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OSU's big game opportunity

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 7:30am
Cliff Pfenning
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Corvallis is plenty off the beaten path in the college football world, so it's hard for the Oregon State football team to get a lot of publicity. But, that won't be true Saturday, so it's as big an opportunity to make an impact in front of the nation's fans and incoming recruits as the program is going to get.

The Beavers get to play in-state rival Oregon at home and on national television with the Ducks needing only win by any margin to continue their path toward the College Football Playoffs.

Oregon State, meanwhile, is playing for its football life - especially its seniors. The Beavers have five wins and need a sixth to become bowl. So a win Saturday extends the season by a month. And, a sixth win qualifies coach Mike Riley for a $1 million bonus.

Riley has never seemed like someone motivated by money, but the game is being played at Reser Stadium, and being on national TV with the win moving his team to a bowl game, it might just be what the program needs to score what would be one of its biggest upsets.

There's plenty of elements to a big win in place for Saturday.

First, it's at home. The Beavers just seem to be a different animal at home. Almost all of their big wins are at Reser these days, starting with USC. OSU hasn't beaten USC in Los Angeles since 1964, but it's owned the team in the past decade at Reser, regardless of the Trojans' rankings.

Two weeks ago, the Beavers beat No. 7 Arizona State at Reser, 35-27.

Saturday is the final home game for seniors, led by quarterback Sean Mannion.

Second, the Ducks are ranked No. 2, and have beaten the Beavers six straight times - so they should win. The betting line is by nearly three touchdowns, too. This is one of the best elements an underdog has available - surprise, even if the Ducks publicly say they're fully ready. In Oregon's lone loss - to Arizona on its home field, it was rated a 23-point favorite.

And, Oregon has shown it's available for a big loss, too. At Utah, the Ducks were on their way to being down 14-0 when fate intervened in the form of a historic "Not Top 10" play. Even then, the game was 30-27 in the second half.

Third, it's on ABC. If there's a way to pump up a group of seemingly overmatched football players, just put some cameras in their faces and tell them every play they make has the potential to be a national headline.

Oregon is already in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game, so it realistically only needs to win by one point, which it did last year, 36-35 at Autzen Stadium. That's going to be in player's heads throughout the game.

Oregon Stat's best chance is a dominating start, especially on defense. And, it's performed well on defense. Against ASU, the defense gave up only 20 points as one of the Sun Devils' scores was on a fumble return.

Saturday's game looks like a blowout on paper - for Oregon fans, and maybe the world. But, it's one of the biggest wins the Beavers can ever have, one the program will celebrate for decades, and that opportunity doesn't come along very often.

 

 

 

 

 

The West is there for the taking

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:03am
Cliff Pfenning
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So here’s a crazy thought: can the Blazers finish the regular season at the top team in the Western Conference?

This idea wasn’t even on the outskirts of imaginable just three weeks ago, but since Oklahoma City has disappeared to the extent it probably isn’t even going to reach the playoffs, and the rest of the Northwest Division is still in rebuilding mode, it actually seems like a reasonable idea.

What makes it more reasonable is the comebacks the team has started to become adept at - 23 points, 16 points - and the roster depth, a key issue the past several seasons.

With the Southwest and Pacific Divisions stacked with playoff teams, Portland is likely the only divisional team that will reach the playoffs - and by a large margin since it’s clearly possible it will be the only team in the division with a winning record.

And the Blazers get 16 games against teams headed for losing records - currently they’re 3-0 against the division and have a five-game winning streak heading into a home game against Chicago Friday night.

Being the top seed in the West certainly doesn’t guarantee even one playoff series win, especially when the team is 0-3 against the Pacific Division. But, that’s homecourt advantage in every series, and they Blazers are 7-1 on their home floor.

Top team in the West? Who would have thought that three weeks ago?

Beavers Believe

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 8:23pm
Wanna Be Like Mike

Who would have thought that the Oregon State Beavers would take down one of the giants in the Pac-12 Conference?

Well, if you ask Mike Riley and the “Beaver Believers” in Corvallis, they would’ve said, “We did!”

I've given Mike Riley a hard time this year, whether it was his play calling or not lighting a fire under his players. This time, I must take my hat off to him and congratulate his team on a statement victory right before the Civil War. I’m not saying that they are going to beat the Ducks, but this win sure does give this team some much needed confidence.

Once again, Riley gets a signature win against a ranked opponent. Whether it be USC, Stanford or UCLA, Riley always seems to find a way to get a victory even when is team is only playing for pride.

The Pac-12 is loaded this year, and for the first time in a while, it seems that they can match up with any conference in the country. There’s still a lot of football to be played, but with the new playoff format and less time to prepare for your opponent, the highly touted SEC may have their work cut out for them.

When USC needs Oregon

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 11:31am
Wanna Be Like Mike

What comes to mind when you think of Mark Sanchez?

For most, it would be the infamous “butt fumble” game on Thanksgiving against the New England Patriots in 2012, which aired for 40 consecutive weeks on ESPN’s “Worst of the Worst”. For me, I think of a quarterback that made history by becoming the only other rookie QB to win two consecutive road playoff games (the other being Joe Flacco), and take his team to consecutive AFC Championship games in his first two seasons.

It’s funny how one play can change the view of an athlete’s career, but that’s just how it is.

Now, Sanchez might not step into his new starting role and light the league on fire. He’s never been that type of quarterback, as he still struggles to complete sideline passes. But, he can be more than serviceable for the Eagles offense because they have a ton of weapons, an improved defense and, most importantly, Chip Kelly’s system.

When Sanchez has had offensive weapons, a good defense and good coach, he has proven that he can win games. Let’s not forget the 2009 Rose Bowl win over Penn State, where he was the offensive MVP and set a record that still stands by completing 80 percent of his passes. With Philadelphia, he is entering into a much more comfortable system than that of former Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer. He has much better running backs (McCoy, Sproles and Polk) and receivers (Maclin, Matthews and Cooper), and a coach from the Pac-12 that knows him quite well.

Kelly has proven that he can win with any quarterback going back to his days in New Hampshire, where he coached the Walter Payton Award winner, Ricky Santos in 2006. Not to mention Darron Thomas (BCS National Championship runner-up) and Marcus Mariota (current Heisman hopeful). I’m not expecting Sanchez to be a top 10 fantasy football quarterback, but Chip Kelly’s system will help a lot of people forget about the “butt fumble” and Philadelphia fans can get excited about winning consecutive NFC East Championships.

Blazers get some good challenges

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:05pm
Cliff Pfenning
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If you watched the Blazers lose at home to Golden State Sunday night, it was a pretty crummy loss for how it played out - especially with the officials overturning a call with 14.5 seconds left that gave the Warriors the ball.

Official reviews have long been a sore spot for me, primarily with how they are managed, and how long they take. If a call cannot be quickly overturned because was a bad call and has video evidence to prove it, then it should just be left as it was called. Sunday's call, even after three minutes, never had a clear view to be overturned, but that's what reviews have turned into - make the perfect call, even if it's down to an inch.

Having a time limit on reviews would be one way to make NBA games shorter.

The bigger element from Sunday's game was simply how the Blazers struggled to find some rhythm other than Wesley Matthews and then LaMarcus Aldridge because Damian Lillard hasn't gotten in synch yet with the season. And, yet, they still almost won.

But, almost is still a win that didn't happen.

With Cleveland in town Tuesday, then Dallas on Thursday, it's not out of the possibility there's a 1-4 start ahead for Portland. Even with that start, though, the team showed a lot of grit in Sunday's game that should turn into victories long into the season. And, the bench is no longer an issue.

 

College Football Playoff

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 2:41pm
Derek Weber
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Sure the first College Football Playoff standings were interesting but don't you think the second one will be more so? Sure #3 played #4 and we'll know what happens there. But Mississippi St. and Florida St. played poor games and didn't win convincingly. Will the committee keep them ranked 1-2 just because they're undefeated? 

They’ve said they’re looking for the best teams. A 7 point win against Arkansas doesn’t seem like the best team in the country to me?

And how far does Ole Miss slip. They were ranked behind Auburn and barley lost, by inches. Do they have to move below the slew of 1 loss teams? Or do they only get dropped a little.

I think it’ll be interesting to see what the committee will do with Auburn, right now I’d move them up. I think they’re better than Miss St and FSU.

What do you think?

Time for a statement victory

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 9:13am
Cliff Pfenning
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In the wake of the disastrous loss to Arizona, the University of Oregon football team righted itself and moved directly back into the national title hunt thanks to what you might call ... routine victories.

UCLA, Washington, California. The offense scored nearly 49 points per game, and the defense showed itself to be good enough to hold opponents long enough to allow the offense to get separation on the scoreboard.

The games weren't all that special, other than some big stats being put up by quarterback Marcus Mariota and freshman tailback Royce Freeman. And, the return of Jake Fisher on the offensive line, which got the nation buzzing.

Those were routine wins - solid wins that were in doubt only for short moments. The Ducks only have to repeat that over and over through the Pac-12 Title Game. But, they could use what you might call a "Statement Win." A win that shows off they're where they were for the 46-27 win over Michigan State in Week 2, when the offense took over the second half at the same time the defense absolutely shut down the Spartans.

There's no better team to make this kind of statement against than Stanford, which played its way through the Ducks and into the Pac-12 Title Game the past two seasons, each time dropping Oregon out of the National Championship picture.

Offense on track. Defense on track - especially throughout the second half. Statement.

It certainly doesn't need to be 59-0, or 82-27, but a solid win that shows off to the nation the Ducks still own the Pac-12. Forget about the last two years with the Cardinal, and now Arizona, Oregon's in charge.

There's no Oregon fans who will complain for one second about a one-point win - the result only has to go into the win column. But, a Michigan State-level win is what the rabid UO faithful want, followed by another series of routine wins over Utah, Colorado and Oregon State. Then, another statement win over Arizona in the league title game. That should put some major flavor into the playoff semifinals, keep season tickets in high demand - and keep the recruits for coming seasons looking at Eugene as much as Tuscaloosa.

 

PSU kicks off Big Sky schedule

Sun, 10/05/2014 - 1:12am
Cliff Pfenning
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PORTLAND - Portland State scored a huge win Saturday night by beating UC Davis 23-14 in its Big Sky Conference opener at Providence Park.

The Vikings ground game was effective with 254 rushing yards; the defense stymied the Aggies, shutting them out in the first half; and an unlikely source - field goal kicking was pivotal in the win.

With the victory, PSU opens Big Sky play at 1-0 and is now 2-3 overall. The win was also a big emotional boost for a Viking team that had started Big Sky play 0-2 each of the last two seasons.

Jonathan Gonzales booted a 53-yard field goal on the Vikings first possession of the game. The boot tied for second-longest in Portland State history and gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead.

Portland State extended that lead to 10-0 with a 12-play, 88-yard drive on its next series. Kieran McDonagh scored on a six-yard quarterback keeper.

Another lengthy drive, dominated by the Viking running game, ended in another McDonagh rushing touchdown. His three-yard score with 4:11 to go in the second quarter put PSU ahead 17-0 by halftime.

McDonagh notwithstanding, the star of the first half had to be the Viking defense. PSU held the Aggies to only 70 yards on 24 offensive plays. UC Davis had three three-and-outs and no drives longer than five plays in the half.

The Aggies showed some life early in the third quarter, taking advantage of a Patrick Wells interception of a McDonagh pass. On UCD’s first play from scrimmage London Lacy hit Keelan Doss on a 36-yard touchdown, making it 17-7 PSU.

When the Aggies produced a six-play, 62-yard scoring drive late in the third quarter, UC Davis had cut the Viking advantage to 17-14.

But the Vikings’ Gonzales made the difference in the fourth quarter. He added his second field goal of the night, a 30-yarder, three minutes into the period and it was 20-14.

PSU’s defense produced two more three-and-outs. When the Viking offense took over with 6:52 left, it had a chance to put the game on ice. And it did.

The Vikings ran 14 plays, including eight runs by sophomore tailback Nate Tago, in the series. The big play came on 4th-and-2 from the Aggies 45-yard line. Tago got the two yards to extend the drive and burn the clock. With 26 seconds to go, Gonzales made his third field goal of the night, a 19-yard kick, and the Vikings were winners.

Tago finished with a career-high 106 yards on 26 carries. Shaquille Richard, who started at running back, ran 16 times for 93 yards. McDonagh completed 19-37 passes for 194 yards and two interceptions. He also rushed for 33 yards and the two first-half scores.

The Viking offense controlled the ball all night, running 94 plays, converting 13-23 third downs and maintaining more than 35 minutes of possession.

PSU’s defense had its best night of the season, holding the Aggies to 240 total yards. The Vikings shut down UCD’s running game, giving up only 44 yards on 21 carries. Viking Coach Nigel Burton expressed his pleasure with the defense when commenting on the risky fourth-down play the Vikings attempted and converted late in the game. “When coaches go for it on fourth down, what it really says is you are confident in your defense (if you don’t make it).”

Linebackers Anthony McNichols and Zach Berg and defensive tackle Junior Alexis had six tackles each to lead the Vikings.

“(The win) was ugly but effective, and sometimes those are the best ones,” said Burton. We know there is a lot we can fix, but we still got the win, and that is better than the alternative.”

Who's the sexy dude on the sideline?

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 4:00pm
Cliff Pfenning
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Oregon State released its schedule for the 2014-15 men's basketball season on Monday, and gave its loyal fans a brief on ticket prices for the 17-game homes.

And, it promoted the Las Vegas tournament the team will play in - opening with Oklahoma State. Actually a pretty good schedule to be able to make some noise in the college hoop world with an upset or two. The Beavers didn't upset much during five years under coach Craig Robinson.

OSU promoted the schedule as the first under new head coach Wayne Tinkle, who made Montana a regular in the NCAA Tournament from the Big Sky.

Nowhere, though, did the Beavers announce their new head coach was so sexy.

Not, of course to me, but to the women - or woman - of the world, primarily Nicole Shea, who works for College Basketball Insider. During the 2013-14 season, the site, collegeinsider.com, had Shea go through coaches: both head and assistants; and pick out 100 to make a list.

She put Tinkle on top.

That was before Tinkle got the nod to replace Robinson after eight years at Montana.

Here's the list:

http://collegeinsider.com/top100/

So, the Beavers moved from having the President's brother-in-law as coach to the "Sexiest Coach in College Basketball." Tinkle, who beat out PSU coach Tyler Geving for the award, even had a short acceptance speech on the site.

If you go through the list, there's a few other coaches with Oregon connections, including a former OSU head coach.

 

2014 US Open Review

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 8:01am
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Well the 2014 US Open for Roofball is in the books and I’m very happy to announce that Derek Weber, that’s me, won his/my seventh tournament.

We had 21 players competing for the 16th annual US Open and the final three came down to Christian Verkest, Dale Bernhardt, (both one-time RFA Cup Champs) and myself. Christian and I advanced to the finals were Christian got off to a solid start with an around in the second inning. We traded throws until Christian needed a ping and a catch on his last throw to tie. Christian let the ball go and hit the pole, now all he needed was a catch, but the ball took a huge bounce to the right and went to far for him to catch it. I threw my last throw not needing anything got a simple catch. Final score of 40-38.

Seven women participants played setting a record for most women competitors in one tournament. Try as they might they could not beat Amy Determan who won her fifth Woman’s Title. She tied her own single-game score with a 47. One newcomer made the semi's as Devin Humpage threw a 26, 37, 25.

The next tournament, the Roofball games, will be played in September. Stay tuned for more details.

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