CORVALLIS – A lot of questions surfaced in the wake of the Beavers 31-14 loss to USC at Reser. BF.C takes a closer look at what went wrong and why, and what might have gone differently in the wake of Oregon State's third defeat of the season.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking
Coincidentally, this installment of the MMQ has quite a bit to do with the quarterback. I think Sean Mannion needs to become a little bit more mobile. A lot of mistakes probably could have been avoided against USC if Mannion were more confident in his legs, not just as far as making space in the pocket is concerned, but opening up options to gain a few yards here and there.
Furthermore, Mannion's three interceptions were generally due to poor decision making resulting from good pressure by the USC front seven, who incessantly collapsed Mannion's protective bubble, stretching him to the edge of his O-line's zone time and time again. I know it's not just ‘Poof!' and Mannion becomes a dual threat QB. He's not ever going to be that. However, I am in the camp that thinks much of what makes any QB successful revolves around instincts, and knowing when to tuck-and-run instead of throw is one of those instincts that Mannion needs to hone in on. Even if a run were to only net three yards here, five yards there, even just back to the line of scrimmage, it would certainly be better than a sack or an interception.
Was it just bad pass protection Friday night? Was Mannion haunted by the ghosts of Stanford's blitzers? Would he have performed any better against ‘SC if he did try and move around more? Mannion's throws were off-target most of the night. He looked anxious in the pocket and made some poor reads early on, and I don't think you can attribute that solely to poor pass blocking. Mannion threw as many picks Friday night as he had through the prior eight games. The first 30 minutes of the SC game was perhaps the ugliest first half of football Mannion has played in 2013, with or without the pass rush constantly in his face. He never flipped the ‘On' switch, he looked rusty - his timing was off all night and he was throwing into coverage. You get the point.
What ailed OSU the most…
Was a lackluster offensive game plan that did not allocate enough attention the run game something that could have saved the Beavers? Admittedly, hindsight is 20-20. OSU looked far more balanced for a time in the second quarter than they have previously in the 2013 season. But OSU ditched the run, too soon in my opinion, and set their sights downfield in an attempt to move the chains. That ultimately led to those three interceptions and huge hits courtesy of USC defenders that rattled the likes of Brandin Cooks, Richard Mullaney and Connor Hamlett, not to mention thoroughly exhausted O-line.
Without an adequate run game to complement a struggling pass approach, OSU's offense found themselves with their backs constantly against a wall and put on the defensive, so to speak. Only once did OSU lead a momentum swinging charge down the field, and then they gave it right back. The USC defense dictated the game to Oregon State for most of the night, and OSU could never find an opening to exploit.
've talked a lot here about the failings of a strained Beaver offensive – but the OSU defense may have been an even bigger culprit in the defeat. Oregon State's defense consistently failed to stop USC's tailback platoon from picking up hashes by the fistful -- and it really hurt nay Beaver hopes of a glorious comeback.
This game should function as the final wake-up call for Oregon State in 2013. Can they truly put together a winning game plan on both sides of the ball against top tier Pac-12 talent? They only have three games left to prove that they are on the right track. If not, doubts about how the Beavers can perennially exist at the top of their conference will grow louder and greater in number.
OSU did play without three starters Friday night – sophomore tight end Caleb Smith (back spasms), senior DT John Braun (shoulder) and junior linebacker D.J. Alexander were all inactive, and there is a chance that their presence would have helped the orange and black maintain an element of control throughout the game. You can almost add Hamlett in there too. He played, but he clearly wasn't at 100 percent.
Sophomore middle linebacker Joel Skotte suffered a concussion on the first kickoff of the game, where a USC special teamer and Skotte had helmet-to-helmet contact. No flag was thrown.