Oregon St. makes their first trip to Boulder since Colorado came into the Pac-12 Conference 4 years ago this Saturday. It's a "bounce-back" opportunity for both the Beavers and the Buffs, after both came away disappointed from California road trips last weekend.
Oregon St. had an awful outing offensively, and it wasted a good defensive effort in the LA Coliseum. USC was only up 21-10 at the start of the 4th quarter, and 2 of the Trojans' 3 touchdowns came from a pick-6 and an unlikely hail-Mary on the last play before half time.
But because the Oregon St. offense only generated 35 net yards in the second half, including 4 3 and punts, the Beaver defense wore out, and USC pulled away to win 35-10.
Colorado had no such problem with their offense in Berkeley, as Sefo Liufau completed 46 passes for 455 yards and 7 touchdowns, and ran for 72 more. Nelson spruce caught 19 of them, setting a new Buff team record for catches for the second game in a row, for 179 yards, and 3 of the touchdowns.
But the Buff defense allowed California quarterback Jared Goff to come up golden, throwing for 458 yards, and 7 touchdowns of his own, which set a record for total touchdown tosses in a game.
Colorado also missed 3 field goals, which not only necessitated overtime, it prompted second year Buffs Coach Mike MacIntyre to gamble on 4th down in the second overtime, even given it was at close range for a field goal. When the Bear defense made a rare stop, the decision essentially lost the game, as it only took a modest game to set up a game winning chip shot field goal.
This game is about which team emotionally bounces back the best from a road loss that, while very different between the two games, was also very heart breaking in their own way. Those kinds of losses can both ruin a season, but they can also save one, depending on how a team recovers. However, one of these teams will take a second loss in a row on Saturday, and that could be a season destroyer, even if that team plays tremendously tomorrow.
As such, this is a very big game for both, and especially Oregon St., though Colorado also entertained some degree of post season hopes coming into the season. While neither team will be eliminated by a loss today of any type, realistically, its hard to envision how the loser rallies in the tough Pac-12 for enough wins to get to play in December.
Oregon St. struggled to throw the ball, and didn't do so in the middle of the field at all, with Victor Bolden absent. An inexperienced remainder of the wide receiving corp, coupled with a second consecutive game where the tight end pass receiving component had to largely be sacrificed in order to bolster an inadequate offensive line, resulted in the worst outing of quarterback Sean Mannion's career.
The Beavers inexplicably also abandoned a running game that had substantially out-gained the Trojan's backs before the break in the second half.
The Buff defense could be the perfect get-well opportunity for all those offensive ailments, and its on the Oregon St. coaching staff to make sure they capitalize on the opportunity. If they fail, Mannion, as the senior leader, will need to do so himself, making whatever audible call necessary to ensure Storm Woods and Terron Ward both have big games, and that he has his own big game, getting back to spread it around offense that makes Buffalo steaks out of the Buff defense, AND helps keep a still beat up Oregon St. defense off the field for a few minutes at a time a few times, and by implication, keeps Liufau and Spruce where they can't hurt the Beavers, on the sideline.
The exact Xs & Os aren't that important, but a good balance of good plays is.
Colorado's defense isn't great, but it isn't a case of a single position group or type of attack that bears most of the responsibility, despite appearances of the California stat sheet. The Buffs rank in the 70s nationally against both the run and the pass, which makes a balanced Oregon St. game plan all the more important.
Colorado.s biggest problem is depth, and by implication, versatility and flexibility. This should play into the hands of a veteran quarterback like Mannion, and a veteran defense, with 8 senior starters. Oregon St. must make sure it plays out that way.
Beaver Believer's Keys To The Game:
Ah, well that trip to LA area sure did not end being a trip to Disneyland, or even to In-N-Out Burger, for Oregon State last weekend. I was frankly surprised by how effective the Trojans were in shutting down the OSU offense and frustrating the heck out of Mannion. I was also surprised by that lack of adjustments, or execution of any adjustments made by the Beavs to counter the SC game plan. In the end I am not sure I expected a win coming out of LA, but did expect more of a back-and-forth game. All of which brings me to the Colorado match up this weekend. Beavs have a tall order, and not only to slow down a pass happy offense that co-set records last week, but in many ways the true tallness of the order stems from the Beavs need to bounce back to own this game and find some chemistry on offense.
How to do that? Here are some of the areas I feel will be key:
Mannion: Sean needs to have a big bounce back game. Sure his line was the big issue against the SC pass rush, but Mannion needs to step up his mental game and get pissed! Okay, probably won't go that far for him for from what I have seen of his presentation in the media he is a focused and humble player. Indeed Mannion has become one of my personal favorite players to go through this program because of his quiet and humble leadership, but once in awhile you got to find some anger and take it out on the other team. He needs a big game from his line yes (more on this below), but he also needs to take it upon himself. If he gets hit, sacked, knocked down, he needs to say okay that is how you want to play come at me again and I am going to burn you all for a 30 yard gain. I think the fire is there, however low-key Sean likes to present it, but SC got into his head and he can't let this happen again. He's the leader of this team.
Offensive Line: There is probably so much more to say about this area, but really it comes down to the offensive line needs to take control of this game on their side of the ball. The performance against USC was not good, it is time for the big guys to protect Mannion, establish the run game, and make a statement.
Defense: I actually thought the defense was pretty decent against USC. The Hail Mary TD they gave up at the end of the half was a killer yes, but at the same time the defense held strong for most of the game. The defense really was the difference between that game being one that could have been a total blowout and a game where the team was actually still in it through three quarters. It just became too much being on the field for almost 35 minutes of play as the offense struggled to control any of the clock and field. Colorado is going to pass and pass often (they threw it for 67 times against Cal, 45 against Hawai'i, and 54 against ASU).
This constant passing attack will be a challenge for the secondary, but I see people like Steven Nelson taking things personally against the hype of the Buffaloes passing game and their star receiver Nelson Spruce. Something is going to have to give in this game, and if the OSU offense can control more of the clock and game on their side of the ball I like the Beavs' defense in this one.
Colorado: Okay, I am going to come out and say this outright and I semi-apologize if I come off as arrogant, but the Buffaloes are not as good and deep of a team as Oregon State. I do not see how Colorado can go out and just plain out skill win this game over the Beavs, BUT I think Colorado is good and dangerous enough to be a team to make OSU pay dearly if the Beavs make mistakes, come out flat, and get frustrated again. Colorado is coming off a heart breaker of their own and playing at home will help them channel some of their disappointment into some fire, but if the Beavs can bring their own take-it-personal fire I don't see how Colorado can stay step-in-step/toe-to-toe with Oregon State's offense or defense. But to be realistic and hopefully dispel my seemingly over-confidence here, Colorado can win this game. The Beavs need to ready and take this team extremely seriously.
In the end this game could be VERY dangerous if the Beavs do not come in with their 'A' or 'B' game. As noted above Oregon State is a more talented team, but I do want to emphasize again that Colorado is plenty good enough to exploit the type of miscues and lack of adjustments we have seen in the poorer performances from this Beavs team. At the same time this is a really nice chance for Oregon State to help take the bitter taste of the loss to SC last week out of their mouths. Additionally, this is a hugely important conference game at a crucial point of the season in which the Beavs would love to gain some momentum going into a match up against a tough Utah team and then Stanford. This Saturday, (earlier Saturday, yes!), we should get a very good idea of what this Oregon State football team is made of.