It wasn't about technique or strength, though those certainly played a part in last year's 5-7 record. And this wasn't about speed or athleticism either, though those too are integral ingredients to winning.
No, what most stopped Oregon State from going bowling last year was a surprising lack of fire. And it was best displayed in the home game against Washington State, when on the first play from scrimmage WSU linebacker C.J. Mizell rode Jacquizz Rodgers so far out of bounds they ran out of turf -- and then Mizell dumped him face first.
Sure, you have to play smart. Yes, retaliating might negate the 15-yard penalty WSU was slapped with after the play.
But in that moment, all thoughts of playing smart evaporate, at least for a second or two. And in that space of time, OSU showed who they were in 2010. They didn't like it, but they weren't going to really do much of anything about it either.
Someone or someones needed to, at the bare minimum, grab Mizell with a kung-fu grip around the collar and proceed to walk him back about 10 yards. Someone from the Beavers needed to, figuratively, hit Mizell in the mouth. Alas, all the Beavs hit him with was some harsh language.
In years past, OSU would have responded differently. Mizell would have been at the bottom of a pile very, very quickly. A near brawl would have ensued. And Mizell would have needed to have his head on a swivel the rest of the game.
In years past, a message would have been sent by WSU, and that message would have been ripped up in front of them and stuffed back in WSU's face by Oregon State.
OSU still had a chance in that game, on the next play or three. They could have gotten nasty on the Cougs. But they didn't. Washington State was allowed to set the tone, and they were more physical the rest of the game. And OSU lost.
WHAT OBSERVERS WILL be hoping for this spring, to see more of that fire. Much more.
That means some pushing and shoving between the two lines, some big bodies getting locked up and going down to the ground before they're separated.
It means a linebacker probably gives a harder shot than he needs to on one of the Beaver receivers or backs, and an OSU tight end responds by getting in his grill and manhandling him.
It means two second stringers go after it on special teams well after the whistle, and have to be separated by the coaches.
Don't get me wrong. There's a balance. You don't want fights constantly breaking out among teammates. And the hits needs to be hard, but clean. And you don't want to have anyone get injured as a result.
But there has to be more of an attitude in 2011. More nasty. More arrogance. More anger. And that in turn, means more wins.
Beavs need to recapture the fire this spring
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