COMMENTARY: Was 2009 a success?

WITH A WIN over No. 14 BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22, the Beavers would finish the 2009 season with nine wins. A win in Vegas would make it four straight years with nine or more wins, extend OSU's bowl winning streak to six (second in the nation only to Utah), and would guarantee a finish ranked in the top 25 for the fourth consecutive season. Now, how do you measure success?

What the Beavs have done is pretty remarkable for a team just a decade removed from the shadows of 28 straight losing seasons. So was 2009 a success? Or did OSU fall short?

And if so, is Beaver Nation justified in expecting more?

The success of a season goes much further than wins and losses -- however it is the ultimate measuring stick. But considerations of quality of opponent, and how competitive the team was throughout the season, are also germane.

Looking back over the past few years, even in the nine win seasons, OSU was badly embarrassed early in their campaigns.

2006 – OSU lost 42-14 at Boise State and got bullied by California at home, losing 41-13.

2007 – At Cincinnati and amidst seven turnovers, OSU lost 34-3.

2008 – Penn State and Joe-Pa went easy in the second half as the Nittany Lions ate up OSU, 45-14.

2009 – The Beavers started 2-2 for the fourth straight year, but absent was the embarrassing blow-out loss. Cincinnati took a trip west, and with them brought a prolific passing attack, one of the most dangerous receiver/return men Marty Gilyard and (before his injury) Heisman Hopeful quarterback Tony Pike. The Beavers had four new starters in the secondary and while they did allow 332 yards through the air, they held the Bearcats to their second lowest point total on the season, ultimately losing by 10.

ARIZONA THEN CAME to town and triumphantly left Reser Stadium as winners, 37-32. OSU was again exposed in the secondary, but remained within striking distance until a Canfield pass was intercepted in the waning minutes of the game.

Fast forward three weeks and OSU was riding high, headed to L.A. to face then-No. 7 USC. The Beavers had not won in the Coliseum since 1960 and played USC close, putting up 38 points, and losing by six to a perennial Pac-10 Champion in their house.

The final task, with the Rose Bowl on the line was a difficult one. Oregon entered the game ranked No. 7 in the nation and had been held under 40 points rarely with Jeremiah Masoli under center – or in the shotgun. OSU led most of the game before letting it slip through their fingers, 37-33.

Of the teams OSU lost to, the final BCS Standings have USC at No. 24, Arizona ranks No. 20, Oregon is at No. 7 and Cincinnati heads the list at No. 3. The combined records of those four: 38-10.

DETRACTORS MIGHT ARGUE a lack of "quality wins" for the Beavs, but consider that Stanford has a legit Heisman contender running the football and OSU held him to his second lowest rushing game on the season.

Consider that California was favored to win when OSU visited Strawberry Canyon. The combined score of those two games: 69-42, and 13 of the opponent's points came late when the contests were all but decided.

Considering what was lost on defense at the start of the season, and the departure of Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales, two of the most productive receivers in the Pac-10, OSU went par for the course in 2009.

An offensive line that featured a true freshman in LT Michael Philipp, and two former walk on underclassmen, produced a 3,000 yard passer and a 1,300 yard rusher.

Games the Beavs should have won, they did, while in games like Stanford, Arizona, and California, OSU went 2-1. Their losses meanwhile, were hard fought and more importantly, not of the embarrassing type of years past.

The 2009 campaign was a good year -- a successful year -- for what was in reality a rebuilding OSU team. Here's to 2010, and another successful campaign for Riley's crew.

• This is the second straight year OSU was playing for a trip to the Rose Bowl in the final week of the season.

• OSU is the highest ranked four loss team in the BCS and AP poll. In the USA Today Coaches' poll, Nebraska (9-4) is ranked No. 19 with OSU at No. 20. Nebraska next plays Arizona in the Holiday Bowl.

• The highest ranked four loss teams in the BCS rankings are OSU, Arizona and Stanford.

• The Pac-10 finished the season with half of the league ranked in the BCS Top 25.

• OSU had eight All-Conference selections, seven of which were first team – the highest in the conference. They had another four honorable mentions as well.

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