COMMENTARY: Time to light this candle

MAKE NO BONES about it - there isn't just one thing wrong with the 2009 Oregon State football team. From a struggling offensive line to a lack of sacks by the defense, there is plenty of blame to go around. One part that hasn't been discussed much, though, is the depth of the route running - and it is contributing to the non-existent deep ball threat that's plaguing the Beavs.

Against Cincinnati my father had the privilege of sitting in the suite seats, giving him a bird's eye view of the action. As we walked back to our friend's house, dissecting and pulling apart the game, the absence of big passing plays and even the lack of trying a deep pass was one of the main topics.


The perfunctory points were covered - it's easy to blame the offensive line and Sean Canfield holding onto the ball too long. Although those are contributing factors, we came to the conclusion that something else was amiss, something greater. And that's when my dad mentioned the route running.

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On multiple occasions, my father observed that the receivers simply weren't running long routes. Curls, broken off after 10-15 yards, shortened slants - it didn't matter what the path was, they were all short.

I didn't pay attention to that aspect of the game against Cincinnati, so I decided to focus some of my attention there this weekend.

Sure enough, from this patron's perspective, the receivers just aren't getting down the field. And that makes the job of the defense simpler.

WITH VIRTUALLY NO threat of the deep ball to worry about, opposing safeties are playing closer to the line of scrimmage to help stop the run. Plus, when defenders only have to cover a short to medium range area of the field, it makes defending the pass that much easier.

Perhaps the offense is simply taking what is given to them? Opposing cornerbacks, after all, routinely play five or more yards off the line of scrimmage against Rodgers. And who else is going to beat them deep?

Redshirt freshman Jordan Bishop has sprinter's speed, but he's playing primarily in the slot. True freshman Markus Wheaton has blazing speed, but he's been used more on the fly sweep than out in pattern.

And maybe that's the issue. The team doesn't have a wily veteran like Sammie Stroughter on the team who can find the long seams. Or maybe James Rodgers doesn't have someone like himself on the team.

BOTTOM LINE, I'm no college football coach. I'm not in the meetings and pouring over film. But it seems readily apparent that another receiver other than Rodgers needs to step up and stretch the field.

Perhaps sliding Bishop to the outside and playing Aaron Nichols in the slot might that open up the offense? Or how about a fade to Damola Adeniji once in awile? He has some height and hops.

Or what about letting a pass loose down the field and letting Wheaton go get it?

The longest passing play of the year is Rodgers' 87-yard bomb against Portland State that opened the '09 campaign. The next four longest plays: Aaron Nichols 56-yard catch against the Vikings in mop-up time, Joe Halahuni's 35-yard grab -- once again vs. Portland State, a 22-yard catch by Jacquizz Rodgers with most of the yardage coming after the catch and a 21-yard snag by Jordan Bishop at UNLV.

That's not going to get it done.

Of the five longest passing plays of the season - Ryan Katz has two of them, and he's played in just one game.

ALTHOUGH THE OFFENSE has looked ragged and the protection has broken down at times, the passing statistics suggest that Canfield is seeing the field. He is completing 69-percent of his passes and has just three interceptions in 134 attempts.

Eleven players have caught a pass, five different players have scored a touchdown and three players have double digit receptions.

ON THE OTHER hand maybe Canfield is locking onto his favorite targets. Quizz has a Pac-10 high 32 receptions, 16 more catches than the Beavs' third leading receiver (Damola Adeniji) and seven more receptions then the combined total of the the next eight players with a catch. James Rodgers is second in the conference in receptions with 27 catches.

Perhaps Beaver Nation bought into our own hype about the young talented receiving group? Perhaps we undervalued Darrell Catchings absence from the lineup? Maybe, and especially, we took for granted Sammie Stroughter's ability.

With the team sitting at 2-2 and 2-3 a possibility for the fourth consecutive year, the offense needs to find a way to stretch the field. And maybe it starts with the routes.

If OSU can find the answer to that question, then maybe that opens up the running game and balances the offense.

And that maybe translates into wins.

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