Oh, so close. For the second straight game at Reser Stadium, the Beavers came up just short of scoring a big upset — this time against Washington State.
And this one stings more than their Oct. 15 loss to Utah, because the Beavers blew a 24-6 first half lead and then had several chances to take the lead back in the fourth quarter. They just couldn’t get that one first down or third-down stop they needed.
It’s a subtle reminder that despite the strides that the Beavers have made in areas such as the running game or the secondary, the little details still matter — and in the case of the WSU, very much so! Consider the following…
There were the 13 penalties for 110 yards, several of which really hurt drives. None hurt more than this one: With less than 10 minutes left in the game, the Beavers drove to the WSU 33 yard-line and were facing a 4-and-1 situation. False start! The Beavers then tried a fake punt and came up short.
One of the things Gary Andersen harped on when he arrived at Oregon State was the importance of reducing administrative mistakes (penalties), so all the flags Saturday were concerning, especially in crucial moments. And the Beavers paid dearly, so they’ve got to shore stuff up down the stretch before it costs them again.
There’s also the matter of converting in short yardage situations… Late in the game with less than six minutes to go, the Beavers had yet another promising chance to move downfield. But on 3-and-1 from the WSU 34, Ryan Nall was stuffed for no gain. The Beavers decided to go for it on fourth down, and despite a valiant effort, Nall was stopped just short.
That play, combined with the earlier failed fake punt attempt, leaves the Beavers 2-for-11 on fourth down attempts this season. They rank 127th nationally in that category. In case you’re wondering, that’s out of a 128 total teams. Needless to say, OSU needs to be able to convert more of those, especially in situations of two yards or less, considering they have backs such as Nall and Tim Cook.
Or get creative. Fake the handoff and give it the fullback. For that matter, use a full back from time to time. Or maybe try a fly sweep or quick out pass. For whatever reason, the Beavers have struggled in short yardage situations, so it might be time to mix it up a little. Again, it comes down to getting all the little things right too, not just the big, flashy plays.
And finally, that play where WSU quarterback Luke Falk slid and was met by Caleb Saulo and Bright Ugwoegbu. It’s debatable whether the latter should’ve been called for targeting and ejection. But in that situation, I’ll go against the grain and say the OSU defenders should’ve known better, in that Falk was going to slide or run out of bounds. But I also understand the argument that it Ugwoegbu was already airborne, it certainly would be hard to stop your momentum at that point. Could they have avoided Falk, however?
All of this, however, circles back to the point that the Beavers can’t overlook the little things as they work toward their bigger goals. As the Washington State game proved, they can be the difference between wins and losses.
That’s why I was more disappointed by some of those plays/miscues than the fact that OSU couldn’t hold onto an 18-point halftime advantage, or that it couldn’t capitalize on stopping WSU on a fake punt and earning great field position. Sometimes, it’s the little things that spring big plays.
The good news is it has become clear, at least on defense, that the Beavers are a player or two away (impact DT and a speedy LB, please) from being quite good. So, if they take care of the small things in the process, it could help speed up the rebuilding process.
And this weekend will present the Beavers will a great opportunity to tighten things up — as they will need to be on point against a team that’s as disciplined and stout as Stanford.