Coming off of a 5-7 season in 2010, most expected Oregon State to improve this season. Phil Steele had them as his 15th most improved team for the year and had them projected to make a bowl. When we did our Pre-Season Preview, Travis of BeaverBlitz.com thought the Beavers could flip their record and finish of the season with a bowl victory. Unfortunately, the way Oregon State got out of the gate made that impossible. Their worst nightmare came true when they dropped their opener to Sacramento State 29-28 in OT. Not only did the Beavers drop their opener but they lost their first four games before beating Arizona on Oct 8th for their first win of the year. Oregon State finished the season at just 3-9. The 3-9 record represented Mike Riley's worst record since he debuted at Oregon State in 1997 going 3-8 and 0-8 in conference play. Now that their season is over we caught up with Travis from BeaverBlitz.com and his Oregon State Football Blog to get his views on the season and take a quick look at 2012.
CFBZ: Mike Riley has been a solid coach during his tenure at Oregon State but has two straight losing seasons under his belt. In this "win now" era of college football how safe is his job?
Travis: Mike Riley has certainly earned the right to 'right the ship' and according to Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis, he will be given that chance. The vast majority of Beaver fans acknowledge that Riley is the man for the job, however many believe some sort of shake up needs to take place, whether it be among coordinators, schemes, or OSU's approach to recruiting, a new approach needs to be taken. OSU has recruited well the past couple years and has a tremendous start to the 2012 class, filling positions of need with high-caliber athletes. In the grand scheme of things college football is a business and in today's market it's a "what have you done for me lately" mentality. It will be hard for Coach Riley to endure another three or four win season and no bowl for the third straight year.
CFBZ: Finishing at 3-9, the Beavers obviously did not live up to a lot of expectations this season. What do you think were the primary reasons why the season went the way it did?
Travis: No one ever wants to use injuries as an excuse, as all programs go through the same thing, but to say injuries did not play at least a small factor in OSU's troubles this season wouldn't be fair to the team. Aside from that, offensive and defensive line play was about as bad as it has been since Riley came to Corvallis in 1997. On the offensive side of the ball, OSU failed to produce a 1,000 yard rusher for just the third time since 1998 and allowed QB Sean Mannion to be sacked 27 times. It starts up front and OSU averaged just 86 yards rushing per game (118th in the nation) and it's leading rusher, Malcolm Agnew who had 223 yards in week one, played in just six games and finished with just 427 rushing yards. The team alone barely broke the 1,000 yard mark. To put that into perspective, there were 43 runningbacks who by themselves had more yards rushing than OSU had as a team. Defensively it was the inability to stop the run that killed OSU. It allowed teams to control possession and in turn tire the defense out and pull away in the 2nd half. OSU was 101st in the country, allowing over 196 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per rush. Hard to win many games when you can't run the ball and nearly allow a first down every two rushes. The strange thing is that OSU had a Freshman All-American at d-end in Scott Crichton, one man can't do it all so hopes are he can get a supporting cast next year. These were the two biggest reasons why OSU struggled so mightily this season and a heavy focus on the O and D line this recruiting cycle has been evident.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season?
Travis: The positive memory most of Beaver Nation was left with was the youth movement that they saw all season. OSU played (and started) more true or redshirt freshman than they ever have. As mentioned, Scott Crichton earned All-American honors and true freshman d-end Dylan Wynn recovered an OSU record five fumbles on the season which was tied for best nationally. Brandon Cooks was a true freshman wide out who came into his own towards the end of the season and finished with 518 yards and three scores. Most notable was QB Sean Mannion who threw for 3,332 yards and 16 TD's in his redshirt freshman campaign. Malcolm Agnew was injured far too often this season (hamstring) but showed that, when healthy, he is OSU's best option at tailback. The future looks bright for the Beavers and these four key players are poised to explode onto the national scene in 2012.
CFBZ: Who are some of the players that need to step up next season for the Beavers to get back to a bowl game?
Travis: Offense - A name that many may have forgotten is Michael Philipp, a former four star recruit and top guard prospect in the country in 2009. Philipp started his true freshman year and earned Freshman All-American status. The following two seasons were marred with injuries and setbacks that forced coaches to sit the San Bernardino native this season, using his redshirt year. If Philipp can return healthy and do some work in the weight room, his presence on the o-line would be an immediate improvement.
Defense - Andrew Seumalo showed glimpses of being an impact player at the d-tackle position this season and will return next year, but it's his fellow d-tackle mate Castro Masaniai who will need to step his game up if OSU hopes to improve on the, frankly, horrid defensive statistics put up in 2011. Masaniai's season ended early after he suffered a broken leg in a week seven loss to BYU. Castro is listed 6-2 334 and is all of it. Hopes are he can recover quickly and be ready to go for spring ball and get back into shape quickly. Castro is able to move at 334, but would be best suited to play at 320. OSU needs a plug in the middle and Castro can be just that.
Travis: With all the turnover in the Pac-12 this off season, the name that has stuck out to me is Jim Mora at UCLA. Everyone knows the tradition of UCLA and Mora seems to be selling that to recruits. Since his hiring, he has secured the commitments from three top notch recruits, two of whom OSU was in the running for, and Mora is reportedly hot on the trail of numerous high-profile athletes. UCLA has always been able to lure big time players to Westwood. Mora is a big personality and listening to him broadcast for Fox Sports, you can tell that the guy knows his stuff and would be a joy to speak to if you were a recruit or parent of one. UCLA is and has been a sleeping giant since 2000 and Mora seems like a perfect fit for the true blue and gold.
Previous 2011 Exit Surveys
ACC- Miami Hurricanes
Big Ten- Minnesota Golden Gophers
SEC- Kentucky Wildcats