What did bye mean for OSU d-line?

CORVALLIS – At BF.C, there are no bye weeks so during OSU's week off, we interviewed a pair of Beaver D-linemen and their coach to get the scoop on what a week off means to the Beaver DL. Topics varied, and we dug deeper into bye week advantages the Beavs might enjoy. But first, do stats really matter?

"The only stat that matters is that W," according to Oregon State defensive line coach Joe Seumalo.

From this chair, OSU's defensive front four found a gear in their win over Colorado that they had struggled to find in games prior. Linemen were quick off the snap and got their hands up in the pass rush, forcing QB Connor Wood to throw early and into traffic.

Seumalo's stop corps tipped three passes at the line of scrimmage, and they were decent in defending the run. There was the threat that Wood could run, and he tried. But OSU prevented Wood from creating much of anything with his legs.

The question is if Oregon State turned a corner against the Buffaloes, or the success was due to the CU talent level. BF.C asked Seumalo what led to the change of pace against CU compared to the first four games.

"Growth and development with a group of guys that are starting to come together, play together and be comfortable," Seumalo said. "Banks (Mark Banker) always talks about confidence level, and I think what you are seeing is a bunch of guys that are starting to become a bit more comfortable, and have a lot of confidence playing together."

DEFENSIVE TACKLES can be easy to overlook in the grand scheme of a season, because unless they are making sacks, notching tackles for a loss or forcing fumbles, DTs don't show up big on the tree bark. Managing tempo, closing gaps and generating three-and-outs – those aspects of their job don't show up in the box score.

Take senior defensive tackles John Braun and Mana Rosa for example, two relative bright spots for an Oregon State D-line that got off to a sluggish start in 2013. They're not widely heralded, quietly combining for 42 tackles, five TFL and one sack.

"Those guys have played well, unfortunately sometimes it won't look like it on the scoreboard," Seumalo said. "But if you sit and watch, those guys have played well – they've been consistent - and I've been very pleased with their production level."

Progress and improved talent are sometimes hard to see from the stands, even harder to see on television, and virtually impossible to determine from stat sheets alone. But junior defensive end Dylan Wynn was pleased to offer his opinion of the job Rosa and Braun have been doing.

"That's where your best guys typically are… the inside," Wynn said. "I know Rosa and John Braun have been killing it. Rosa has (played at a level) way higher than outside expectations. I've had people come up to me and be like ‘Ah, Rosa! Where did he come from?'

"But we knew that he had put in strong work in the offseason, really worked on his hand speed, foot speed and power. You can definitely see it paying off in our game."

Flash Forward
The Beavers trip to Pullman this weekend for the first of two straight away games against conference foes. The Cougars present an efficient pass first approach, and it will be immensely important that Rosa and Braun continue to do their part in the middle if Beaver defensive efforts are to lead to a win.

One of the hardest aspects to practice for or against is crowd noise, something the Beavs are likely to deal with since Martin Stadium is sold out. Too much crowd noise can cause problems for the opponent. Conversely, it can hamper the efforts of the home team if the crowd isn't quite into the game.

Wynn and Rosa discussed with BF.C the ins and outs of crowd participation -- from a player's perspective.

"It does help. It gets the offense confused before plays, they can't really hear the snap," Rosa said. "But it also helps us, gives us motivation to play better and get three and outs."

Rosa is a quiet guy off the field, one of those athletes whose actions on the field speak louder than his words. Wynn on the other hand, is one of the more high-energy members of the Beavs starting defense, and the junior has picked up some tricks to keeping the home crowd involved at the right times in his three years of experience.

"I know a big thing for me, when (the opponent) is doing a check down or an audible, I always try to get the crowd going." Wynn said. "You can really tell when the O-line can't hear or the wide receivers don't really get the signal. When Reser gets bumping, it's hard for a lot of teams. We've seen it already a couple times at home."

BF.C ASKED IF OSU's veteran D-linemen had noticed crowd involvement affecting Colorado during last Saturdays 44-17 trouncing of the Buffaloes, and both players said the noise of the masses was key during that game. Rosa mentioned that Wood had to repeat adjustments on multiple occasions in order to convey changes to his offensive alignment.

So will being on the road again make winning that much more difficult next Saturday? Maybe, maybe not.

Wynn sees road games as just another challenge that must be met, with or without an overwhelming wave of orange in the stands.

"The fans are great," said Wynn. "Also, they are a tool. You don't need them, but they definitely help. When it comes down to it we are going to play our game no matter what. But every little advantage, you are going to use it, especially when it comes to game time."

The Plus-Side of a Bye
The bye week practices for OSU were full of loud music, amplified greatly by the metallic walls of the Merritt Truax Indoor Practice Facility . This tactic is utilized by the coaching staff in order to force players to become better acquainted with crowd volume and the chaos associated with large groups of people yelling prior to the ball being snapped.

But increased exposure to noise is merely one of a slew of benefits afforded to Oregon State during their week off.

"We've been working a lot on (certain things because WSU is) a quick offense," Rosa said. "It helps being able to have that bye week – you get extra conditioning and extra lifts in."

THE WEEK TO COME will be all about getting in tune with what WSU does offensively, but the Beavs got a head start on that this past week.

"Their team is very good at executing their offense," Wynn said. "They may not seem like they run much, but a lot of the smoke plays and quick passes, we consider those outside runs. Outside runs that we need to rally to. They have a very good offense with a high motor – when it comes down to it, this extra week, I can't describe how much it will help us when it comes to game time and just being able to recognize things quickly, and react that much faster."

The bye week has allowed for more time to reflect on past mistakes, big and small.

"We had execution errors against mobile quarterbacks, we had execution errors in just rallying to the ball and (producing) an all-out effort," Wynn said. "I feel like that was a big problem early in the season. We are coached to rally to the ball, and we are coached to contain the quarterback – (early mistakes) was an execution error on us. As players we came together like ‘We need to fix this now, because we are being coached the right way and not showing it.' We had to raise the bar for ourselves."

"We have definitely improved game by game too," Rosa added. "You can see it on film. Guys are executing their plays. Containing the ball was a big thing against Eastern Washington that we didn't do. Every game, we've improved from there – we are executing the defense a lot better."

That EWU game seems to haunt players more than the rest of Beaver Nation. For the most part, it's in the rear view mirror for the coaching staff and for fans. But Wynn says that as a unit, the EWU upset continues to provide motivation.

"By no means are we where we want to be," Wynn said, a sentiment immediately echoed by Rosa.

WHAT WILL IT take for the defense to get to there?

"You have to come in every day ready to work and ready to improve your game – truly have that fire to be better than the person you are going to be against on Saturday," said Wynn. "You can never be the same person you were the day before – you've got to get better. And if you're not getting better, you are getting worse."

In other words, practice like you want to win at all costs, or it will be reflected on the field. And Seumalo couldn't help but dig a bit deeper into the importance of practice, practice and more practice. Because football never really takes a week off.

"This is where they all get it," Seumalo said with an expansive look about Truax. "You create that unconscious mindset, in terms of playing and doing what we do defensively. Then having those interactions and validating those interactions - you want to be able to do it to a point where it becomes unconscious. Therefore, come game time, it doesn't matter who is there, where we're at or what situation it is.

"Practice time reps and the fundamentals that go with it, it's huge."

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