Weber St. (2-10, 2-6 in the Big Sky in 2014) vs. Oregon St. (5-7, 2-7 in the Pac-12 in 2014) / Reser Stadium / 5 PM PDT / Pac-12 Channel / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. starts the Gary Andersen era tonight against Weber St. of the FCS Big Sky Conference. Its the first ever meeting between the Beavers and the Wildcats, who are playing any FBS opponent for just the 3rd time ever.
The season opener is also Oregon St.'s salute to the US Military, both those on active duty and veterans. The Beaver logo on the helmets tonight will be red, white and blue, in tribute to active personnel and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the Beaver logo at midfield will be painted red, white and blue. The goal posts will also be wrapped in red, white and blue pads.
Its also the introduction of the spread offense in Corvallis, after 13 years of the Mike Riley pro-style offense. Everyone on the first team offense will be returning, with starts sometime, with one very key exception; the quarterback.
Oregon St. is the only team in the FBS with no one on the roster who has ever taken a snap at quarterback in a college game at any level.
After 4 years with Sean Mannion, who threw for more yards than any other quarterback in the hundred year history of the conference in all its incarnations, and more touchdowns than any previous Beaver, Oregon St. saw their starter of 43 games graduate.
Then the only other quarterback with any game experience, Luke Del Rio transferred when the new coaching staff changed the system to the spread, something he wasn't suited for.
Brent VanderVeen, who moved to tight end, was on the roster as a quarterback, but never got on the field in a game.
To counteract that, the Beavers plan to utilize 2 of them, with both true freshman Seth Collins and red-shirt freshman Marcus McMaryion getting some series. Andersen did not announce who offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin decided earlier in the week to send out first, saving the surprise for early in the game.
Defensively, there's no such experience on hand to implement the 3-4, or sometimes 3-3-5, defense, in place of the usually 4 man front that has been Oregon St.'s base. Between injuries and graduation, there are only 2 players who started in last year's Civil War, senior CB Larry Scott and junior Jaswha James, and he's moved from defensive end to a hybrid "Stud" linebacker position in Kalani Sitake's overhauled system.
In fact, Oregon St. is not only the least experienced team in the Pac-12, they are the 9th least experienced team of the 128 in the FBS. this despite an offensive line where everyone has prior starting experience.
There are players with some notable experience, like DEs Jalen Grimble and Lavonte Barnett, and safety Justin Strong, last year's nickel back, but its going to be a new experience for a lot of Beavers on the defensive side of the ball.
It's a team in transition that's up against the Beavers too, as Weber St., though in their second year under Jay Hill, himself a product of the same Utah coaching tree that produced Andersen and Sitake, among others, is looking for the installation of many of the same concepts, a multiple offense and a hard nosed defense, and better off-season conditioning, that Andersen and company have brought to Corvallis.
The difference is the Wildcats are coming from an even lower beginning, having won only 2 games in each of the last 3 years. And they are working with the fewer scholarships that is the FCS standard.
But recent history against the Big Sky hasn't exactly been a popular experience for Oregon St. Last year saw Portland St. push the Beavers into the second half before falling 29-14, after the Vikings had lead 14-13 at halftime, but the year before, Eastern Washington edged Oregon St. 49-46, and 2 years before that, it was Sacramento St. that pulled off the 29-28 upset despite the Hornets being nearly as much of an underdog as the Wildcats are tonight.
BuildingTheDam will be on hand for the first look at the Andersen era, and be back with complete coverage and analysis.