From day one of spring ball Riley has said how he likes how his team’s mentality. He felt that much was accomplished in April and August and just because of one loss, early in the season and on the road against a tough opponent, it doesn’t mean the season is awash.
Riley gave his team Sunday through Monday, giving them extra time to heal physically and emotionally. With the added time off the sixth year coach anticipates his team to hit the practice fields Tuesday with vigor.
“Our biggest job right now is to get some confidence back, and get some attitude back,” Riley said. “It comes down to individual character. Every time you go through stuff, you learn from it. We have to draw on that and hopefully we can use it the next time.”
In each of the past two seasons the OSU football team faced a crossroad after a key game. In 2004 the team sat at 1-4 after a humiliating 49-7 loss to California in Reser Stadium. The team sucked up the loss and hit the turf with renewed determination winning six of their last seven. Their only loss was to number one USC in “The Fog Bowl” and they finished the season with a convincing win over Notre Dame in the Insight Bowl.
In 2005 the Beavers posted a 4-2 record after defeating a ranked California team on the road. Unfortunately, the team lost focus losing three of their last five, including two ugly losses at home against bad Arizona and Stanford teams, finishing 5-6 and missing a bowl game for the first time in three years.
With adversity staring this team squarely in the face mask they can choose to pursue the path of the 2004 team or the course of 2005 squad. Only time will tell how this team deals with adversity, but from what the leaders of the team are saying, it looks like the Beavers are on the right track to recovery.
"We are going to deal with adversity sometimes but we have to step through it even though it's tough,” wide receiver Sammie Stroughter said. “We know what losing tastes like, and we have to go back to the drawing board and get better so we don’t taste this again."
There aren’t going to be any radical changes in the system this week and there will be minimal, if any, personnel changes. Success lies within the details, the fundamentals and the technique, and that’s just what the Men in Black will work on.
“We need to talk about the details of what to do, to finish plays correctly, angles on defense, and efficiency, quickness and details on offense,” Riley said. “No matter what system you are playing, you've got to take care of the details within the system.”
And those details on defense include containment by the secondary during running plays, filling the gaps by the linebackers and the defensive line understanding their role within the system. Offensively that means consistency running the ball, stretching the field and converting on third downs.
Mentally it means the players must not get overconfident if they have the lead or dejected if they are behind. Staying focused, playing until the end and host of other clichés are relevant this week for the Men in Black.
"We just have to get better. You just have to move on,” senior quarterback Matt Moore said. “Our motto is the next game is the most important one. That’s just the way we have to be. We have to let it go."
And this fan believes the team will let it go. This fan believes that all those hours hanging out in the summer together, all those hours practicing together, all those hours lifting weights together and all those hours building friendships will pay off. They will unite and overcome this adversity together bringing pride to themselves, the coaches, their family and friends and the fans.
Defensive end Jeff Van Orsow sums it up best: “We are still a team. We have the bye week to recover, and then go for a 12-game season."
Dan Norz is the publisher of BeaverFootball.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.