Spring Fish Wrap – Believe in the Beavs Edition

Winding things down in the WSU Fish Wrap series are those plucky Beavers from Corvallis. And what “pluckiness” they showed last year, hmmm? Left for dead before the season even started, everyone sold big-time on OSU. And why not? The Beaver D in ’07 was tough as nails, and the entire front-seven had moved on for ’08. They were a winning outfit, sure, but they hung their hats on a nasty D to help carry the load. Take the teeth away from the Beavs, the thinking went, and they had the look of pushover-city.

Uh, never mind. Those same Beavs who everyone thought would come way back to the pack? They were 60 minutes of football from going to the freakin’ ROSE BOWL.

How they do it, well, it’s hard to exactly pinpoint. They don’t have Oregon-style plasma’s in every locker. They don’t have “sick” facilities, although the Raising Reser campaign has created a great, cozy gameday setting. They aren’t brought to you by Nike, ala Phil Knight and his super-millions. They don’t even have high-profile rock-star recruits who call press conferences and then pick a hat from a table. So how do they do it??

I’ll tell you how. Mike Riley. That’s right, Mike Riley. Well, Mike Riley and his assistants anyway.

Riley gets the headlines, and rightly so. But he’s got a great defensive coordinator in Mark Banker and offensive coordinator in Danny Langsdorf. Both assistants are as underrated as they come in the conference. But Riley is the guy who has brought it all together.

They recruit high-character kids who may not have the stars next to their names, but in the end, they are just as good – if not better – than Joe Superstar. They work hard at turning over the rocks, so to speak, to unearth talent they can project into the future. They preach a balanced offense and an attacking, aggressive style on defense that is fun for young men to get out and play. But whatever the reasons may be, there is little doubt that they buy into what Riley’s cooking.

Anywho, let’s see how they look coming out of spring. Are they ready to make a run at USC? Or will they finally take that step back that people have been predicting – to no avail – for some time? Let’s see…

2008: 9-4, 7-2 in conference. A slow 0-2 start made it look like a long, tough season was upon them, but they did what Oregon State always seems to do. They circled the wagons and fought through it, all the way to the end. As stated above, one more win and the Beavs would have invaded Pasadena on New Year’s. But alas, it wasn’t to be, as the Ducks steamrolled the Beavs, 65-38, in one of the biggest games in OSU football history.

FANS ARE: Pretty happy, all things considered. The expectations, at least nationally, were that the Beavs would flirt with bowl-eligibility, but they certainly wouldn’t contend in ’08. But another nine-win, bowl winning season made the year a rousing success……but let’s face it – the Civil War stung, and probably still stings. Heck, it stings me, and I’m not even a Beav! But to get so close, yet be so far from the promised land at the bitter end, in the fashion that they did against the hated Ducks? I can’t imagine a worse feeling than what Beaver Nation went through at the end of that game. I guess that would be like what we, Coug fans, might have felt had the Ryan Leaf-led Cougs lost to UW to end the 1997 season?

And sure, it might have hurt worse if they missed a field goal or got screwed on a bad call, something along those lines. Some might say getting blown out like they did softened the fall, at least a little bit. Me? I don’t think so. To lose to the arrogant, “superior” Ducks with everything on the line must still bring pain and suffering across Corvallis.

LAST TIME vs. WSU: A 66-13 drubbing at Reser Stadium. Not only was the team blown out, but so was Ocho Rojo’s knee. The Cougs would lose promising QB Marshall Lobbestael to a blown-out knee that would shelve him for the rest of ’08.

It was kind of an odd game. The Beavs stormed out of the gates for a 21-0 first quarter lead. But the Cougs showed life, and fought back to close it to 21-13. Then the wheels fell off, as Oregon State would score SIX TD’s in the second half while pitching a shutout against the ineffective Cougar offense.

OFFENSIVE SYSTEM: They like to roll with three-WR sets, a tight end and a running back in the classic one-back/west coast hybrid system. They like to mix it up though, running some shotgun as well as the “fly sweep”, where a WR in motion comes back across the line of scrimmage and takes the handoff. They also love to play-action out of the fly sweep, always trying to keep the opposing defense guessing.

’08 OFFENSIVE RATINGS: 5th in the PAC-10 in scoring offense (30.5 ppg), 6th in rushing O with 131.2 ypg, 2nd in passing offense with 249 yards per game. Overall they were 3rd in the conference in total offense, at just over 407 yards per game.

’09 RETURNING STARTERS: Looks like seven, if you count Lyle Moevao. Moevao had some shoulder surgery in the off-season and missed spring ball entirely, as the shoulder showed more damage than they initially thought. But Sean Canfield has started 11 games in his career, and won two starts last year in relief of Moevao, both on the road (at UCLA, at Arizona). He should be ready to go if Moevao isn’t cleared for action.

TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Hmmm. Well, I guess we could go with the returning PAC-10 offensive player of the year?

Jacquizz Rodgers had an amazing frosh season, totaling 1253 yards and 11 TD’s. He also hauled in 29 balls for 247 yards and a score out of the backfield. He was absolutely BIG TIME against USC, where he had 186 yards rushing, with many of the cut-back type runs that drove the Trojan D absolutely crazy. Small (5-6) but lightning quick, shifty as hell and what they say is “great vision”, Rodgers could do some serious damage to the PAC-10 record book before it’s all said and done.

How valuable was he? Rodgers injured his shoulder late in the year, and missed the Civil War. We know what happened there. He also missed the Sun Bowl, where the Beavers slogged their way to the most boring bowl game ever, a 3-0 win over Pitt. Without Rodgers, the offense was a different animal. With him last year, they could beat anyone. Even USC.

He combines with his brother, James, to form one heck of an explosive tandem. Check it out:

DEFENSIVE SCHEME: 4-3, but they don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. These guys are fast, physical and they force the issue, never shy to blitz from anywhere to bring pressure.

’09 RETURNING DEFENSIVE STARTERS: Just three starters are back, one tackle and two linebackers. The entire secondary will feature four new starters. We’ve heard this before, but still, it’s an extremely young defense.

’08 DEFENSIVE RANKINGS: One of the better D’s in the PAC, they would finish 2nd in total defense (312.2 ypg). They were just 6th in rushing defense, giving up 131.2 yards per game. That was a little disappointing, as they are normally right near the top in rushing D. But they were good against the pass, finishing third in passing yards per game (180.9) and fifth in pass efficiency defense. Best of all, they were second in the conference in sacks, with 39 (Oregon led with 40).

TOP RETURNING DEFENSIVE PLAYER: It’s tempting to go with the playmaking d-tackle, Stephen Paea. He was honorable mention all-conference last year, and had 41 tackles with 11 for loss, including five sacks from the defensive interior. But I’ll go with Keaton Kristick, the all-everything senior linebacker.

Kristick is the leading returning tackler on the team, with 82 stops at outside linebacker. Good size at 6-3, 226, there was some speculation this spring that he might move to inside linebacker on occasion. Kristick is that good. He had an impressive 14 tackles for loss in ’08, third on the team, including 3.5 sacks. He should have an all-conference type senior year and is one of the most complete linebackers in the PAC-10.


1) Can the D really reload this year? Or is this the season we finally see them come back to the pack?

It’s a tough nut to crack, and the D could really see some adjustments this year. While last year the hype was that they lost their entire front seven, they did return a lot of experience in the secondary. But this year, however, it’s a different deal, with all four spots in the defensive backfield up for grabs. The losses of leading pass-rushers up front, Slade Norris and Victor Butler, could really hurt. Without those two guys, there might be a lot more attention paid to Stephen Paea inside. Norris and Butler combined for 22 of the team’s 39 sacks in ’08, one of the top pass-rushing tandems in the PAC-10. Losing that ability off the edges, all in one swoop, could really hurt. After all, this is an aggressive, pressure defense that relies on a strong pass rush and tight coverage from their corners. If the pass rush takes a hit, well, the trickle-down could lead to some real trouble for the secondary. D-coordinator Banker is great, but is he THAT great? We’ll see.

2) Is Jacquizz Rodgers really THAT good? Or now that people have seen him, will he have the dreaded sophomore slump?

While yes, the sophomore slump can certainly happen? I think it’s fair to say that Rodgers is the real thing. At least that’s the consensus from what you hear around the conference. Everyone who has seen him thinks he’s the real thing. He did benefit from a strong, experienced offensive line, but it’s not like this kid is a one-trick pony. He’s the complete package, and even at his size, showed the ability to run inside against the likes of USC last year. His cutbacks and moves are something else, and he’ll be a headache for every team they face in ’09.

The shoulder injury is a concern, not so much that it’s like a blown knee or foot injury or whatever. Those types of injuries are never good for a running back, just like an elbow injury is never good for a major-league pitcher? But the idea that his smaller frame can survive the pounding that a feature back takes over a long 12-game schedule might have some folks holding their breath this year. You may also see him head to the sidelines quickly if there are some games where they are either way ahead or way behind. The tires are only good for so many miles, and Rodgers led the conference with 259 carries last year. As the old saying goes with running backs, it’s not the years, it’s the mileage that matters.

3) The predictable, “How’s the schedule?” question?

Pretty reasonable, at least early in the season. They open with three of their first four at home, and the lone road game is at UNLV. Their non-conference slate consists of Portland State, UNLV and Cincinnati at home. The Bearcats will be tough, but it’s in Corvallis, so you probably have to like OSU in that one.

Where it gets hairy is later in the year. Overall they have five PAC-10 road games, including at USC, at Cal and of course, the Civil War, at Oregon to close out the year. But at home, they get Arizona, Stanford, UCLA and UW, all games they should be favored to win.

WSU FOOTBALL BLOG SEZ: Knowing what we know about Oregon State, it would be foolish to pick against them. Wouldn’t it? Riley is now 5-0 in bowl games, one good way to measure the ability of a coach when given time to game plan, get healthy, scheme and tweak for an opponent. And the Beavers are the trend-setters in terms of closing hard and fast. In ’08 they won seven out of their last eight after starting the year 2-3. Even better, since ’06, the Beavs are now 22-5 over October, November and December.

As astonishing as it might seem, this is the third-best program in the PAC-10 since the turn of the century, behind only USC and Oregon. Think about that. That’s not a one or two or even three-year fluke. This is nine straight years, and counting, that they have been third-best in the conference. This, from a program that holds the D-1 record, suffering through 28 CONSECUTIVE LOSING SEASONS!?! From 1971 – 1998, Oregon State went an amazing 65-238-6. YUCK!

The Cougs have only beaten OSU once in the last five times they’ve played, a 13-6 defensive struggle in Corvallis in ’06. Otherwise, it’s been all Beavs. In fact, Oregon State has won the last two by a combined score of 118-30. OUCH. OSU plays UW at home 11/14, then at Pullman on 11/21. They then have a bye before the Civil War on 12/3.

OSU has now now morphed the program into one that has layers upon layers of depth. 2008 is exhibit ONE on how far they have come as a program. Who knows, but ten years ago, an OSU team losing that many experiences bodies coming into ’08? They would have rolled out a three-win clunker. Ten years later? They are a game from Pasadena. We tip our hats to Oregon State, and hope that one day, Paul Wulff can build this thing into something like the Beaver Nation has right now.

That’s about it for a Friday. Enjoy it, and as always, GO COUGS!

11 Responses to “Spring Fish Wrap – Believe in the Beavs Edition”

  1. Big Moze Says:

    Nice work guys. The Beavers own our stuff lately fo sho fo sho! I would like to believe they will be overlooking us in Nov. 81 days til kickoff!

  2. Lucas Says:

    I remember sitting in the endzone in 2006 down at Reser. Their fans had huge "Can Riley" signs. One of my favorite places to roadtrip in the conference. Let's hope this game is a little closer than the last two debacles. Pullman 2007 was the only time I've left a game before the 2nd Quarter…

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I've been to Corvalis twice and recall approximately 10% of what happened while I was there.

  4. '03CouveCoug Says:

    What the Beavs have done in the last decade is nothing short of remarkable. Mike Riley is living proof of what happens when a talented coach has a plan and is given the time to execute his plan. Not to mention, they’ve done it with a lack of resources that nearly matches our meager budget.

    The OSU football program was constructed by recruiting slightly less talented players that have a hard-working, can-do attitude and are willing to redshirt. This is how "layers" of talent are built. It should also be noted that OSU heavily centers their attention on recruiting solid lineman on both sides of the ball that have big frames and room to pack on muscle. They focus on ball control on offense and have an attacking defense that forces turnovers. It’s the perfect formula of success for a team that used to be out-talented on the field, although that’s often not the case anymore.

    I will never count out the Beavs again. They’ve just got too good of a plan. That’s not to say that they won’t ever have a mediocre season again, but it becomes less and less likely with each passing year of success. Plain and simple, the OSU football program is what the WSU football program should aspire to be.

  5. Lucas Says:

    Check this article out

  6. sedihawk Says:

    Lucas, good call. I remember some heat on Riley after that one. Even fans getting into it with Moore their QB as he was leaving the field. But that is when they started their annual finish strong deal, and they haven't looked back!

    Couve, good call. It is ok to admit it, but no doubt we are trying to build up into what they have become.

    But here's something to ponder – what IF Price had stayed? Could we have become what OSU is now? What if he stuck around as the program turned a winning corner? What if we would have renovated Martin like 5 years ago in a better economy? What if we would have taken advantage with a fixture like Price while UW suffered through Gilby/Willingham? Think about that too, in that OSU's rise coincided with the fall of the Washington schools. But if WSU never fell, could OSU be where they are today?

    This is major side tangent, but I am seeng the bigger picture. I was against Price coming back, and all in favor of Wulff. And I still am. But Price leaving, like it or not, set this program back several years. It may be another few years before it can grow into what Wulff wants. That would be like 10 yrs between winning stints! Ouch.

    Oh well. Lets hope we are in the right hands, and improve big-time this year.

  7. '03CouveCoug Says:

    I don’t like to think about what might have been had Price not left WSU to go all or nothing at Bama.

    The reason being, I have no doubt that Price would have kept us above .500 at the very least every year, with a shot at the Pac-10 title every 3 or 4 years. No doubt that Price would have called for a renovation of Martin long before the Athletic Dept. started working on it…hell, Coach Price was talking about adding on to Martin when I was still in Pullman between the Sun Bowl and Rose Bowl seasons. He knew how to strike while the iron was hot (which is why he asked for a raise before the RB season and left when he and his staff didn’t get one) and I am certain that with Price leading the marketing charge, we would have had a remodel and about 25,000 season ticket holders by now.

    I also absolutely think that OSU’s (and to a lesser degree Oregon’s) success has something to do with UW and WSU falling completely off of the map. If the Cougs and mutts had been more competitive, I’m sure that at least a few of the Cali guys that went to the Oregon schools would have wound up at either of the Washington schools, not to mention some of the NW talent.

    Like I said, it’s something I try not to think about because it just gets me down. I guess that if anyone was going to have added success in the Pac-10 as a result of the sucktitude in WA, I’m glad it’s the Beavs.

    I sure hope that Wulff is the younger, WSU alum version of Price!

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Your information about Jacquizz was eerily similar to that from Ted Miller this afternoon. Are you really Kenny from Corvallis?

    Kenny from Corvallis, Ore., writes: All offseason there have been talks that Jacquizz Rodgers won't be as productive because teams now know what he's going to do. I say, what exactly did he do that USC didn't know? Or Cal? Or Penn State? You can't say they didn't know Oregon State was a run-up-the-middle kind of team. That's what he did all year long, and nearly won the rushing title doing it. Is that REALLY going to change next year?

    Ted Miller: Who is saying this? No one as smart as you or the Pac-10 Blog, Kenny!

    My guess is Rodgers will be a better back next year as a sophomore with a year of experience under his belt, but he might not pile up as many yards because the offensive line is replacing three key starters, topped by Andy Levitre a second-round pick who's already being projected as a rookie starter for the Buffalo Bills.

    Moreover, shoulder injuries are tricky for any player but particularly for running backs.

    Rodgers led the conference with 259 carries last year — 35 more than anyone else — despite only playing in 11 games. The Beavers will be better off if his total is closer to 200 in 2009. So that might mean fewer yards.

  9. BH Says:

    Great write up. Personally, I think the Beavs' fortunes rest on their QB play. The more Canfield plays, the better off they'll be. The more ugly Lyle plays, the more they sink toward .500 if not below.

    Quiz is a nightmare if they're able to spread the field. Otherwise, he's toast, which is why I think Canfield is a must for them.

    All in all: conference schedule is too tough for the Beavs this year, so they will drop off a bit. Not a lot, but enough to go to SF or the Bell Helicoptor Rotate Your Tires Again bowl–there will be no dreams of San Diego, let alone Pasadena.

  10. Sedihawk Says:

    Nice to get some good recruiting news!


    Ferris QB Halliday goes Crimson. Nice get.

    Anonymous, I don't get what you are saying about Ted Miller's Jacquizz Rodgers thing? I/we didn't steal it, if that is what you are saying.

  11. Nate Says:

    Without getting too overly detailed, I just want to say that I am really pulling for you guys. Maybe it's the "other PNW land-grant school" thing, but WSU has been the only other program that I honestly root for. Yes, it is easier to be magnanimous while WSU is down-for-the-count, but I had started to feel a kinship with WSU even as I watched my Beavs lose a heart-breaker in Pullman in ('03?) I think it has to do with our fan-bases being similarly down to earth, classy, and collectively pretty good drunks. I've had 3 great trips to Pullman so far, and looking forward to another this year – sans driving, 33 degree rain would be nice. God that was miserable.

    On another note, I really thought Wulff was the right hire in many ways when it was made, and I still do. OSU and WSU are battling the odds much of the time, and if there is a lesson to be learned from the OSU model, it is IMHO that success starts with a HC with high character. I read about the incredible challenges Paul Wulff has faced in life while staying in Colfax last year. A solid recruit might be able to overlook a blabbering doosh like Les Miles, and might still be sold on LSU for other reasons. OSU and WSU will never have that luxury, so it is imperative that our programs are able to sell a top-notch person to play and live under. PW is that person, and if his game-day success at EWU wasn't a fluke, I'm confident it is a matter of time that he will be successful at WSU.

    Nice blog by the way. Good luck Cougs.

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