Oregon St. makes their second trip to the islands for a football game in less than 9 months, this time to take on Hawaii, after playing in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl last Christmas Eve. That should reduce the distraction factor that paradise can produce.
Decisive wins in both that bowl game, a 38-23 win over Boise St., and in last year's game against Hawaii, a 33-14 victory at Reser, should help too.
Head coach Mike Riley also opted to have the team stay on the north shore, away from a lot of the Honolulu hub-bub, a tactic that has worked for the Beavers before as well; Oregon St. defeated a Hawaii team that wound up 11-3 by a 35-32 score in 2006 that started their current 3 game win streak against the Warriors.
There's of course a lot of other aspects that will be important; there almost always are in football, but the first priority is slowing down 245 lb. running back/battering ram Joey Iosefa. Iosefa ran for 143 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries against Washington, a game that Hawaii lost 17-16 mostly only because John Ross got loose a couple of times.
Iosefa probably won't beat the Beavers single-handedly, but if he can consistently run the ball, it will not only open up other offensive options for Hawaii, it will also dramatically eat into the kind of time of possession edge Oregon St. had against Portland St. (seconds short of a 2:1 advantage), which mitigated the issues with trying to sort out their offensive line, and figure out their wide receiver situation.
The Oregon St. defense is good enough to handle anything Hawaii can dish out if they curb their best first option without having to totally sell out to do so. But it will be a much stiffer challenge for a defensive line that played pretty well in the opener.
Offensively, Sean Mannion should settle into a more consistent and comfortable rhythm, and improve on his accuracy as a result. The o-line won't be that much better yet, but they will be better. And the tight ends and WRs Victor Bolden and Richard Mullaney will continue to be good enough that perhaps a 3rd WR will if not emerge, at least make an appearance.
It should all lead to another game in which Oregon St.'s greater depth and flexibility eventually wears down and pulls away from an out-manned in places opponent, similar to last year's win over Hawaii, and hopefully not too similar to last week's win over Portland St.
Beaver Believer believes the Keys to the Game are:
1. Stop the run. This will be a much better test than against PSU, as Hawaii has a much more capable back in Joey Iosefa who will be thrown repeatedly at the Beavers. It will be on the big boys upfront, Bud Delva, Siale Hautau, and Jalen Grimble, to stop the push from the Hawaii offensive line and hold up Iosefa for the linebackers. It is going to take a team effort to stop the run, and the Beavers need to hold up in the middle.
2. Get Sean Mannion going. Mannion did not have his best game against the Vikings, being slow in his reads and missing several throws. The Beavers need to improve the protection and give him time to make his reads and step into his throws. Oregon State's offense is reliant on Mannion and they need to get him in a groove.
3. Eliminate mistakes. The Beavers played awful against Portland State and they can eliminate most of those errors. Bad snaps, false starts, and missed assignments. OSU is a team that relies on proper execution and they do not have room to give yards away to opponents.
The Huskies were sitting their qb for a one-game suspension and I suspect they would have been much better with Cyler Miles in the game. OSU is ready to go, and their poor first performance should help them learn from their mistakes. 23-20 Beavers.
Last week I was in the mode of pretty much not sure what this season's Beavs team was going to bring. New faces on the field and on the sideline coaching. After the fairly ugly, but a W is a W game against Portland State I do seem to have a little more of a grasp of what this team is going to work with. That said though there is also still a barrage of question marks. Going into the long "road" trip to Hawai'i should prove interesting for this Oregon State football team, and I am both a bit nervous and excited to see how the team will respond to a tougher than it needed to be win against a FCS team.
What I will be specifically looking for:
Sean Mannion (of course!) = How will Mannion come out against what should be a tougher defense after not being fully sharp against Portland State (but yet throwing for 328 yards). Sean also seemed to move around the pocket much more than he is normally comfortable with, even with the nice scrambling TD run (!), so how has he worked with the offensive line over the last week? Which leads us to...
The Offensive Line = I felt they had their moments, but again struggled in the mental game for sure with lots of costly penalties and breakdowns in the blocking against a team that should have been handled much better. So has the youngish line found more of their rhythm together and especially blocking for Mannion in the passing game? Can the line improve (hopefully a lot) on its poor red zone blocking performance and establish a much stronger run game in 1st and 2nd and goal situations?
Rushing Game = Some interesting glimpses of potential here, and especially Storm Woods' performance last weekend. But will the Beavs be able to get Woods 100+ yards again? Will Terron Ward and Woods be a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield? AND yet again will the offensive line step up its game and open up more lanes and win the smash-mouth take it to the Warriors' defensive front?
Receivers and the Continuing Post-Cooks Era = Who is really ready to step up here? Also can the TEs really step up their game to what looks like another season primed to have either, or both Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith become part of the premiere OSU TE lineage in both the passing game and in run blocking?
Garrett Owens = Will he, in his thrown into the lead role place kicking continue to grow into this position? (And will we miss the Romaine, reminds me of a bad Old Spice ad, body hair?)
Rush Defense = It looks as if Hawai'i has a very big, strong, and good back in Joey Iosefa and possibly a QB that can scramble, so how will the front line and LBs handle this possible stretching the field potential? Against Portland State it was a quiet but effective performance by the overall defense against the run, but it also was an obvious mismatch that never seemed to call for any star-making plays, I feel they will need more of this type of individual leadership in this game. Who will that be?
Pass Defense = I personally felt that the secondary was the sharpest part of the OSU performance last Saturday, but now they are playing what should be more athletic receivers and TEs, so can they play with as much intensity and lights-out focus? And what about the pass rush? We really did not seem to see much of an overpowering pass rush last game, and it will be key to both pressure and contain the young Ikaika Woolsey.
Hawai'i Warriors = They played top 25 ranked Washington tough, but UW was playing a back-up QB, but still the Warriors only lost by one point, kept in check the Huskies' run game, and did not allow a UW score in the entire second half. One has to think facing Mannion will be a much more challenging task, but will the Warriors have some confidence and fire to get a W when in so many ways they should have won last week?
In the end I like the Oregon State defense in this one to keep things in check. I could see some busted schemes that lead to a couple big plays for the Warriors, but the defense looks like it can adjust and seems to have some leadership ready to step up their game when needed. Additionally I feel that the offense has no where else to go but to improve. Yes last week was not a great game offensively, but it was not a Sacramento State type of deal where the offense was stymied by the other (lesser talented) team, it was all pretty much on the Beavs and mental mistakes. This can be overcome quickly with focus, coaching, and player leadership; and now that the Beavs have seen the ugly side of their game it is time to see the good side.