Merit of Character

Someone call the police! The offensive line for the Oregon State Beavers has been kidnapped!

And be sure to include in your report the all night mugging of RB Steven Jackson that held him to his lowest rushing total of the season at 49 yards on 22 carries. Playing on the O-line Saturday night was a group of players that couldn’t open a hole for Jackson or keep QB Derek Anderson from being sacked by an occasional three-man rush. Cleverly disguised, the names on the jerseys were the same, but not the blocking.

It’s impossible to have a successful football team, let alone a successful game, when the front five cannot complete their assignments. Games are won and lost in the trenches and the Beavers have a lot of breakdowns to review and analyze to answer why they clearly lost in that three-yard battleground.

But let me be fair, while the hammering OSU took in trench warfare certainly was the crux of the loss and was most unexpected, that’s not the only glaring area that got lit up by the University of Washington Huskies.

Steven Jackson and the offensive line could not get the running game going against UW.

Anderson was under pressure all night long, but consistently made the wrong decision, threw into double coverage, or plain misfired which led to three interceptions. Credit his receivers for making the rest of the numbers look presentable by making several adjustments or acrobatic catches to give Beaver Nation some hope during the debacle, but make no doubt about it, it was not a good performance by the quarterback.

Jackson was shut down, and the O-line has to answer for that this week during practice, but there’s more to look at there. Let me preface my next comments by saying that Steven Jackson is a stud. He is one of the best running backs in the country and, barring some catastrophic injury, will be playing on Sundays.

But I must take issue with the running game. There is a time and a place for picking your hole, dancing to the left and right, waiting for something to open up, and then turning on the afterburners. Jackson is one of the best in college football at doing that. But there is also a time and a place for knowing when you need to be taking the ball from your QB, dropping your shoulders and hitting anything in front of you as fast and as hard as you can.

Jackson does that well at the end of a run, particularly when it’s near a sideline. But if things are piling up around him at the line of scrimmage, he doesn’t make the decision to do it soon enough and ends up losing his primary assets, speed and strength, because he’s still trying to make a move while he’s getting hit at the line.

Finally, I would be thoughtless in not pointing out the defense getting burnt deep on several occasions, even when in double coverage. I would be remiss in not mentioning that coverage on special teams was exposed as a liability again. And I would be thoughtless by not pointing out that “Mr. Automatic” Kirk Yliniemi missed another field goal; shocking, really, when looking at his past performances. Oh, and do I really need to mention penalties again? Opps, I just did.

So what does this all mean for the Beavers? A good deal, really. What it means is that this football team has just been handed it’s greatest opportunity of the season. Yes, an opportunity. The Beavers have been handed the opportunity to show their fans, the Pac-10, and the nation just how great the character of this team really is.

Derek Anderson and the offensive line will look to demolish WSU's defense.

Next up on the schedule is the #6 Washington State Cougars, a road game with potential written all over it.

The players in Orange and Black have a decision to make; they can finish out their year with a couple more wins, call it a winning season, hope for a minor bowl birth, and get on with being the Oregon State of the last couple of years. Or, they can shock everybody but themselves by coming out next Saturday and putting a conference stain on the Cougars record. They can pick up blocks they’ve dropped and put them back together as a dam of power. They can execute with precision, grace, and some old school, smash mouthed destructive hitting. They can show character. They can be great.

Robert Nesta can be read on BeaverFootball.com during the middle of every week. The views expressed in his column do not necessarily represent those of BeaverFootball.com He can be reached at robert.nesta@beaverfootball.com.


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