Getting The Right Answers, But Not Passing: Grading The Loss At Oregon State

I keep writing and re-writing the first sentence of this post and then erasing it.  I can't decide what the best angle is here.  So many emotions after that game: disappointment, pride, anger (holding!), hope for the future, satisfaction, sadness.  The entire game was a roller coaster.  From the opening drive that had us on the doorstep of an early 7-0 lead (critical for the road upset) and the touchdown by Froman (on a broken play that he turned into something) that went from a 7-0 lead to OSU's ball on the 20, which seems like a horrible rule under the circumstances, to OSU scoring at will on screen passes and runs by Rodgers, to the last three drives and the seeming collapse of the offense under the pressure, it was a game we could have won - even if we were not expected to even be competitive. 

The overriding feeling afterward was that Charlie Strong has turned this team into one that will compete THIS year in a depleted Big East, will play their balls off and is just a play or two away on offense away from possibly being 3-0.  But Charlie Strong was not pleased:

"You’re never pleased about a loss. I thought we played well but we didn’t play well enough. You have to play for 60 minutes. You just can’t give up plays on defense and offensively we had a chance to go down and win the game and we didn’t."

It is that attitude that is going to take us back to where we are talking about national championships.  We need talented players, but if we can keep Charlie Strong here for a few years, we are going to be really good.  Here are some things and players that stood out to me:

Cardinal Defense:  B-.  The defense played great at the beginning and the end, but in the middle...eek.  OSU didn't have much trouble moving the ball, scoring on drives of 3 plays (23 yards), 9 plays (83 yards), 7 plays (37 yards), 4 plays (46 yards), and 4 plays (40 yards) in the first three quarters.  But when it looked like it might get out of hand, the defense held strong and gave us a chance to tie or even win the game by holding OSU scoreless in the 4th quarter.  The Rodgers boys had a good day, and seemed unstoppable at times, but for the most part they limited the big home run play.  They tackled well, and the effort, my god the effort.  But, giving up 5 touchdowns is not what a Charlie Strong defense does, and Strong is not going to give them any slack or let them use any Kragscuses this season.

Cardinal Offense: B.  Much maligned on these pages, the offense put up more points than against EKU and UK and should have had 14 more.  They racked up yards, ate clock, scored touchdowns (especially after OSU scored touchdowns) and were right there at the end of the game moving the ball.  A couple three-and-outs late were frustrating, as was Byron Stingily, but an overall good effort and hopefully one that will lead to some confidence into the most winnable portion of the schedule coming up.

Cardinal Special Teams: C.  Field position, field position, field position.  The two times we downed it inside the 5 were negated by all the times Rodgers helped OSU's offense start so far upfield. 

Adam Froman: B.  The most controversial player, Froman made a ton happen with his feet and definitely plays with a lot of heart.  He made some good throws (and was bailed out by receivers on some other throws) but for the most part finally showed off why he won the job by running the ball really well.  The touchdown/touchback was a bit of a fluke play, but he's got to get in the end zone there for us to really have a chance to win a big road game against a ranked opponent like this.  Do we win this game with Justin Burke?  I have no idea.  But quarterback controversies are no fun, so every time Froman under throws an open guy streaking behind the defense downfield (or 5 yards past the line of scrimmage) I will let it go and trust in the coaches.  If they think Froman is the guy, I hope he's the guy.

Broadcast Experience: F-  Between the local broadcast looking like WBKI was transmitting an internet feed to the generic announcers to the camera guys/production booth not knowing who Charlie Strong was, its hard watching HD games all day with professional announcers and then having to sit through that. 

Shenard Holton: A.  No one really stood out on defense, but Holton seemed to be around the ball a lot and made a really nice open field tackle on Rodgers that would have been a touchdown if he got past Holton.  Holton, Johnny Patrick and CardsFan922 Favorite Hakeem Smith all led the team in tackles with 7 apiece, but Holton didn't seem to get beat on any passing plays, although OSU's downfield passing game pretty much sucked. 

Doug Beaumont: A.  I love this guy. He dropped one pass (a shocking development) but held onto some tough ones and almost had his second touchdown on an amazing individual effort play.  Bellamy had a couple great catches that start to justify the hype, and Andrell Smith almost had a sick touchdown catch, and Cameron Graham continues to be the best weapon through the air.  But Doug Beaumont has solidified himself as an all-time fan favorite just three games into the season.

Lots of good individual grades, and a great effort, but the overall result is still a loss.  We're not back yet, and OSU's defense pretty much sucks, but we won't play a better offense this year.  If we can stay healthy, keep the faith and keep getting better, we could conceivably go to a bowl this season.  The season won't be a failure if we don't, but Charlie Strong seems to think it will.  Moral victories don't get us to bowls, but they are sure better than the alternative.

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