OSU quarterback needs to regain faith
Derek Anderson, coach rally to buck discouraging mood of last two weeks
TEMPE, Ariz. Ñ It doesn't matter what anybody thinks Ñ fans, media, chat-room freaks Ñ Derek Anderson knows he needs to do better.
Outside influences are one thing, but when Tim Lappano tells it to you straight, take it to the bank.
'I was the first guy to tell Derek Ñ and I did it right in front of the offense Ñ there are some areas he is not playing good in right now,' says Oregon State's offensive coordinator, who hopes to get Anderson back into full throttle in Saturday night's visit to Arizona State. 'It's not all on him. We also have to play more physical up front for him. Those are things everybody knows, and they have to be willing to accept that.'
For four weeks, Anderson stood the opposition on its ears, throwing for 1,201 yards and 15 touchdowns with only one interception Ñ earning the No. 2 pass efficiency ranking in the nation Ñ as Oregon State swept to a 4-0 record. But the last two weeks have been more nightmarish than dreamy for the 6-6, 235-pound sophomore from Scappoose. There was the 8-for-30 day, for 80 yards, in the 22-0 shutout at Southern California. Then the better but still dreary 16 for 41, for 216 yards and two TDs, in a 43-35 loss to UCLA.
The fallout has been remarkable. Anderson has gone from being the toast of the Pac-10 to just another quarterback. Anderson acknowledges his confidence has been shaken.
'I have had to learn everything is not going to be perfect every week,' he says. 'Our first four games were pretty peaceful. The last two games, pretty tough. It is frustrating, but I have to fight through it and stay confident. I know I can do it.'
Anderson hasn't ducked any questions from the media after either game. It is part of the reason he has the respect of his teammates and coaches.
'Derek is a stand-up guy,' OSU coach Dennis Erickson says. 'Hey, he is a 19-year-old sophomore. There is a lot of pressure on him. But he will learn more from those last two games than he did the first four. Look at the development of the young quarterbacks in our league, at where Cory Paus and Carson Palmer and Jason Gesser were two or three years ago. Derek is going to grow up a little more every game. He just has to stay with it and not get down.'
You won't see Adam Rothenfluh thrown into battle unless Anderson gets hurt. He is the guy, through thick and thin. Thing is, Beaver coaches expected there to be thin.
'I said last spring, there are going to be times this year when people 'ooh' and 'ahh' about how good he is, and that happened,' Lappano says. 'Now all of a sudden, they are going, 'What happened to Derek?' He is going through the learning curve. There were a couple of times in the UCLA game where he had time to set his feet, and he just misfired.
Says receiver James Newson: 'Derek is a great quarterback. We need to give him time to make decisions. Quarterbacks can't keep moving in the pocket like that. We have a great running back, too. We have to get our running game going a little, and that will open up the passing game.'
Lappano will do what he can to fill that order Saturday night. The Beavers have cut the playbook back to about half of what it was the first two weeks of the season. They will maximize their pass protection, eschewing the four- and five-man pass plays to keep more blockers in and eliminate some of the QB's decision making.
'It will give Derek easier reads, almost tell him where to go with the ball,' Lappano says. 'Right now he is not able to get off his first receiver and go to his second and third progression. Let him throw a few streaks, which is the best opportunity for our team to score points.
'The first four weeks, the same few plays were working, and I just kept running them. That has not been the case the last two weeks. We have been scrambling to find anything that works. We need to be able to run the ball, and this week we will be throwing to set up the run rather than run to set up the pass.'