They say when you set your expectations low, you are rarely disappointed–and all I can say after two games down in the 2012 football season, is I have not been disappointed thus far by what I’ve seen from the OSU football team.
I know I speak on behalf of many when I say that I didn’t have high hopes for the beavers going into this football season. This is not unusual as the beavers are used to being under-rated by the outside world in general, season in and season out, but not so used to being under-rated by their fans in Beaver Nation. Being one of those fans in Beaver Nation, I have spent the last few summers as my schedule allowed stalking open practices during fall camp in nervous anticipation of how the team is shaping up for the fall season. This pre-season was no different from years past, except that my level of nervousness, along with the collective whole of beaver fans coming off that 3-9 season last year, was at an all-time high as so much is on the line this season for the continued success of the program. That being said, I will be blunt in saying that I had been rather underwhelmed in what I happened to witness in fall camp this year, which had increased my level of anxiety coming in to the upcoming season.
The level of talent on the team has not been something that has worried me the last couple of seasons, as in my humble opinion we are actually deep with talent. I had been worried, after watching last season and several practices during fall camp, however, that the players’ hearts just weren’t really that in it. I was worried that they looked like they were missing that spark or fire that I have seen in years past–that they were missing that word that starts with a ‘p’ and ends with ‘assion’ that former beaver greats with names like Stroughter and Butler and Rogers had in spades–and I was worried that going into this football season it wouldn’t matter how much talent we had in the end if we didn’t have that ‘p’ word to go along with it.
Well, with two beaver football games already in the history books for the 2012 season, I can say that I’m happy to report that I’m beginning to feel that my worries for this season were unfounded. The team that walked out on the field at Reser Stadium on Sept. 8th and defeated the then 13th ranked Wisconsin Badgers (how can you not love the battle of Benny vs. Bucky?) was not the same team that walked out on the field in Madison a year ago and was shut out 35-0; and the team that walked away with a huge win over number 19 UCLA today in the difficult venue of the Rose Bowl was not the same team that lost to the Bruins a year ago on their home turf.
It’s pretty evident at this point that the beavers did some soul searching over the course of the off-season and found some of that collective passion and confidence and mental toughness that seemed to be lacking overall last season, and have obviously discovered that what doesn’t destroy you in the end can make you stronger.
All I know is that I haven’t seen the beaver defense playing with this much grit, tenacity and fire in a good three seasons and it is awesome to have them back. And sure, Sean Mannion threw an interception today, but 370+ yds., 2 tds and a completion percentage of 69% against UCLA?!? Pretty phenomenal. Woods, Wheaton, Cooks, Crighton (ESPN helmet sticker-how ’bout them apples?), Welch, Wynn and last but never least, Jordan Poyer, all did phenomenally today as well, along with too many other players to mention here. And how can we not acknowledge the coaching staff and the great play calling by Mike Riley involving many of our offensive players which kept UCLA constantly guessing, and Mark Banker’s excellent strategy on defense which shut down two potential Heisman candidates over the last two games and held one to only 42 yds. today when he had been averaging 180? Mike Riley choosing to go for it more on fourth downs the last two games instead of punting has also undoubtedly contributed to a renewed sense of confidence amongst the players and helped them to believe more fully in themselves.
As the beavers head into another hard game on the road in Tucson next week, let’s hope that they can continue to grow and create themselves anew, and, like the Phoenix, rise from the ashes of the last season to soar high above the Arizona desert–with a win over the Wildcats. Go Beavs!!!