Final Thoughts On The Season Opener

It's time to return to Reser! Are you ready for some football?! - Photo by Andy Wooldridge

After 8 months, its here! That's the first and best thing about today's game.

There's much more though, from new uniforms, a new logo, and of course, the high expectations that come with having most of the squad back from a team that finished a top-20 season. As a result, this is only the third time Oregon St. has started the season ranked in both polls, though that's in part because back in the day, there was only a top 10, and several Beaver squads would have easily been in the top 25 had the polls gone that deep.

Beaver Nation is more excited than they have been at the start of a season in several years, and maybe a little less nervous now that they have had almost a week to settle into the knowledge that Sean Mannion will start today.

Tail-gating got into high gear last year after Oregon St. got rolling, but it's bound to be more fun than ever today, as the anticipation starts high and builds from there.

Almost lost in the excitement is the fact that Eastern Washington is in town, and a better team than many realize, despite being a FCS program from the Big Sky. Recalling the 21-19 win in 2000 by what turned out to be the best Beaver team ever might be a good idea. The Eagles are ranked #4 in the nation in the FCS, and lost by 3 at Washington 2 years ago, and 4 at Washington St. last season.

And the Eagles have 8 wins against FBS opponents. They aren't flying into Reser just for a paycheck.

Andy's Analysis:

The Eagles represent a serious challenge, and one that Oregon St. can't look past. Fortunately, news of the 24-21 come-from-behind win by FCS North Dakota St. at Big XII defending champion Kansas St. last night should ensure that doesn't happen.

They also represent what should be a great springboard to the strong start to the season that's mandatory if the Beavers are going to have the year all the chainsaw revving would lead you to expect.

The potent Eastern Washington passing offense will test the Oregon St. secondary, and the Beavers will probably have to hang considerable points on the board to get the win. Sean Mannion, Storm Woods, Brandin Cooks, and probably even Connor Hamlett should do that, and this could be the opportunity for Kevin Cummings, Richard Mullaney, or Obum Gwacham to also have the confidence inspiring day it appears they need to fulfill the potential they have all flashed at times, and the Beavers will need come the stretch drive.

There's also enough players on this team that recall Sacramento St. (not to mention last year in Seattle, Palo Alto, and San Antonio, and the year before in Salt Lake City and San Francisco), so its hard to imagine a repeat of those exercises occurring today.

Execution with controlled aggression, by both the players and the coaches, should be the goal of the day; if the Beavers can deliver that, another special September should be on the way.

BeaverBeliever's Keys To The Game:

1) Run the Ball. The Beavs should be superior on the lines, specifically the offensive line should be a definite advantage, or at least should have been. There is some uncertainty with Gavin Andrews going out with mono, but Enger is a fine fit at tackle and Sapolu needs to prove if he can play as a junior. The run game will need to be much improved this year, the pass game cannot be as productive without Markus Wheaton, and so the offense will need to make up for that in other ways.

2) Don't Make Mistakes. Oregon State should have a physical advantage and so execution will be critical. Eastern Washington is number 3 or 4 (depending on which poll you use) in the FCS for a reason; they are well coached, and given an opportunity they could steal one from the Beavs. OSU should be able to beat up EWU with the lines and if Oregon State doesn't give them any extra life the Beavs should be in the driver's seat.

3) Jump Out Early. OSU should know that they are the more talented team and is it important that they jump out to an early lead, and snuff the belief right out of Eastern Washington. The Beavs have not always been great at taking care of opponents quickly, but with all the various injuries it would be great if Oregon State could get a big enough lead in order to get some second-stringers to get in the game.

Eastern Washington will put up a good fight, but I see Oregon State taking over in the second half. 34-17 Beavs.

Connor's Comments:

While Eastern Washington is a very solid FCS opponent, the Eagles lost a lot of talent off last year's 11 win team. Three starting wide receivers have graduated (all to NFL camps), as did an All-American offensive linemen. And while EWU will come in jacked up and ready for an upset, implementing a handful of new starters on each side of the ball is going to result in some rough patches early on.

Even with the recent troubles on Oregon State's offensive line, they still heavily outmatch the Eagle's D-Line. As with any FBS-FCS matchup, the Beavers should be able to pound the middle with ease. That will set up things through the air as well, giving guys like Richard Mullaney and Kevin Cummings a chance to get their feet wet in a game situation.

A couple things intrigue me in this one. One is to see how Victor Bolden looks. He'll be returning kicks and should get some time at flanker late in the game. Also interesting will be the play of Cody Vaz. Assuming we're up enough to get him in, how he reacts to playing with the two's will be a reason to stay in Reser for the duration of the afternoon.

At the end of the day, the Eagles will not be a pushover, but this should be a fairly easy victory. I'll take the Beavers for a 38-17 win.

Figgi Figures:

We all know that EWU is a strong FCS team, but in the end, they're still an FCS team. Oregon State is poised to be a strong FBS team. While this won't be a replay of 2012 Nicholls St., it also won't be a replay of 2011 Sacramento St..

I fully expect the Beavs to take this by 3 touchdowns. I bet EWU hangs around for the first quarter or half, but in the end this Beavers squad is just too good to have serious troubles with the Eagles.

It's week 1, so really I just hope to get some information about the areas we're unsure about as of now. Both lines, Joel Skotte, Victor Bolden. I also want to see a #2 receiver, productive tight end play, and Cody Vaz. Only that last one because that means it's a blowout.

Happy gameday, happy football season!

Robert's Thoughts:

Here we go again! RVM is out of his summer/end of baseball sabbatical and football, is about to take the field again in Corvallis! It has been a semi-interesting but in many ways a non-eventful football summer, at least outside College Station.

I have to be honest though, and much of my sporting analysis has been zoning out on "Hardwood Classics" on the NBA channel. But back to football, and we saw some injuries here and there, and a QB competition that personally I am not sure was as big of a deal as it was made out to be. I know there is a danger with hindsight, but really Mannion looked last year, before his injury much more a starter than Vaz ever really did. Sure Cody had a great game against BYU, but once the film got out there he never had a game close to what we saw with Sean's game against Arizona (watching the Pac-12 replay of that UA game sold me over again of who should be the starter). Glad that talk is done for now and ready to see both on the field.

And now time to get down to the brass tacks and keys to this weekend's game:

1. Sean Mannion/Cody Vaz? How will the QBs respond to their assigned roles in this first game? Even though Sean has my starter vote, he still did not finish strongly last year and just never looked to fully recover from his downtime. Will he hit the ground throwing with confidence and attitude? If not, will Cody show improvement and demonstrate that maybe yes there is something to this QB battle?

2. Running game? How will this pan out in the first game? Against this type of opponent it would be nice to see Woods and Ward both play like stars (a RB competition for the top slot would be cool actually), and will we have two backs with around 100 yards apiece between the two of them? And can both stay healthy in this first game? Neither is a Quizz or a Jackson, and it is going to be a throwing type of offense I am sure with Sean back there, but at the same time I would like to see some more production out of the backfield to relieve the pressure on the QB this season. Both backs last year seemed a bit overly prone to injuries and would like to see stronger and smarter running out of them both.

3. TEs? I will go out on a limb here and say if Sean stays healthy, the O-line continues to improve, and with the receivers we have that this could be a top 10 type of offense IF we can ALSO get some solid TE support in the passing game. I especially have missed the NFL caliber Tim Euhus and Joe Netwton over-the-middle receiving support. More recently Joe Halahuni gave us glimpses of that for sure but with his graduation the TE position just has not seemed as consistent as we have been used to. As such just would love to see this extra dimension take full form this year with Hamlett and Smith (or one of the guys behind them on the chart). This may not be the best game to be a good indicator of this aspect of the offense, but I am throwing it out there as a longer term "key to the season."

4. I assume? That the defense and receiving will indeed be up to standard this season, so let's see how this initial game pans out for that assumption.

5. Mike Riley? Are we going to have that annual fan base debate about Mike? My own expectations fall along the lines of a nine or ten win season. I think the team is posed well coming off a confident season last year and still finding themselves in that nice OSU place of flying a little under the radar. Coach Riley and Co. do not have an easy task with a bottom heavy schedule and playing in the strong North, but I expect and wish the best out of Riley this season (and to show my Riley fanclub colors, if you have not seen this wonderful story, I recommend checking it out: Oregon State's Mike Riley: Coach's faith held family, football together amid birth, death, lost seasons). Keep it going Coach, and keep the heads-need-to-roll talk off the table this year!

6. Eastern Washington? Okay, so yes they are a Big Sky team, but as noted previously on BtD this could well be the best team we see in Reser until the Stanford game. A preseason top 25 ranked Pac-12 team as OSU is should be big favorites in this game, and I really don't see it as a true trap game. At the same time, I do worry a little that this could be a bit more of a hard-hitting battle than is needed for this type of match-up. Will the Beavs be able to put away the Eagles early enough to spell the first teamers and keep people healthy? It also looks like the Eagles are a passing focused offense, so it will be interesting to see if OSU can play a strong ball control game on offense and if the passing defense can shut down Eastern Washington early and often. Expectation? My expectation is a yes for both. Don't think it will be a repeat of the Nichols State game last year, but definitely not a Sacramento State repeat from 2011!

The weather has cooled off, we have got our previews of rain (albeit humid previews, and a temporary return to high heat today), school is right around corner for the K-12 crowd, and school supplies need to be bought, and it is starting to just get a little bit of that autumn football feel. I don't know if I am quite ready yet, for these August starts to the season have always felt too early for me, but with a fun and impressive OSU win this weekend I will sure begin to get into it a lot more!

Go Beavs!

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