Balance and style.
Bill Walsh, a leading pioneer of the West Coast Offense, would have been proud of the Oregon State offensive attack against Wisconsin. There may not have been a monster number on the scoreboard in the 10-7 win over Wisconsin, but the orange and black produced efficient ball movement.
And with it, a good amount of style points.
For those not buying it because only one touchdown was produced, consider that Mike Riley's precision play calling resulted in 354 yards and a time of possession edge against one of the Big Ten's most physical, stingiest defenses. The OSU offense delivered on what the doctor ordered. They won, defeating an aggressive opponent who a year ago bullied the Beavs up and down the field.
Last year, OSU might have abandoned a running game that wasn't finding enough success. Not this season. Yes, in the 2012 opener OSU had 47 pass attempts. But Riley ran it 30 times, too.
Sean Mannion tossed a good game despite a few drops, a few overthrows. And the running game found its legs as the battle wore on. Prior to Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew getting into a rhythm, Riley flexed out into short horizontal routes and screens that utilized the Beavs' speed and agility, a la Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks.
Riley applied his tools in an efficient fashion that controlled the clock – OSU won the time of possession battle at 35:35 – 25:25. One game in, this has the makings of the best OSU offensive attack since 2008 (which perhaps not coincidentally is the last time Riley called the plays on game day.)
THIS ISN'T AN attempt to knock the last three seasons of Oregon State offensive football -- and 2009 was a strong year. But sometimes change is necessary. Danny Langsdorf called some decent games as offensive coordinator – and he was handed the shaft at times with a legion of injuries and a talent deficit. It was like trying to make chicken salad out of chicken spit.
But Riley clearly felt things weren't on the right path despite that -- even though he's steadfastly insisted to say basically anything other than he missed calling the plays. Regardless of the why, the real story is what it could mean in going forward. And more answers will come against UCLA this Saturday.
WHEN UCLA UPSET Nebraska on Sept. 8, they needed a full half to find their tempo on the defensive side of the ball in the 36-30 win. They gave up 24 points to Rice in the first half in the opener. That could lend to the chance for OSU put those points up on the board that were lacking against Whikey, and for Riley's play calling to really emerge from behind the curtain.
Further, UCLA's defensive style could bode well for Mannion and Co. if Riley hits all the right pre-snap notes. The Beavers' offense is not going to be pushed around the way Houston was on Saturday night.
The 08' and 09' seasons landed the Beavers back-to-back victories over UCLA – the 10' and 11' seasons were the opposite. UCLA against on Saturday night blasted hapless Houston (0-3) by a score of 37-6, likely still riding the high of the Nebraska upset. But does UCLA go into this coming Saturday truly having the momentum?
OSU is all about just doing what works on offense, a complement to a Beaver defense that, for Week 1 at least, was making plays up and down the field. But now it's the offense's turn. Can Riley take advantage of the UCLA weaknesses on defense seen on tape so far this season? With a bye this past week and the opener postponed, all anyone can do is speculate until The Opening kickoff.
But with a game under their belts and a bye week prior to a tough in-conference matchup at the Rose Bowl, the Beavs have a little steam as well -- finally.
Riley's play calling will be evident at UCLA
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