gather the team up, circle the wagons and stop the freefall. It's going to take a game plan that the players can believe in, and leadership. It's going to require a look at the bigger picture, and it's going to require more than just a little bit of inspiration.

And turning it around, that may be a relative thing here. A win may not be the result. The Beavers were sleepwalking, swinging their fists through concrete in the Washington State game. And it was most personified by the late hit on Oregon State's star tailback, way, way, way out of bounds, on the first play from scrimmage. Think hard about that play…

IN JUST ABOUT any other year, you could imagine that kind of late hit against a Beaver sparking a near-riot. Swarms of Beavs would have come running. But this 2010 team – stuck in a nightmare and lost – they mostly just stood by blankly, numb.

There were a few mild protestations. But there was no pushing or shoving, no retaliation. It didn't ignite a fire. The intensity on the field didn't ratchet up throughout the Beaver ranks.

After that play they just looked.. lost. Asleep. And that's stunning. And it's not the Beaver football program I know.

THE 2010 BEAVER FOOTBALLERS have faced a grueling schedule, suffering key injuries. Those aren't excuses, but they do help explain things and they can't be simply ignored. As an alum or fan, you have to look at the big picture if you want to have any idea what in the heck is going on.

And for offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, it's tough to call a game when the offensive line isn't blocking the run very well, when the boxes are so crowded. So you take what the defense gives you and you put the ball in the hands of your quarterback and look for him to make a play. If he does, the game opens up and surprise – you're a genius again.

Mike Riley is trying this week to get back to details. Get the little things to work, build some confidence, and shake this team out of their hypnotic state. Find that fire.

OSU under Riley has been excellent at coming together down the stretch in recent years, and in maintaining their focus. That doesn't mean that they're primed to win out – there are probably just too many problems with depth, too many missing pieces to go on that kind of run.

But there is good football ahead.

THE FIRST STEP along that path is for the Beavers to rediscover their pride, and find some fire. And this is never more true for any group than it is the offensive line.

They need to put their arms around Jacquizz Rodgers, and he needs to put his arms around them, and they need to all know they are going to fight tooth and nail for one another. Quizz needs to know they're going to scratch and claw for him, and protect him, and that includes when someone rides him well out of bounds or dislodges his helmet.

When that starts to happen, OSU can wake up from the nightmare.

BeaverBlitz Top Stories