For the past several weeks, the storyline coming out of Eugene has been players not caring, not working hard, and living in the past. Some former and even current Oregon Ducks have shown concern as to where the football program is headed.
If the Ducks want to see how far they go by just caring and taking some pride in their performance, all they have do is to watch their counterparts 40 miles north in Corvallis.
From Day 1, Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen has said that the Beavers might not be the most talented team in the conference, but what they are going to do is to put their head down, prepare accordingly and play a hard-nosed brand of football for 60 minutes. That attitude was on full display on Saturday against No. 21 Utah.
The Beavers had adversity upon adversity upon adversity crashing down on them, but still were in the ball game with the Utes. There was a mini- monsoon during the game, a rain that was heavy even by Oregon standards. A lot of fans stayed home due to the weather as power was out in several areas of the Willamette Valley. It wasn’t a typically packed house with a juiced-up crowd inside Reser Stadium.
Oregon State’s quarterback, Darell Garretson, was 4-of-20 passing at one point, but the Beavers were still grinding it out thanks to a stellar defensive effort. It’s been quite some time that one could say that about the players in Eugene. Garretson was knocked out of the game with a knee injury and backup Conor Blount was also injured after just one drive.
There were just three minutes left when the Beavers drove 65 yards in seven plays to create a one-possession game, and they were able to accomplish this with their third string quarterback, Marcus McMaryion. With most programs, most offenses would be held at a standstill if the third string signal caller was in. Utah was a witness when Oregon was down to its third stringer last season a game that ended 62-20. The Ducks could barely execute a center-to-quarterback snap.
Up in Corvallis, McMaryion found Hunter Jarmon with an absolute frozen rope in the corner of the zone. Although the Beavers fell 19-14 to Utah, no one thought the Beavers would even be in the game, let alone being an onside kick recovery away from having a chance for the upset.
“I’m really proud of the Beavers. They played their tails off,” Andersen said.
“A lot came their way that didn’t go their way. Some was self inflicted and there’s a lot to improve on. But they stood toe to toe with a very physical football team, especially in the second half. It was a game to be taken. We made some plays here and there to get us back in it, and when you get to a point to where you play people close and really good teams, you have to execute and do the little things.”
Oregon State was picked by the vast majority of the media to not only finish last in the Pac-12 North, but to be the worst team in the conference. Andersen is in a major rebuild with the Beavers, and he’s attempting to bring in the best talent possible. In his second year, he doesn’t have Oregon State quite where he wants. What Andersen has instilled in his young team is a never-say-die attitude.
It’s an attitude that is severely lacking in Eugene.
The Ducks seem to be more worried about new flashy uniforms, assistant coaches guaranteeing wins where they have no business doing so, and telling anyone who is willing to listen that everything is awesome.
Head coach Mark Helfrich is too concerned about convincing ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that he and his Duck team are winning the day the majority of the time despite their most recent four-game losing streak. He also threw out excuse after excuse, implying that fans don’t know what they are talking about with the “either you’re great or an idiot” comment.
In reality, Oregon is having players tell the media that around 40 percent of the roster doesn’t care anymore, and a lot of them are living in the past where the Ducks could just step onto the field and win.
The Ducks have much more talent throughout the roster than the Beavers do. That’s just a fact. What the Beavers have that the Ducks don’t is an attitude of not giving up no matter what and believing in themselves, as well as the teammate next to them.
Sometimes that’s much better than having more talent. Talent is one thing, but if you don’t know how to implement that talent to full effect, or even some effect, things like losing 70-21 to a rival will happen.
In order to turn this around in Eugene, the Ducks should look to Corvallis to see how much the right attitude can take them.