College football

It's hard enough to keep QBs healthy these days without asking them to run the ball

It's hard enough to keep QBs healthy these days without asking them to run the ball

OK, I don't pretend to know a whole lot about football. Unlike baseball and basketball, I never coached it.

But I do have a tip for young offensive coordinators who weren't even born when I started watching college football. I mean, this is just a tip built on what I've seen over the last several decades of watching games. Take it or leave it:

If you have a quarterback who can throw the ball, maybe even a quarterback considered a blue-chip NFL prospect, TAKE THAT OPTION PACKAGE OUT OF YOUR OFFENSE, PUT IT IN THE TRUNK OF AN OLD JUNK CAR AND RUN IT INTO A VERY DEEP RIVER!

Guys, it's hard enough to keep a quarterback healthy and upright these days without asking him to carry the ball 10-15 times a game. You know better than I do that defenses are going to see a target on his back -- a way to take your most important player away from you. I've written about this kind of thing before and I usually get a bunch of people telling me, "You can't put bubble wrap around these guys. It's football and people get hurt."

Yeah, they do. But why increase the chances of that happening? My goodness, even big strong, tank-like running backs like Royce Freeman have trouble getting through a season without an injury. Most quarterbacks just aren't built to withstand the pounding. Nor should they have to take that abuse. They're too important.

And honestly, it's possible to run an effective offense without some sort of option that includes the quarterback running the ball. Take a look at your TV on Sunday -- the pros have no trouble doing it.

Oregon lost two quarterbacks Saturday night and obviously, Justin Herbert is going to be impossible for them to replace. For what? A short run to the end zone that any one of three or four Duck running backs could have accomplished?

It made me sick to see Herbert hurt on such a play. What a waste. The guy's future is NOT as a runner. His team's future is not with him running the ball. You CAN get along without that play and the entire option attack -- particularly if your offensive line is as good as people say it is. But you can't get along without Herbert -- at least not nearly as well.

And don't get me wrong, it's not just the Ducks who do this. It's a virus all over college football.

No, you can't put bubble wrap around your quarterback. But you can ask him not to run the ball unless he has to AVOID getting tackled. And don't play him with a big lead late in games, either.

Because he's that valuable -- and you're soon going to find that out.

Where does OSU go from here?

Where does OSU go from here?

It’s a simple question, with a not so simple answer; where does Oregon State go from here?

Prior to the season many people thought the Beavers would be a bowl team. Year three of Gary Andersen would see the big jump in the win-loss column.  The fan base was full of optimism, and justifiably so.

However, instead of a return to respectability we have seen this team take a giant step backwards. Following a 42-7 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Huskies on Saturday the Beavers fell to just 1-4 on the season. That one victory took last second heroics from the offense to steal, yes steal, a win from FCS Portland State.

Against the Huskies the Beavers struggled to do anything on offense. At the end of the third quarter they had a total of just 104 yards of offense and zero scores. To put that in perspective the Huskies had 98 yards and a touchdown on their first drive of the game. Not the best of comparisons.

But we have to be fair on this night. The defense played lights out in the first half. They gave up that big drive to start the game, then hunkered down and held the Huskies scoreless the rest of the half. It was the best defensive half we have seen from OSU all season. But then the OSU we have some to remember showed up in the third quarter, allowing the Huskies to score 21-points.

Failing to score while failing to keep the opposition from scoring… well, you’re not going to win any games with that formula.

The frustration from coach Andersen could be heard in his voice postgame. The coach seems to be just as bewildered as we are. And that should be most troubling of all. When the captain of the ship doesn’t know why it turns left when he turns the wheel right, you have a serious problem.

There is something off with this Beavers team; I just can’t quite put a finger on it. At this point, it may be time to start looking to 2018.

The Beavers still have USC, Colorado, Stanford, a much improved Cal, Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon remaining on the schedule.

Will it be possible to pick up a win in that stretch? Of course it will be. Anything is possible, but that doesn't mean it's plausible. Win one game - Sure. Win enough games in that stretch to become bowl eligible – don’t hold your breath.

The Beavers we saw on Saturday will be lucky to win a quarter, let alone a game the rest of the way. And that is a sad state of affairs for a team that we all thought, myself included, was ready to turn the corner.

 

 

 

A look at Portland State's million-dollar early season football schedule

A look at Portland State's million-dollar early season football schedule

Portland State this week is headed to Corvallis for the second half of a very difficult season-opening schedule against teams out of their league. Way out of their league.

The Vikings' first game of the season was at Brigham Young last week. This week, "Barneyball" heads down I-5 to meet Oregon State in Corvallis.

By now, you know the reason the Vikings have scheduled two games they won't likely win:

Money. Big money for a Big Sky football program.

Portland State, it has been reported, got $575,000 for its 20-6 loss at BYU and is scheduled to receive $500,000 for the bus ride and expected loss to the Beavers.

Those are pretty good paydays but nothing like what a team gets for getting massacred by college football's big boys. Arkansas State is getting $1.65 million for a trip to Nebraska and Wyoming -- a pretty good team -- is going to get a million bucks for playing at Iowa.

I've never liked the idea that the smaller schools seem to need these big guarantees to keep their programs going. Playing up in class brings problems. First -- even though PSU can point to an upset win at Pullman over Washington State a couple of years back -- they are most likely going to get beat. And beat by a large margin. Second, when you play bigger and faster teams you'll be lucky to get out of some of these games without taking a physical pounding.

I don't like the notion that players' health could be sacrificed for the sake of money.

But welcome to the reality of college football.

Oregon State falls apart in second half, drops opener to Colorado State.

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Oregon State falls apart in second half, drops opener to Colorado State.

There are a few reasons for optimism following the first game of the Beavers season.  However, grabbing a big early season win isn’t one of them.  The Beavers came into Fort Collins as underdogs, but many felt they had what it takes to pull the upset.

That looked to be the case early on, as the Beavers were the first team to get on the scoreboard. A big strike through the air from new quarterback Jake Luton to Timmy Hernandez gave OSU the 7-0 early in the first quarter.

For much of the first half it was a well played, back-and-forth matchup, but one arguable call in the final seconds of the first half would permanently shift the momentum in favor of the Rams.

Colorado scored a touchdown to take the 24-17 lead with just 1:19 left in the half. With the clock ticking away Oregon State started to march down the field putting together a near perfect two-minute drill.

With 13 seconds on the clock, and the ball on the CSU 7-yard-line, the Beavers had time for one more play. Luton took the snap, scrambled under pressure, side armed a pass around the defense, and found the outstretched arms of a diving Noah Togiai for the tying score. Or did he?

The ruling on the field was incomplete, but was sent upstairs for video review.  It looked as if Togiai had control of the ball, with a knee inbounds, as he fell out of play. Every replay they showed looked like a touchdown. Twitter thought it was a touchdown. Television announcers thought it was a touchdown. I thought it was touchdown. But when the review was finished the referees stayed with their original call of an incomplete pass.

Oregon State settled for a field goal and headed to the locker room trailing 24-20, rather than knotted up at 24.

That play seemed to take the wind out of the Beavers sails, and swung the momentum to the home team. The Rams came out and outscored the Beavers 17-0 in the third quarter and never looked back.

The second half seemed to be nothing but a constant replay of a Beavers turnover followed by a Rams score. Interceptions, fumbles, it didn’t matter. CSU found ways to frustrate the Beavers and grind the Oregon State offense to a halt.

The Beavers looked good early, and behind Ryan Nall they had 125 yards on the ground in the first half. In the second half they managed just 30 rushing yards. That is pretty much a quick way to sum up the game for the Beavers.

But it’s not all negative for the Beavers. Despite the high number of interceptions, Jake Luton showed that for the first time since Sean Mannion was on campus, the Beavers might have some semblance of a passing game. Last season the Beavers averaged just 29.4 passing attempts and 174 yards per game. In the loss to the Rams Luton had 27 pass completions on 47 attempts, for 304 yards and two touchdowns.  Sure, he did have three interceptions, but it was still one of the better quarterback performances the Beavers have seen in some time.

The loss leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Beavers fans, but the season is still young. Now all eyes will look to the next opponent: The Portland State Vikings. Anything less than a blowout win for the Beavers and then we may want to sound the horns of concern. As we saw against CSU, the Beavers can shoot themselves in the foot and easily become their own worst enemy. Hopefully next Saturday the Beavers are playing only the Vikings, not the Vikings and themselves.

Final Score in Fort Collins: Colorado State 58 – Oregon State 27

Next Up: The Beavers open up their home schedule against the FCS Portland State Vikings. Kickoff is set for 11:00 AM, Saturday, Sept. 2nd.

 

Will Oregon State end its bowl drought in 2017?

Will Oregon State end its bowl drought in 2017?

The Oregon State Beavers open the 2017 football season on August 26, against Colorado State in Fort Collins. The game will not only mark the start of the season for the Beavers, but will start what could be the Beavers first bowl eligible season since 2013. The hype train is rolling in Corvallis, and many fans are wondering if head coach Gary Andersen finally has this team pointed in the right direction. Vegas oddsmakers have the over/under for the Beavers set at 5.5 wins. If I were a betting man, I would take the over. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic if you are a Beavers fan. Will the Beavers go bowling this season? Here are five reasons I think they will:

2) In Jake Luton, the Beavers finally have a passing threat -  

Not since Sean Mannion left the program following his senior season in 2014 have the Beavers had a true quarterback behind the center. In the two season since Mannion left the Beavers have seen five different signal callers take a snap: Seth Collins, Marcus McMaryion, Conor Blount, Darell Garretson, and Nick Mitchell. In 2015 and 2016 the Beavers finished 117 and 113 in passing offense respectively. In those two seasons combined the Beavers passed for a total of 3,995 yards and 23 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Mannion passed for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns in just his junior year alone.

The Beavers have had a giant question mark at quarterback, and transfer Jake Luton could be the answer.

It was announced early last week that Luton will be the No.1 quarterback for the Beavers, and with that coach Andersen finally has a quarterback that can get the ball downfield. In 2016, while the quarterback for Ventura CC, Luton passed for a school record 3,551 yards and 40 touchdowns. Luton has the size and the arm to help add the air raid elements that coach Andersen wants in the offense, and may finally be the quarterback that can get the ball to the Beavers playmakers. Tight end Noah Togai has been turning heads early on in camp, catching three touchdown passes in the latest open scrimmage, and can be a huge weapon for Luton. The Beavers also have senior wide receiver Jordan Villamin who is due for a monster year. Villamin has all the intangibles to be one of the best receivers in the conference, but over the past two seasons he hasn’t had someone who could consistently get him the ball. That should change in 2017. Oh yeah, the Beavers also have Seth Collins in the slot, so Luton will have plenty of hands to get to the ball to.

A decent quarterback can be the difference between a four win season and a bowl game, and the Beavers finally have a decent quarterback.

2) The running back stable may be the best in the Pac-12 -

Talk about the rich getting richer. The Beavers had one heck of a backfield heading into 2017. They had returners Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce, who combined for 1,474 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016, as well as TCU transfer Trevorris Johnson. The backfield was stacked. Then, out of nowhere, the news broke in late May that former Oregon Ducks stud running back Thomas Tyner was coming out of retirement to join the Beavers. Tyner dealt with injuries during his time in Eugene, but when on the field he was a force. In two seasons at Oregon Tyner rushed for 1,284 yards and 14 touchdowns. The four-headed monster of Nall-Tyner-Pierce-Johnson gives the Beavers one of the best backfields in the conference, if not the country.

At this point, and for the foreseeable future, Nall is the starting back. But let’s be real. The Beavers have two legit starting caliber backs, and two others that could start on a lot of teams in the country. They have running backs 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D. The depth is unreal.

3) The schedule plays out well for the Beavers -

The Beavers do have a gauntlet to run mid-season, a stretch of three games that sees them play Washington State, Washington, and USC in three consecutive weeks. That is followed by tough games against Colorado and Stanford. Outside of that stretch the schedule plays out favorably for the Beavers. They open the season on the road against Colorado State, which is a tough but winnable game for the Beavers. A lot of experts see Colorado State as a team that could sneak into a New Years Six bowl. A win in Fort Collins could set the tone for the season.

Following the Colorado State game the Beavers get Portland State and Minnesota at home. PSU is nearly a certain win, and Minnesota should be as well. The Beavers played a heck of a game against the Gophers last season, and with Minnesota starting out the P.J. Fleck era, a win on the road for the Gophers may be a challenge.

The Beavers also end the season with an incredibly “easy” slate of games: Home against Cal, home against Arizona, on the road at Arizona State, and home against Oregon. Following last season’s Civil War win, fans and players alike have every reason to think the Beavers can beat the Ducks again.

Realistically, the Beavers could go 3-0 in non-conference play, then drop 5 straight in the aforementioned “gauntlet,” then finish the season 4-0. For those keeping track, that is a 7-5 season, and a trip to a bowl game.

4) Year Three of Gary Andersen has a history of success -

Back in 2009 Gary Andersen took over a poor Utah State football team. In fact, calling them a poor football team is an understatement. The Aggies went just 3-9 the season prior the Andersen’s arrival, and hadn’t had a winning season since the team went 6-5 in 1997. From 1998 to 2008 Utah State went a combined 35-90. Then came Andersen.

Andersen’s Aggies went 4-8 in both his first and second season, and then jumped to 7-6 in his third season. In Andersen’s fourth season the Aggies jumped to 11-2, won their first bowl game since 1993, and finished No.16 in the final AP Poll. Andersen’s first two seasons at OSU have largely mirrored his first two at Utah State; there is every reason to think year three will see the same leap it did in Utah. Andersen has a quarterback, a stacked backfield, a young talented defense, and a team that is finally his. Really, after two straight losing seasons, anything less than six wins would be a disappointment for Andersen in year three.

5) The Oregon State defense will be better than people think -

Defensively the Beavers have not been great in recent seasons. Last season the Beavers were 75th in the nation for total yards given up, at 5150, mainly because they just couldn’t stop the run. Oregon State allowed 2616 yards on the ground, which was 101st worst in the nation. However, they balanced that out with a decent pass defense, allowing just 2534 yards through the air, which was the 40th best pass defense in the country. Looking ahead to this season, the Beavers should be even better against the pass, and hopefully improved against the run. The Beavers played a lot of freshman and sophomores in 2016, and that year of experience should pay off this season. The Beavers return impact players such as Brandon Arnold, Jalen Moore, Bright Ugwoegbu, Kammy Delp, Manase Hungalu, Jonathan Willis, Elu Aydon, and Xavier Crawford just to name a few. Of that group, only Arnold and Hungalu are seniors. There is plenty of young talent on this defense to help push the Beavers forward. If the defense can improve against the run, they should be able to help the improved OSU offense win a few more games. ---

The only thing working against the Beavers is that the Pac-12 is stacked with talent. The Beavers have to play at least four teams that could easily win the conference (Washington, WSU, USC, Stanford), and some other teams that may be on the downswing but are by no means pushovers. That being said, Andersen has steered his ship in the right direction, and the Beavers should be more optimistic than ever that this is the year they get over the hump. The only question left to ask - “is it August 26 yet?”

Yes, you worry about your kids playing football... but are you worried YOU may have CTE?

Yes, you worry about your kids playing football... but are you worried YOU may have CTE?

You've heard about this study by now. If you ever played NFL football, there's a real good chance you're suffering or WILL suffer, the effects of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). They studied the brains of 111 former NFL players and 110 of them showed signs of it. And that study included a punter and a placekicker.

Everyone is talking about whether they'd allow their children to play football, in light of this very chilling data. I must say, I wouldn't. For me, it isn't even worth a second thought. No way. Stick to baseball or basketball. Broken bones heal but broken brains don't.

In fact, I must say that even watching the sport bothers me a lot. Are we watching brains being sliced and diced for our personal entertainment?

And what I'm wondering today is how many former football players -- the ones who didn't make it to the NFL and played only in high school or college -- are worried about brain damage? And oh, by the way, it's a condition that can't be diagnosed until death. You probably wouldn't know you had it until the scary symptoms start to appear.

It's very clear that anybody who ever played the game at any level has a real chance of having the condition.

This study showed that 21 percent of those who played high school football had evidence of CTE and a whopping 91 percent of college players did. Now the flaw in those statistics is the brains that were studied could be much more likely to show evidence of CTE because they likely belonged to people who showed symptoms -- and that's why they were contributed to the study.

But still... This is some very depressing data and I can't even imagine what former college football players might be thinking right now:

Do I have CTE? Will I have CTE? Will I be rational enough even to recognize I have it?

College football opens in Australia tonight? That's just wrong

College football opens in Australia tonight? That's just wrong

Yes, college football opens its season tonight in a matchup between California and Hawaii. And it's not enough to just play this game in Honolulu -- the teams must go to Sydney, Australia for this one.

Which is so totally unnecessary.

For several years now, it's been professional teams -- trying desperately to make their "brand" worldwide -- heading outside the country for games. In the beginning it was just non-counting preseason or exhibition games that went to Europe, Asia, Mexico or wherever. But now the NBA, Major-League Baseball and the NFL are moving regular-season, counting games outside the country.

And I don't think that's fair -- to players or fans. It's a hardship to players and so unfair to fans, especially in football where there are so few home games during a season. Why allow one of those to be played outside the country? It's a betrayal to loyal fans and a hardship for players because of the long travel and often sub-par condition of foreign playing fields.

And at the college level, it's ridiculous. There are reasons for doing this, of course. Most of them have to do with money, in one way or another And at the college level, it's simply unfair to unpaid players who have to make trips of that length to play in front of crowds that probably don't include their families or friends.

I can't really believe this is happening, actually.

The players at Hawaii this season ought to be allowed to accumulate frequent-flier miles for a schedule that is cruel and unusual punishment. They open the season in Australia, then next play at Michigan before finally getting a home game in the third week of the season. Then it's to Tucson, Ariz., for a game the following week before finally getting a bye week. But the Rainbow Warriors never get two consecutive home games during the entire season -- it's a constant zig-zag between the island and the mainland.

That's terrible. But of course, we're seeing the colleges chase the dollars just like the pros these days. And so it's no surprise they'd go all the way to Australia to chase a few more bucks.