CORVALLIS — So how did the Oregon State Beavers go from 3-9 to 9-3 and, now, to the Alamo Bowl? They wanted to.
It sounds simple enough, the "Want To'' slogan the Beavers have adopted in 2012. But those six letters represent an offseason's worth of sweat that changed a culture, and with key senior leaders leaving, what next?
WHEN, WHERE: Dec. 29, 3:45 p.m., at San Antonio.
"We've got to take it to another level because now they believe in it,'' strength and conditioning coach Bryan Miller said.
Miller and coach Mike Riley met in January, putting their heads together to try to bring about a winning attitude after going 8-16 in two seasons. The culture had to change. So Miller went to his team leaders with a simple message.
"I said, 'You guys are not here to play football. You guys are here to win games. Take care of it,'" Miller said.
Take care of it they did.
The leaders-by-example became more vocal, calling out teammates who were late to meetings or workouts.
"Something had to change,'' cornerback Rashaad Reynolds said. "We had to make sure every person is here for the right reasons. And we needed vocal leaders. We didn't have vocal leaders the last couple of years, and I think that hurt us a lot.''
Bryan Miller Miller's offseason conditioning program didn't change that much, but the intensity did, and so did the competitiveness. Riley and Miller had a message, and they also had a receptive audience. Everybody was tired of playing football and not winning.
"We were watching all these bowl games and thinking, 'we would have been there if we had put in a little extra work in the offseason,'" receiver Kevin Cummings said. "That's what fueled us. We didn't want to be sitting home again."
Defensive end Dylan Wynn said that fuel carried the Beavers through a grueling summer, but would it just burn itself out if the wins didn't come?
"No one said it, but we were thinking, like, 'Wow, we better not have the same season we had last year,' because we were dying in the weight room,'' Wynn said of the summer work. "It was hard to walk around school and stuff. But with that gratification that comes from seeing the fruits of our labor, I expect our offseason to be incredibly better than last offseason.''
Markus Wheaton and Jordan Poyer, the team's offensive and defensive leaders, will not be around this summer to keep teammates accountable. In their place will be receiver Brandin Cooks and center Isaac Seumalo, Reynolds and Wynn.
"We'll have ample numbers to be able to step up and do that — maybe more than a year ago,'' said Riley, who also mentioned running back Storm Woods, linebacker D.J. Alexander and safeties Tyrequek Zimmerman and Ryan Murphy.
And the team's leading tackler, linebacker Michael Doctor.
"He's probably the biggest one we need to step up and be more vocal,'' said Reynolds, who is a natural for the part. "Everybody has days when their mind's not in it. That's when you need somebody to set you right. We're all family, we love each other, but if I have to get in your face sometimes, then that's what I'll do.''
It was a change in the style of leadership that has paid big dividends for Oregon State.
"They weren't just leading by example anymore,'' Miller said. "They were very aggressively telling players what they expect and they were holding them to that level every single day.''
As for the physical part, Miller challenged the team's toughness.
"How can we have some guys who come back from an injury in two weeks and we have other guys with the same injury who come back in three months?'' Miller said. "What's the difference? Want to.
"Same with performance. How come this guy is running that much faster than this other guy? He wanted to. They bought into it from a training perspective, as far as what they wanted to achieve, and also where they wanted this team to get to. It was the perfect storm of leadership and a change in culture."
Now, the Beavers are happily without the fuel of sitting at home watching bowl games. But they do have the fruits of their winning attitude — not to mention three weeks of football training in December that they did not have the past two years.
Wynn says the change in attitude has only just begun to bear fruit.
"This last offseason," Wynn said, "had a huge impact on who we're becoming."