Oregon State is halfway through their last multi-game road swing of the season, and halfway through the season as well, and our buddy Avinash Kunnath from Pacific Takes once again posed some interesting questions, looking both back at the win in Pullman and the task ahead in Berkeley.
Av: What were the biggest positives to take away from Oregon State's win over Washington State? What impressed you the most about Washington St. in defeat?
RVM: I feel overall I was most impressed that Oregon State won in the end in such a dominating fashion. It looked to be a tough fought deal for a good three quarters and this seemed to bode ill for the Beavs in that a lot of the hype coming into this one was WSU having a breakout win over the Beavs to show a bit of a changing of guard in the Pac North.
But OSU's defense keep their heads and adjusted from what looked like coverages that could have been totally exploited for the fourth quarter, and then you have Mannion doing his thing driving the field to score a tying TD after WSU went up 24 to 17. I liked the overall message it sent that OSU football is not quite done and they are not ready to move over yet.
WSU though looked tough for three quarters for sure, and seems like they have some solid potential to keep building upon. They are not going to win this week, but do have a chance to make some noise against the #2 team in the country to find some of their swagger back--even if they can't fully keep pace for an entire game Saturday--and as such build upon that recovered swagger for they have other winnable games coming up.
Andy: The Oregon St. defense, while not dominant early, also was at least able to play overall about even, and then they were the ones that made the adjustments, and changed the game. The Oregon St. offensive game went about as I expected.
Washington St. I thought actually overall out-played Oregon St. for about 2/3 of the game, and dictated style and tempo. But once things got dicey, they were unable to stick with the run as a portion of their package. As frustrating as it was for Coug fans, and as rough as its likely to get in Autzen this week, I do think they need to not panic (I actually heard some talk about benching and abandoning Connor Halliday, which is crazy talk, he's still solidly #3 in the nation in passing yards), as it appears they are headed in the right direction; its just going to take a long time to get out of a hole they spent a long time digging into. There's better team speed there now, and as they continue to recruit, things will continue to improve.
Connor: A couple of things stand out, namely our defense's ability to stiffen up when Washington State would begin driving into Beaver territory in the first half. I don't know if that can be classified as "bending but not breaking" (except on the opening drive), but it certainly kept the game close, so when the Cougars scored 14 straight to open the second half, the deficit didn't seem insurmountable.
And of course, how could you not be impressed with the fourth quarter? Did Wazzu unravel? Of course, but we still did everything needed to take advantage of the mistakes and put the game out of reach. Being down seven and with all the momentum on the WSU sideline, the guys kept their composure and ended up getting a blowout road victory. That may be even bigger down the road than it seems right now.
Av: What were the biggest negatives? Where did Oregon State show the most vulnerability?
RVM: As noted about the game overall the defense looked to be on their heels in that third quarter for sure, but I don't know it just was refreshing to see them play up a notch and adjust to force some of those turnovers and give Mannion and Co. short fields. But the OSU defense still is a work in progress. The defensive backs are taking a beating overall for many of the issues, but I do think the pass rush has not been as sharp as it should/could be.
The rushing game needs to bring it up a notch or two. Not sure I am totally liking the up-the-middle-smash-mouth approach with our current rushers, they don't seem to be that type of athletes and as such would like see some mixing up of schemes in the running game to get the guys more around the corners.
Andy: Connor Hamlett aggravated his bruised knee, and will apparently miss the California game. That's a big loss, figuratively and literally.
I was also concerned at how much trouble the Oregon St. defense had with the run at times. The nickel really puts a lot of responsibility on the remaining 2 LBs, and there were mistakes made, ones good spread teams will notice too.
The running game made only small, incremental progress, and that eventually has to change if things are to go well for the Beavers. I was hoping to see Storm Woods in the open some how or other more.
Connor: As Robert and Andy already hit on, our defense looked confused and off balance at times. Connor Halliday spread the ball around with precision early on and took advantage of the cushion being given by our corners. And then as soon as we would get a stop and a little spurt of energy, we'd be dashed for six or seven yards on the ground up the middle. That doesn't exactly bode well for the Bear Raid this Saturday in Berkeley.
Av: Oregon State now faces what figures to be a shootout with Cal. What do you see as the keys to victory on Saturday?
RVM: Smart play and play to your strengths to go up nice and big on Cal, and yes for both sides of the ball here. Then see if you can step up the rushing game to run the game out enough to get some of the non-regulars in there. Of course no overlooking of this game, prep for it and play the game like you up against a team that will want to smack you around to revenge last year's blow out (which I assume will be the case), which again means just play smart don't lower yourselves to the smack. Let Mannion scoring at will and the
defense forcing multiple turnovers be your smack.
Andy: Be prepared and ready to react to something unexpected that Cal throws at them. The Bears are injured and have a lot of young players. If the Beavers can avoid getting in early trouble, experience and depth will win out; Oregon St. just has to make sure it has a chance to.
Connor: Don't do anything too stupid. California will make mistakes, just as Wazzu did. As long as we stay grounded and don't make any dumb turnovers inside our own 20, this will be a double-digit Beaver victory.