We knew Oregon State Head Coach Gary Andersen would have a rebuilding process ahead of him, but during a 41-0 loss to UCLA last week the Beaver football team hit their low point in the season. Andersen sounded less like an educator of young men and more like the leader of humanity's post-apocalyptic survivors in his post-game press conference:
"The tough guys will survive and the weak ones won't. And that's where we're at, and if we don't think we're at that point, then we are all sadly mistaken."
Andersen's suffering this season must be what the lingering post-traumatic nightmares of the 2013 season are for Sonny Dykes. Inheriting an under-performing team, a team dismissal, injuries exposing a lack of depth in the secondary as well as key positions on offense (quarterback instead of center for OSU) and all on the pain for everyone to watch on The Drive. Dykes sounded lost at times in 2013 and Andersen is starting to sound very similar:
"Either we're coaching them wrong or they're refusing to learn," Andersen said. "The blame goes right smack between my eyes. I'll look at it, I'll evaluate it and try to make it better."
Gary Andersen is taking a look at his team's performance so let's do the same thing. I am going to focus on the Oregon State offense since Andersen and his defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake were both defensive coordinators under Kyle Whittingham and so the defense will be similar to the one I wrote about in my Utah preview earlier this year. Andersen brought in David Baldwin to be his offensive coordinator, a position he held under Andersen at Utah State. And more recently Gary Crowton (former Lousianana Tech and BYU head coach as well as LSU and Oregon offensive coordinator) was hired as an "offensive consultant". That is some serious football fire power coaching the Beavers' offense and they are doing some interesting things.
Early in the game OSU is looking at 2nd and 10. They line up with two tight ends on the right side, a heavy formation which is usually used as a running formation. Wide left is #34 Ryan Nall, a tight end converted to second string running back (out injured for the game this weekend) and in the back field is senior running back #24 Storm Barrs-Woods. Wide right is #13 WR Jordan Villamin. UCLA is in a 3-4 defense, #34 will motion into the backfield which draws the defensive back covering him toward the middle of the field.
The Beavers have a run called, there are three key blocks on the play: the two tight ends will double team the UCLA defensive end and seal the end of the line of scrimmage, the Right Guard will pull around the end of the line and block the first unblocked player he sees to the inside (in this case the linebacker) and #13 Villamin will block the DB inside of him.
#34 runs into his own blockers and really should have blocked outside based on the defense and UCLA does a good job fighting off blocks but the Storm Barrs-Woods is able to find a gap and turn up field for a good gain. Most of the Beavers complete their assignments but one player clogging the point of attack almost caused a loss of yardage.
This play was a positive one because of the effort of a single player, however, we will see a trend of the Oregon State offense being stopped by its own in-ability to execute the plays that are called.
This next play is interesting: it plays off the old tendency of former Head Coach Mike Riley to run the Jet Sweep to #6 Victor Bolden. Bolden goes into motion pre-snap similar to how he would for a Jet Sweep (where the ball would be handed off to him or where there would be a forward pitch/pass to him to take as he crosses the field), the UCLA defender #1 follows. But when the ball is snapped Bolden slams on the brakes and reverses direction, this is actually a wide receiver screen for Bolden.
The Right Tackle fires out at the Bruin Defensive End's legs to stop him and get him to reflexively drop his hands, the Beaver Wide Receivers should block the men in front of them and by following the pre-snap motion #1 has taken himself out of the play. Except that isn't what happens...
In fact #1 Ish Adams is an incredible athlete and manages to stop and follow Bolden's movement without breaking his own ankles, the Right Tackle doesn't make enough contact to get the defensive end or his hands down, the quarterback throws to the wrong shoulder of his receiver which allows the Defensive End to tip the ball and #81 can't figure out who to block because Adams recovered so quickly. What is a brillant play design is foiled by UCLA athleticism (welcome to the Pac-12) and a lack of execution by the OSU personnel on the field.
Here is another fake Jet Sweep, I wonder if Oregon State thinks that teams are scouting last year's film. This time the quarterback keeps the ball instead of handing it off. I'm sure this would have been a big gain with Seth Collins at quarterback, unfortunately he was out with a knee injury (and will not play against Cal) and his backup redshirt freshman Nick Mitchell isn't the same sort of athlete.
The UCLA defensive tackle beats his block and the backside end didn't bite on the fake hand off and Mitchell is stopped for no gain. Wrong personnel and once again a lack of execution.
Oregon State ran an up tempo offense and showed a lot of pre-snap movement against UCLA. On this 3rd and 4 play OSU substituted a whole new personnel package, lined up and then shifted formations to disguise what they planned to do.
This time Ish Adams commits a holding penalty on Victor Bolden to give the Beavers a first down.
Controversy in a blowout?
UCLA, after dominating the game and crushing the spirit of the Oregon State Beavers went to the post-game interview room upset. The whole UCLA bench got to play, even Justin Combs would have been on the field if he had still been on the team. What in the world was UCLA upset about? Jim Mora was evasive
"There was something going on up front," he said. "I’m not going to talk about it, because it doesn’t matter what I say. I’ll tell you this — it wasn’t on UCLA."
That up front he is talking about is the Beaver defensive line and his offensive line who had seven false start penalties. Josh Rosen hasn't learned his coach's level of tact:
"It was kind of B.S. what they were doing on the defensive line," Rosen said. "They were calling cadences, saying ‘set, hut.’ All these false starts and stuff on our offensive linemen, it wasn’t on them. They were trying as hard as they could."
Here is an example of what was going on:
OSU coach Gary Andersen got his chance to respond Monday during his weekly press conference, insisting that the Beavers' line has "moved the same way for the last five years." Andersen added that officials stopped the tactic during one game earlier this season, but later got an explanation of exactly what would be allowed.
"I keep the piece of paper in my pocket to let anybody that would like to read that rule," Andersen said. "They can surely read that rule exactly how it's been given to me from the Pac-12. I could share the old WAC piece of paper with them. I could share the Big Ten piece of paper, if they'd like to see that also. It's within the rules.
"If we can't say, 'move,' and our defense can move side to side, then I would suppose the offense should not be able to go on 'two.' The offense should not be able to motion. We're not gaining any more of an advantage by doing what they're doing. It's been going on for years, not just one game."
He carries the pieces of paper on the sideline.... Hmmm.... That does not sound at all like he is trying to gain an advantage in the grey area of the rules. Well, the Cal coaching staff better have the offense ready for something like that.
As Cal fans we have endured an up and down season and though our hearts have swelled only to be torn apart, we actually expected the season to go much like this. We have beaten the teams we expected to beat, had some hard fought losses and unfortunate losses against the part of the schedule we expected to be tough. Saturday against the Beavers it is vital that we perform as we should. If we gain bowl eligibility before we face Stanford, then anything could happen in the Big Game, if not then the pressure may be too high...