The Beavers face another difficult challenge Saturday evening as the red hot Washington Cougars visit Reser Stadium. The Cougs (5-2 overall, 4-0 in conference) are tied with their in-state rival, the Washington Huskies, for first place in the Pac 12 North. The Cougs have won 5 games in a row, and are looking to continue their path toward a Pac 12 title. The Beavers are playing to win on Saturday rather than playing for moral victories. The Beavers will once again be double digit underdogs. Can the Beavs pull off another shocker in Reser Stadium? Or, will Washington State continue to roll through their 5th consecutive conference opponent? Here are things the Beavers need to work on as they prepare for a powerful Washington State team.
Keep the Dangerous Cougar Offense off the Field
The Beaver Offense can drastically assist the Beaver Defense by sustaining long drives, keeping the Cougar Offense off the field. Additionally, a successful running game will help the Beavs burn the clock, which will help keep Cougar QB Luke Falk (253-348, 2511 yds., 17 tds., 2 ints.) and his explosive offense off the field. In addition, long drives will wear down the Cougar Defense. Plus this will keep the Beaver Defense fresh and well rested.
The Beavers need to have some sort of success in the passing game, so they can sustain drives. The Beavers cannot afford dropped passes, giving up sacks, and missing open receivers. The Beavs need some success in the air, in order to keep Washington State from loading the box.
Need to Help QB Marcus McMaryion on Offense
Coach Gary Andersen noted in his weekly press conference, that the entire offense needs to do a better job helping Marcus. The Receivers need to do a better job of getting open and limit dropped passes. The Offensive Line and other blockers need to do a better job of picking up blitzes and handling the Cougar front 7’s pass rush.
The Beavers had to call three quick timeouts in the first quarter of the Washington game, which was a result of the Offense not being on the same page. The Beavers hope more chemistry is built on Offense as McMaryion enters his second week as the starting QB.
The Defense Must Stay Focused
The Beavers face a major challenge this week in going against a Cougar Offense ranked 3rd in Scoring Offense in the Pac 12. The Cougs run the Air Raid Offense. The Air Raid Offense is mostly ran out of shotgun with 3 to 5 WR’s depending on the formation. The Cougs usually pass the ball about 65-75 percent of the time. They run the Offense at a fast pace in attempt to fatigue opposing Defenses, and increase the Defense’s chances of making mistakes. The Cougs use quick passes, and mostly short crossing routes to offset opposing team’s blitzes and stunts. The Cougar Offensive Line has been praised by experts as one of the best in the Pac 12.
RB’s Jamal Morrow (333 rush yds., 6.1 avg. per carry), James Williams (289 rush yds., 6.1 avg per carry), and Gerard Wicks (225 rush yds. 4.4 avg per carry) will make opposing defense pay if they lose focus. The Running Backs are also threats in the passing game. The Cougar Receivers are very talented . WR’s Gabe Marks (48 rec. 444 yds., 7tds). , River Cracraft (38 rec. 470 yds., 1td.), and Tavares Martin Jr. ( 35 rec. 419 yds. 4tds.) give opposing DB’s nightmares. The Beaver Secondary need to make it difficult for the receivers to get open by staying with them step by step.
The Beavers need to stay disciplined against the sophisticated WSU Offense or they are going to be shredded all game. Last week, Husky QB Jake Browning took advantage of missed assignments by the Beavers as he found wide open receivers all game. The Beavers need to improve in this area against the Cougs, or else the Beavs are going to get boat raced in their own stadium.
Luke Falk is a smart Quarterback with a quick release, and he does a great job reading opposing defenses. The Secondary, along with the Linebackers need to be focused on sticking to their assignments, so they can attempt to limit open looks for Falk and his Receivers. In addition, the Beavers need to make tackles in space, so Cougar Receivers (and RB’s and QB’s) cannot get extra yards after contact.
Continue to Play to Their Strengths
If the Beavers want to give themselves a shot to win Saturday, they need to sustain their success on the ground against a very good Cougar front 7. Senior Tim Cook hopes to build off his success in the Washington game. The Beavers received good news this week when they found out RB Artavis Pierce will play Saturday after missing the Washington game due to injury. In other good news, RB Ryan Nall is out of his boot and is listed as questionable. Another positive is that the Offensive Line is healthy this week, which should benefit the running game.
The Beavers need to play with fire and energy this Saturday. The home crowd should help lift this young Beaver team’s confidence and intensity level. They need to feed of the emotion and the noise of the Reser Stadium faithful. The Beavers have played well this season at Reser Stadium (not including the 1st half of the Boise St. game). They need to take advantage of playing at home with their “never say die” attitude and give the first place Cougars all they can handle this Saturday night.