|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Beaver players rally around embattled defensive coach

  • Dylan Wynn already knows what you're thinking.
    • email print
  • Dylan Wynn already knows what you're thinking.
    The Oregon State junior defensive end may ignore outside influences as much as possible, and he believes it when he says, "The only voices that matter are the ones in the locker room."
    But Wynn is not dumb, and in a world where teenagers are connected to their phone 24-7 and nearly everyone is a member of Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or SnapChat, it only takes a few seconds for a fan to type out their disgust and broadcast it to the world.
    Despite the Beavers' crazy, dramatic, come-from-behind 51-48 overtime win at Utah on Saturday night — the first time they've won in Salt Lake City since 1968 — there were more calls for the replacement of OSU defensive coordinator Mark Banker.
    After the defensive meltdown in the opening game against Eastern Washington, everyone blamed Banker. He doesn't know how to stop a mobile quarterback, fans said, and the evidence didn't dispute it. EWU quarterback Vernon Adams ran all over the OSU defense for 107 yards, and he passed for 411 more.
    The next week, the Beavers held Hawaii to 239 yards of offense. But then everyone said Hawaii quarterback Taylor Graham isn't good, the Hawaii offense can't do anything anyway, and could Mike Riley just fire Banker already, please?
    Saturday at Utah, the Beavers dominated the line of scrimmage in the first 30 minutes, suffocating the Utes' run game.
    But in the second half Utah quarterback Travis Wilson did any and everything he wanted, rushing for 142 yards and three touchdowns and putting Utah back in front. It took a heroic effort from Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks for the Beavers to win. The Utes didn't punt once in the second half. Again, calls for Banker's head.
    Wynn is sick of it.
    "This has absolutely nothing to do with our coaches," Wynn said. "I think, especially in college and professional football, things get blamed on the coaches way too fast. But players play the game, and what's happening, it's absolutely not them."
    The defense gave up 48 points, a score that made Wynn shake his head in disgust. But everyone seems to be forgetting — or dismissing — the three interceptions OSU grabbed, two of which turned into touchdowns. Without those takeaways, the Beavers lose. Does Banker get any credit for that?
    The Beavers were bad in the second half but good enough in overtime, forcing Utah to settle for a field goal, which set up the Mannion-to-Cooks touchdown for the win. Mannion said that defensive stop gave the offense some energy and more confidence to be aggressive. Lots of people don't want to acknowledge Banker there, either.
    And maybe they never will. Like Wynn said, players are the one making or missing plays.
    "Our defense was on the field so long, sometimes because we went three-and-out," Cooks said. "They're bound to give up something. But we don't win this game without the defense. And we got three picks — that should quiet the haters for a while."
    Don't count on it. Fans are frustrated, and even another nine-win season might not fix it. But Banker should be given a little credit for a big win in a hostile environment. OSU was ready for everything in the first half, and Riley said Sunday that the breakdowns in the second half were due to the defense not staying "disciplined when it came to the curveballs they could throw. We didn't always stay true to our assignment, and we tried to do somebody else's job. That usually turns out bad."
    The Beavers knew what to do and what to expect, but they weren't sound on assignments.
    That's on the players, not Banker. And clearly Banker was doing something right in defensive huddles because he kept his players focused and somehow they managed to hang in right until the end, when they stuffed the Utes' run game in overtime.
    Coaches, who have dealt with angry, vocal fans for most their careers, know how to block out negativity. Players are learning to do the same. In the last couple weeks, as "the hate has come out strong," according to cornerback Sean Martin, players have closed ranks.
    "We don't pay attention to what other people say. What matters is our team — the people in the locker room, that's who I care about," Martin said. "Those are the only people whose opinions matter. And we're getting better. It's only a matter of time before people see what we've got."
    Fans will probably remain skeptical, and that's OK with Wynn and Martin. They've got a leader they believe in, a big road win over a conference opponent and growing confidence in a group that's shown marked improvement with each week.
    And as long as everyone in the locker room knows it, that's all that matters.
Reader Reaction
      • calendar