Brink's maturity apparent in Desperation Bowl

YOU PROBABLY HEARD. Oregon State is wearing out the patience of a generous benefactor who financed some impressive stadium upgrades in Corvallis. Benefactors, even those who know more about shipping clam dip than winning football games, buy relevance when they invest heavily in stadiums. Their opinion suddenly matters.

It winds up in print, and on the air. The point is, Oregon State's sugar daddy has grown unhappy with the direction of his football program. He has a point. The direction is approaching due south. And when he's unhappy, all of Beaverville is out of sorts, too.

We're talking about a big man here, with lots of salsa and lots of friends. The upshot? Oregon State is one desperate football team.


Bumping head on into all that indigestion last weekend came the Washington State Cougars, who can't match Oregon State for disgruntled rich Superfans but who carry nagging issues of their own. Like not winning a game in October for, oh, a couple of years.

Try laboring October after October, tracking TPS Reports, say, and never getting paid. You're hungry. The Cougs went to Corvallis intent on winning one before the next Apple Cup. What we saw -- a sloppy but inspired 13-6 WSU win -- was an effort of two teams each with a desperate need.

This was the Desperation Bowl. Look beyond the bumbles and fumbles which often came in near-comic clusters and you see players on both sides laying it all out for the win that would give them breathing room, for the momentum to take the next step through the door marked respectability.

The game was flawed, sure, but let's one more time yield to the lash of Last Year. Last Year in Corvallis, Alex Brink was a quarterback with deadly aim -- for Jason Hill one moment and for his big toe the next.

Last Year, the cotton-candy Cougar defense doesn't get an end zone interception from Eric Frampton, as it did Saturday in Reser Stadium. The Cougs of red-faced Octobers past didn't get ball-stripping tackles from Tyron Brackenridge. They didn't come up with a game-saving blitz package executed by Scott Davis. Well, maybe they gave you the package but the box was empty. All they did was flirt with big leads and marry themselves to meltdown.

What they didn't do this time is hand Brink the keys and tell him to drive them home. It was more like, point us in the right direction, Alex, and we'll take it from here. Brink has always known how to create, how to make things happen. Management was his challenge. Clearly, though, he is learning. Maybe he took a crash course of Brad Johnson lessons. Brad with the average arm led the Minnesota Vikings to another win on Sunday. He does it with prudence, with patience, with an average arm.

The buzz these days is all about Making Plays. But the fact is, it's not all about Making Plays. Sometimes it's about Making Do. Like late in the Coug-Beav cage match. I was encouraged when I saw Brink not doing much of anything. He took his foot off the accelerator.

Yes, it would have been nice if the offense had just cranked out a first down or two late in the proceedings. But having surrendered five sacks on the day, and without prime weapon Jason Hill, who exited with shoulder misery late in the game, and without injured tight end Cody Boyd and without a running game to speak of, Brink's odds of success against a riled-up Beave defense suddenly came down to a stark choice, between Fat Chance and No Way. Run it and get stuffed. Put it up and risk a game-altering pick.

Brink did what he couldn't do Last Year. He stepped aside and let a maturing defense nail down the save.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Weaver has been following and/or covering the Cougars for the better part of 30 years. For the second straight season, the former Spokesman-Review sports editor and columnist will be bringing his unique insights to readers every week.


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