On Saturday, the Oregon State Beavers introduced their overhauled image as they hosted the Eastern Washington Eagles. A new logo was plastered on the field, on sideline banners, and on every type of merchandise imaginable. Directly across the street from Reser Stadium stands the newly erected bookstore, although bookstore is rather inaccurate as the building is jammed full of clothing and souvenirs displaying the new logo. The football team (as well as all other OSU athletic teams) also received a makeover. For the opening game, the team came out in a mostly black ensemble highlighted with orange, white, and copper. The black helmets feature a white and orange set of stripes that extend down the facemask, making for a rather unique look. The introduction video is superhero-themed, and the traditional playing of AC/DC’s “TNT” after the third quarter was cast aside for a rather ridiculous new video displaying an equally ridiculous dance, “The Chainsaw”.
With the Beavers going through an identity crisis like this, it is no wonder that they forgot about the actual football game itself. Despite a few positive takeaways, such as Sean Mannion playing brilliantly (37-43, 422 yards, 3 TDs) and Brandin Cooks proving that he is a legitimate number one receiver (13 catches, 196 yards, 2 TDs), the game was punctuated by a defense that was outclassed in every way.
The entire game was dominated by Eastern Washington’s quarterback, Vernon Adams, who completed 23 of 30 passes for 411 yards and 4 touchdowns. Adams also ran the ball 16 times for 107 yards, finding the end zone twice. In total, the sophomore from an FCS school accounted for 518 yards and 6 touchdowns against an Oregon State team ranked 25th nationally. The secondary looked lost nearly every play, as Adams found receivers behind Oregon State’s coverage again and again. When he was pressured in the backfield, Adams would elude the tackles and weave his way through the defense for first downs again and again. Eastern Washington scored on every possession except one, and that lone possession was with Adams on the sidelines as he suffered from cramps.
Being caught by surprise is not an acceptable excuse, either, as the Beavers began their 2011 campaign by losing to FCS Sacramento State on their way to a 3-9 record. Additionally, Eastern Washington has been a power at the FCS level for years, as they won the national title in 2006 and lost to Washington and Washington State by a combined 7 points over the last two years. Vernon Adams, the do-everything quarterback that baffled the Beavers for the entire game, was the FCS Freshman of the Year last season. Despite all of these reasons to not take Eastern Washington lightly, the defense looked slow and unprepared throughout the contest.
What troubles me most about this game is not the fact that Oregon State dropped another game to an FCS school (two in three years), but the way that the Beavers lost this one. Not to disrespect Eastern Washington as a whole, but quarterback Vernon Adams was a one man wrecking crew, exploiting the Beavers lack of speed and inability to scheme for a mobile quarterback. Oregon State’s schedule was already very difficult on the back end, but after seeing their inability to corral a dual threat quarterback those last few games are looking less like challenging opportunities and more like impending losses.
The four toughest games on the slate for the Beavers going into the season were, in no particular order, Arizona State, Washington, Stanford, and Oregon. All four of those games now appear to be huge mismatches for Oregon State. Arizona State and Stanford did not play this weekend, while Washington blew out 19th ranked Boise State 38-6 and Oregon dismantled Nicholls State 66-3. Arizona State has Taylor Kelly. Washington has Keith Price. Stanford has Kevin Hogan. Oregon has Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota. Every single one of these quarterbacks possesses an ability to tuck and run, much like Vernon Adams for Eastern Washington. Additionally, each one of these quarterbacks will have more talented receivers at their disposal and bigger, stronger lines to run behind.
College football has been gravitating towards these types of mobile quarterbacks for years, as nearly every successful program has some assortment of option plays at their disposal. Oregon State, however, has consistently fielded teams that are more traditional in style. They run a “pro-style” offense (with the rise of Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, that may be an outdated term), devoid of any hurry-up or no-huddle aggression. For the most part, this has not been an issue as the Beavers have had success scoring. Part of me enjoys this aspect of Oregon State’s teams. I like traditional programs; I embrace the blue-collar image that sets Oregon State apart from that other team down south.
Yet, with their revamped image that was unveiled this year, it seems as though the Beavers are buying into the “can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em” attitude. However, if they want to be more than a flashy-looking doormat, the Beavers need to figure out how to stop the offenses that are becoming increasingly quicker, more aggressive, and consistently a few steps ahead.