Nail in the coffin
Published: Thursday, November 3, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 21:07
I can't tell you how long I have been holding off on this column.
It's been nine weeks—and six losses—in the making.
I gave the Beavers time. Mike Riley deserved as much.
After all, Oregon State went 32-13 in non-September games between 2006 and 2010.
Even with the team as young as it is, I figured there was a realistic chance they'd finish the season with a respectable four or five wins.
They'd turn it around to some degree. They'd beat somebody they weren't supposed to beat.
I wasn't ready to write the season off.
Now, I am.
It's not because of Oregon State's 2-6 record. It's not the fact that they looked as bad as they've looked all season in last week's 27-8 loss at the University of Utah.
Sure, the on-the-field struggles contribute to my doubts. But the final straw was this: The majority of OSU students have lost faith.
That, without question, is the nail in Riley's team's coffin.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, 700 student tickets remained available for Saturday's contest against No. 4 Stanford.
The Cardinal, led by Heisman frontrunner Andrew Luck, have national title aspirations.
And they're 21.5-point favorites Saturday.
A winnable game for the Beavers? On paper, the answer is no.
But we've been here before, have we not?
In 2006, the No. 3 ranked University of Southern California—winners of 27 consecutive conference games—came to Corvallis and lost to an Oregon State team that had been beaten by Washington State University at home just three weeks earlier.
In 2008, the top-ranked Trojans fell to the 25-point underdog Beavers.
Oregon State has been down in the dumps before. But they've never lost the support of their fans—in particular, the student body.
For the 2008 USC game, the line for student tickets Sunday night wrapped around the Reser Stadium parking lot. Nevermind the fact that Oregon State was 1-2.
If you waited until Monday morning—when the tickets were distributed—you got stuck in the end zone.
Even last year, when Oregon State entered the Civil War as heavy underdogs, the line of tents Sunday night was as long as it has ever been.
The students didn't care that the odds were stacked against their team. They still believed. They kept the faith.
In all three aforementioned cases, the support for the Beavers was through the roof. The energy in Reser—the fact that the student section was full an hour before kickoff—propelled the team to greater heights. In the USC cases, it resulted in wins.
This year? This week, in particular? That energy is nowhere to be found.
Sunday night, the line of campers was shorter than it's been this year. Shorter than it's been in years.
If you went at 6:30 a.m. Monday morning, you still got a seat on the 50-yard-line. That was previously unheard of.
I asked the young man distributing tickets Thursday afternoon if he had ever seen the demand for tickets as low as it's been this week.
"Never," he said. Then he proceeded to rehash the glory days, when students used to "jump over one another" for a ticket.
If Oregon State were to win Saturday, it'd go down as one of the biggest, most improbable wins in program history. Right up there with the '06 and '08 USC games.
But Oregon State has no chance. At least, that's the vibe around campus.
The fact that so many students don't even care to be present for a potential historical win speaks volumes.
Some would say it's a bad reflection on the fans. They're supposed to support their school through thick and thin, right?
But that's a different matter for a different day.
And maybe the student body will have a change in heart, overnight, and show up in full force Saturday. Maybe the student section will be full and loud by noon.
But if this week's "rush" for tickets is any indication, I think it's safe to say that won't happen.
The student body's loss of faith is similar to a parent giving up on a child.
When your parents have lost faith in you, you know you have hit rock bottom.
Rock bottom, meet the 2011 Beavers.
Grady Garrett, sports editor