BF.C Keys to the Game: Las Vegas Bowl

IT'S VEGAS, Part Deux as Oregon State returns to Sam Boyd Stadium, this time to face another Mountain West team that, on paper, they should be able to handle as they did UNLV earlier in the year. And yet there's one word that surely is rattling around in the back of Beaver fan's minds...

Hangover.  And not the screwball comedy movie Hangover where Bradley Cooper wakes up in Caesar's Palace wearing a hospital bracelet with Mike Tyson's tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet and a stolen police cruiser waiting in valet parking.  This kind is even worse.

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The troubling thing if you're an Oregon State fan is reading between the lines during every radio interview and every quote in every preview of the bowl game.  Sean Canfield said "it's tough to swallow", Keaton Kristick said "sure we're disappointed" about coming so close to a Rose Bowl berth in the regular season finale.

And while Mike Riley has an unblemished record in bowl games, and has always done an incredible job having his squad prepared when given more than a week to dial up a game plan, tripping over their collective lower lip is a legitimate concern for the Beavers.

Just ask Oregon, who couldn't get over their disappointing 2006 season finish after starting 5-1 including a win* over Oklahoma. They ended on a four game skid -- and the Ducks were summarily rolled by BYU in their bowl game, 38-8. 

All the talent and all the coaching and all the preparation in the world can't help you if your heart and your head are in Pasadena.

What Beaver Nation needs to realize is that there's absolutely no shame in this destination.  BYU is a legitimate top-flight opponent and during the bowl previews the BYU - Oregon State tilt has been touted as the premier non-BCS matchup. 

Brigham Young has a 1,000 yard rusher, and a quarterback posting gaudy stats -- a 30-14 TD-to-INT ratio, along with nearly 3,400 yards), and plays in the toughest non-BCS conference in the country. And one could make a strong argument that their conference is better than the Big East.

No, this finish is no consolation prize, not when the facts are all considered.  Oregon State has the sixth-youngest team in the country this season. There were new faces everywhere on both sides of the ball, and by most accounts the Beavers were looking to have a rebuilding year. 

Playing the final game of the year for the Rose Bowl is no small accomplishment given such a set of circumstances, and putting this final game in the win column would give the Beavers a Top 15 ranking in the season ending polls.  That, in and of itself, is downright remarkable. On to the keys..
Don't let Oregon beat you twice
Bottom line here is that finishing on a strong note is the way to wash a bad taste out of your mouth.  Sometimes the opportunity to go out and win is the best medicine for heartbreak. 
It's the offense that most needs to take this lesson to heart and execute crisply to set the tone.
Find the pass rush

The best medicine for an ailing pass rush?  A pocket passer. 
Staring at stats is a good way to drive one's self crazy, but trends are easier on the gray matter.  As a whole, Oregon State's defense has had a lot more success when facing pro-style offenses.  Dial up the blitzes and take the chain off Stephen Paea.

Mama says

Oregon State's defense is at its best when their own "Waterboy" (Kristick) is running all over the field decleating
people.  Last game of the year, can't hold anything back now, as Dan Fouts would say while Brent Musberger derisively asks him if he came up with that all by himself. 
Kristick is the spark plug for the defense, and he can change the game.
1. Win on First Down:  Oregon had 29 first downs which went for 131 yards, or 4.5 yards per clip.  One of those plays was Dockery's INT, and there were also 8 non-positive plays out of those 29 plays, and only one play of over 20 yards on first down.  Not an A, but a solid B.

2. Ball Control:  No fumbles, no INT's.  Unfortunately the one thing OSU didn't do is capitalize on the moments when Oregon put the ball on the carpet. Dockery had an interception early, but OSU didn't capitalize on the opportunities when Oregon did put the ball on the carpet.  +1 on turnovers when OSU needed to be +2 was the difference:  Masoli's fumble that he recovered, had it bounced into Beaver hands, might have been the game. Still, the offense did their part.  Grade:  A.

3. Hit Them Between the Eyes:  Paea was a man possessed, fighting through double teams and punching the ball out of LaMichael James' hands.  The Beavers did an outstanding job not allowing Oregon to run between the tackles, which is the moment Oregon really has you where they want you.  A couple of sacks would have been a gift from heaven.  Grade:  B.
Final thought on last game:  Sometimes you give it everything you have got and just one or two plays that you needed didn't break your way.  The Beavers left everything on the field and there's no way that any rational Beaver fan could be unhappy with that effort.  It sure would have been nice to get Oregon five days sooner when they were coming off a double overtime game in Arizona can only hope that there's some thought given to money versus advantage in the future by the powers that be. 

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