A reader wrote in this week and said we — Oregon State football writer Kevin Hampton and I — need to start “telling it the way it is” and that “OSU football has no running game and won’t be competitive until it develops one.”
His letter goes on to say that we need to start bugging coach Mike Riley for a running game.
It’s no secret the Beavers have failed to run the football this season.
Officially, the Beavers are averaging 69.4 yards per game on the ground. If you take out sacks and kneel-downs, that number is closer to 90 per game.
Still not nearly good enough.
Kevin or I could “bug” Riley and the coaches every day that they need to improve that number, and I’m sure they would all agree.
But it has proven to be easier said than done, this season anyway.
It’s not like Riley and Co. have been opposed to running the ball in years past.
And I tend to leave the decisions of game planning to the coaches as they know far better than I what works for this team — or, maybe more importantly, what doesn’t.
Still, the fact is no matter what the reason — the line can’t open holes, the backs can’t find the open holes, Riley just refuses to give the ground game a chance, you name it — the Beavers have failed to produce on the ground.
And while they were able to survive and win against lesser competition thanks to the passing game, against quicker and more physical defenses — see Stanford and USC — the inability to run consistently has hurt their ability to sustain drives.
I have thought the Beavers have needed to produce more on the ground but they seemed to do enough with the screen game and the fly sweep to keep those teams off balance enough the first half of the season that I figured they might still be able to be successful.
And I will admit that after the Stanford game, I still felt pretty good about the Beavers’ chances of finishing strong, even with the running game at a standstill.
Then there was the game with the Trojans. One could say the game was just one of those that got away from the Beavers and isn’t indicative of the team and how it has improved over the course of the season.
“I don’t think we played well in the last game and it didn’t have to be like that,” Riley said on Tuesday. “We gave them a lot of stuff, even though they’re pretty darn good. That part’s disappointing and these guys realize it.”
They better, because there are no pushovers the last three games of the regular season.
It begins at Arizona State on Saturday followed by a home game against Washington and wraps up with the Civil War in Eugene.
Back in August I went all in with the Beavers, predicting a 10-2 season.
They seemed to have the pieces to do it. But injuries and a shocking loss in the opener quickly changed the complexion of the season.
The reader is right.
If the Beavers don’t get some semblance of a running game and shore up mistakes, they could be looking at a five-game losing streak and 6-6 regular season when it’s all said and done.