In Monterey, Sweet Thursday is what they call the day after Lousy Wednesday, which is one of those days that is just naturally bad. In Corvallis, Sweet Thursday is what Beaver Believers call August 29, 2002. Sweet Thursday is the first game after Lousy 2001. Lousy 2001 was one of those football seasons that was just naturally bad, too much hype, not enough reality checks. Sweet Thursday will be the day that the 2002 Beavers begin to wipe away the noxious residue from last season's football disappointments. Sweet Thursday will be the start of the Beavers' undefeated non-conference games and will be the springboard to a PAC-10 season like the 2000 campaign. The Thursday after won't be too shabby either.
My 2001 preseason article had 20 questions about the then upcoming 2001 season. I'll review those questions with answers about what happened and what I think will happen this year.
1. Was last year (2000) great or what? 2000 was great, 2001 not so great, 2002 will be great again as the Beavers go bowling once again.
2. Will the Beavers play in the Rose Bowl this year? The Beavers did not play in the Rose Bowl though they did play a few games in bowl shaped stadiums. Will the Beavs play in the Rose Bowl in the 2002 season? The Rose Bowl would be nice but I'd rather see them back in the Fiesta Bowl.
3. Will the pseudo-die-hard Beaver football fans lose than honeymoon feeling if the Beavs lose more than three games? Beaver believers did not waver in their support of the team even though the three games came on pretty quickly. I expect this year to be even better in the world of Beaver fandom. Reser will be a loud, orange, and hopefully better behaved, venue than some of our road opponents' home stadiums were last year.
4. Is the opening game with Fresno State a big one? The Fresno State game and the PAC-10 opener against UCLA were the watermark games of the season. When I wrote my 2001 preseason report I was hoping for a high watermark, but got low instead. Actually, every year is pretty much the same when you get right down to it. The non-conference opener and then the PAC-10 opener are the measure of how good the Beavers will be. This year is slightly different with Fresno State coming to town, so the last non-conference game will be a better indication of how good the Beavers will be. I predict that the Beavs will spank the Bulldogs like a naughty puppy that just peed on the rug and then end their run of oh-no's by beating USC at USC.
5. Who will replace Chad, T.J. Robert, Marty, and Bennie as pass receivers? Apparently, they weren't replaceable. James Newson stepped up big time, after that, there wasn't much to shout about. Cole (quit calling me Rudy) Clasen was a pleasant surprise but the Beavs receiver corps brought back memories of 1999 when dropped passes at critical times plagued the Beavers. I am looking for big things from the receiver corps this year. James will lead the way and will have plenty of help from his fellow pass catchers. From split end to tight end, this unit is talented and deep. I think that this group can be as good as the big four from the Fiesta Bowl Team.
Who's gonna help out James Newson this season?
6. Who will replace LaDairus, DeLawerence, Ryan, and Sefa on the defensive line? The defensive line was solid last year at the tackle position and will be again this year with two dominators in Eric Manning and Dwan Edwards. Noah Happe, Kyle Rosselle, and Bill Swancutt did a pretty good job at defensive end and this year's crew will be even better. Eric and Dwan will clog up the middle, the ends will put pressure on the quarterback and occupy blockers, which will free up the Beavers' most excellent line backing crew. Speaking of line backers…
7. Who will replace Darnell R.? I think Nick Barnett emphatically answered that question. This year's question is who will replace James Allen? Erik Tuma has all of the tools to step right in and continue the Beaver tradition of excellent line backer play. Richard Siegler and Nick Barnett are all PAC-10 and All-American candidates.
8. Who will replace Robert, Jarred, and Mitch on the offensive line? This turned out to be the $64,000 question. Things were horrible early in the year but got better as the season progressed. Mike Kuykendall shined after being moved to the left side of the line for the Arizona game. Mike and Lee Davis will be the experience while the center and right side blockers will be newcomers. Once again, this unit will be the key to the Beavers' offensive success. Last year showed us that a good quarterback and running back aren't enough to carry an offense if the line doesn't do its job.
9. Who will replace Mike "Uncle" Fessler as the OSU punter? Carl Tobey did a pretty good job but really really really needs to start getting more hang time on his punts. The punt coverage team did a great job covering kicks but the line drive punting hurt the Beavers quite a few times. I can think of one time that is particularly painful.
10. Who will replace Keith, Ricky, and Terrence in the defensive backfield? It wasn't very deep in the season when the name Calvin had to be added to this list. In the end it didn't matter, because this unit was and is so talented. It also was and is even deeper than the receiver corps. This unit has two potential All-American candidates in Dennis Weathersby and Mitch Meewsen and is solid in the other two spots with many capable replacements waiting in the wings. One of my favorite memories from last year was Mitch Meewsen standing D. Foster of UCLA straight up and knocking him on his Come Se llama.
11. Does there seem to be a theme with the last few questions? Of course there was. My concern, coming into last season, was all of the hype about how good the Beavers were going to be while ignoring the loss of some key players, especially on the offensive line. The losses from last year's team should not impact the team as much. Quarterback and running back are, of course, the big question marks concerning new players but the defense is good enough to give the offense time to get their act together.
12. Who will replace T.J., Ricky, and Robert as the kick returners? The kick returners from last year did a pretty good job but did not provide many spectacular plays. I have no idea who will be returning kicks this year. I'm not sure Dennis Erickson knows who will be returning kicks yet either.
13. Has the "fumble the punt return for a touchdown" play from the Fiesta Bowl been added to the Beaver playbook? Sad to say, the play did not reappear in 2001.
14. Does it bother you that almost every 2001 preseason poll has the 'ucks ranked ahead of the Beavers? I guess almost every 2001 preseason poll was right. That doesn't mean that I had to like it, which I didn't. I'm glad they are ranked ahead of us again this year, it will be sweet when we wave to them as we head up in the polls and they head down.
15. The next question talked about Ken Simonton's chances of winning the Heismon trophy. OUCH!