COMMENTARY: Looking at the glass half empty

CORVALLIS - Had it not been for a last minute reverse by receiver Brandin Cooks, OSU would have finished in the red for rushing yards on Saturday. The Beavs ran the ball but 20 times and Terron Ward mustered just 26 yards on 12 attempts. Oregon State has won their last three games on the shoulders of a passing attack that doesn't quit – but can such success through the air last forever?

I believe Oregon State's running approach has been dying this season because it is being suffocated in both practice and in games. The OSU passing game is taking up all its oxygen.

Food for thought: So what happens going forward if the OSU pass-heavy offense and Sean Mannion becomes even more predictable?

Rocky Long read the Beaver offense like a pop-up book. San Diego State was the first defense this season that really caught on to what the Beavs were trying to do offensively and executed properly against it.

Long and the Aztecs quickly gauged what the orange and black were capable of -- a running game-less offense that could crumble under well planned blitzes or an overloading of the box.

If SDSU caught on, rest assured that remaining teams are going to follow suit. And now SDSU has given other teams a rollicking game's worth of film of where the Beavers' weaknesses lie on offense.

If the OSU offense becomes predictable, if it becomes clear what Sean Mannion and the Beavs are going to do, the chances for continued success in the win column become even more tenuous than they are now.

IT'S FOOTBALL 101, the run game is utilized to alleviate some of the pressure on a QB. But OSU is playing another game through four games this season, one where the run is not a second thought, but rather an afterthought.

Mike Riley continues to say OSU very much wants to run the ball but I've given up on that. The first four games have shown in convincing fashion Oregon State in 2013 is dedicated to the pass, not the run.

Mannion threw no picks on Saturday and he is now the proud owner of 15 touchdown passes on the season against just one interception. But SDSU was reading the snap count, jumping the O-line with ease and forcing Mannion out of his comfort zone. There were too many passes that were nearly picked because Mannion didn't have time to make a second or third read.

OSU is ranked 121st – third from last – in the nation in rushing offense (55.0 ypg). I believe it has little to do with talent or lack thereof. And it's not so much about bad blocking or underdeveloped offensive linemen being thrown into the mix, although that's not to say those aren't contributing factors.

But what I believe the primary culprit to be -- if the o-line and Beav RBs aren't ever given a chance to block and run for much more than 15 legitimate rushing attempts per game, how can progress come to fruition?

O-lineman like Grant Bays and Sean Harlow are young but they have been playing this game for a while now – they will find a groove, it is their job. But they have to be given the running reps in order to do so.

Mannion's first four games have, at least in part, been great for the same reasons that his first three games in 2012 were above average – other teams didn't really know what to expect. Utah, SDSU, EWU and Hawaii - they primarily had expectations and data from the 2012 season to work with, but Mannion isn't in 2012 mode anymore. And neither are the Beavs.

MEANWHILE, THE BEAVER defense is not a 60 minute team, not so far anyway. They've gifted double digit leads as if they were candy. They sharpened up in the second half of the SDSU game, better late than never. But the defense, well OSU fans can only hope they can find a longer groove.

Because consistently bad defense begets a overstretched offense -- and for the Beavs that means one regularly struggling to claw their way back up to take the lead. The offense pulled off miracles during the last five minutes of regulation in both Salt Lake and San Diego. The football gods have been in the orange and black corner. But it won't last. OSU has already used up a season's worth of gifts from above.

From where I stand, OSU wouldn't have needed those miracles if they could have found their ground game and stretched both the opposing defense and the clock. Chemistry has not developed in the run game because they haven't been able to field the same five linemen for more than a game and due so few running plays. Yet, it can still be overcome.

Injuries to Woods and the O-line aside, Riley's offense has the playing and coaching talent necessary to succeed in the run game, with or without Woods, Grant Enger, Gavin Andrews and/or Josh Mitchell. But they need to keep calling the running back's number.

I'm from the school that advocates a team running it, and running it again, and when that doesn't work – running it again. Because then you can initiate the play action, and it works. But for the Beavs right now, play action is simply a designer shift of the hand and torso and it wasn't fooling SDSU and looking ahead, it's not going to fool anyone either -- not unless the Beavs start running more.

Don't misunderstand, I like a West Coast offense predicated on sticky hands and well planned route running. You can tucker the opposing D out to the point where when their coach tells them to blitz, they look at him like, "Do we have to?"

I understand that the times, they are a-changin'. But what I don't see from anyone else in the conference - with the exception of Washington State - is the complete and utter abandonment of anything that looks like a run.

Terron Ward had a whopping total of 12 carries. Four went for a loss, but I believe those would have been more than balanced out had OSU given it to Ward a more-standard 25 times. Chris Brown was a viable second string option but there weren't enough carries for him -- even though not a school in the country has any college tape of what Brown can do.

OSU had negative two rushing yards until the final minute of regulation. They somehow won. But it was also the aberration of aberrations. OSU still ran the play action. And OSU became even more predictable and guys like Cooks, Richard Mullaney and Kevin Cummings were well known to be the offense's only way out of a deepening hole.

And OSU paid for it with some crushing hits courtesy of the SDSU secondary, and Mannion paid for it with his fumble.

The hat has been turned over, the false bottom exposed. It's time for a new trick if the Beavs are to continue their winning ways.

Colorado will not be a pushover, but I submit they will be thrown for a loop if OSU runs at them.

All. Night. Long.

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