MIKE RILEY talked all things Wisconsin, the bye week, the tilt against UCLA in a couple weeks and…
A very different DL discussion after Week 1
Throughout the spring and fall training sessions, it was stressed by the coaching staff that in order for OSU to make waves, some leaders were going to have to establish themselves – especially on defense and on the d-line. And during fall camp, the Beavs' DL coach, Seumalo, insisted OSU was fortunate to have eight guys who could all start and not show signs of inexperience when executing their assignments.
We were pretty skeptical of that notion, and it showed in some of the fall camp and pre-game material covered on BF.C. It sounded like your classic coach-speak. Many expected Wisconsin RB Montee Ball to annihilate a physically small Beaver d-line and defense – and we fell in rank-and-file with that sentiment.
On the first Saturday of the OSU season, we and many other pundits were disproven, and with extreme prejudice.
(In our own defense, who the hell thought Ball would be shut down like that? Certainly not those of us who watched the Beaver D day in and day out throughout the month of August. But I digress.)
THE KEY TO success for this 2012 defensive line, if we're going to draw conclusions from one game, is versatility. Frankly, with the exception of Castro Masaniai, whose substantial size makes him a formidable DT/nose tackle, the other seven guys that make up the front four rotation are capable of making an impact at just about any spot on the line.
And whether or not they practice on the 1's or 2's has little or no bearing. Defensive Coordinator Mark Banker and Seumalo opted to rotate in Rudolf Fifita, John Braun, Joe Lopez and Rusty Fernando on the very first series on defense.
The 2's on the d-line during The Opening drive of the season against Ball? Forgive Oregon State fans if their first thought upon seeing that was, ‘We are so screwed.'
In retrospect, what instead comes to mind is, "Banker, Seumalo -- you sly dogs, you."
AGAINST WISCONSIN, the D-line was a collective group of leaders, making plays against the run and forcing QB Danny O'Brien to make throws on the move. Seumalo must have been beaming.
OSU controlled the momentum and made plays in the clutch -- Dylan Wynn's sack and forced fumble in the red zone to negate Wisconsin's chances at six in the first half was huge. Scott Crichton, Andrew Seumalo and Masaniai were relentless.
Yes, Wisconsin was working with a younger offensive line than last year and only returning senior. But everyone and their sister pointed to the reloading that was going on there, and they had more than enough reasonable arguments in support of it. Plus, Ball is/was a Heisman candidate, and had proven himself capable of eluding strong, agile, elite defenders in the past.
BUT FROM THE PRESS BOX, it was clear that OSU's defensive strategy far outmatched the offensive approach of UW – on paper, that game should not have unfolded that way. The ace up the sleeve for Riley and crew? Forcing Wisconsin to expect the unexpected all game long.
It should be noted here the 2's showed this offseason they had quickness off the snap and had good pursuit skills. And that fed into Banker's strategy -- incorporating a constant influx of adept defenders on and off the line. The result was a young Wisconsin offensive line with little time to adapt to a blitzer's technique and shut him down.
Banker has more of an arsenal at his disposal that it appeared, and it is nice to know that he plans to use it. He always has, when he feels he has the horses to rotate. A solid defensive line, whether size or speed is the primary focus, is integral to controlling the ebb and flow of games and Banker and OSU snagged momentum early, and then were able to ride it out into the final minutes.
It was a great show, that Beaver d-line on Saturday against Wisconsin.
It's only one game but maybe the Beavs are going to keep stirring up the echoes of the "Giant Killers" this season. UCLA is the next test after the bye week, and the Bruins looked better on Saturday in knocking off then-No. 14/16 ranked Nebraska than they have in a long time.
But so did the Beavs, and especially up front on defense.
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