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Oregon State vs Washington State: Players to Watch/Keys to the Game

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State QB Luke Falk:

After the first few series of the game, take a look at Falk’s uniform. If it is untarnished then the Beavers may be in for a long day. While WSU touts an improved running game of late, Falk is the critical piece of the offense that makes the current Air Raid offense what it is. Even against pressure, Falk has the capability to do damage, as evidenced by his nearly 400 yard and 3 touchdown effort versus Arizona State last week despite being sacked 7 times and hit or hurried many, many more times. The Sun Devils laid out a blueprint to get to Falk, and the Beavers must leverage it and make plays when they are in position to do so.

Oregon State CBs:

The second piece to stopping the Air Raid, after getting pressure on Falk, is keeping receivers in front and making tackles. Against Colorado and Washington, the Beavers dug themselves a hole that the offense couldn’t get them out of. The OSU offense still isn’t ready to put the team on their shoulders just yet and so it will come down to Treston Decoud, Xavier Crawford, and any other CB’s that end up playing (especially with Decoud listed as questionable on the injury report). In order to compete, the Beavers CB’s must drop into coverage and force Falk to throw underneath—and make the tackle that is available. It also couldn’t hurt to get a INT—is that asking for too much??

Keys to the game:

1. Make life uncomfortable for Luke Falk: It would be unfair to apply the saying, “as Falk goes, the team goes,” as he still put up monster numbers in the losses to Eastern Washington and Boise St. However, the point is, the Beavers don’t have a consistent offense and can’t be relied on to put up 40+ points. The best way to disrupt the WSU offense is to pressure Falk and try to get him out of rhythm. The end result may be a few missed reads or a couple of errant throws, but against a guy capable of throwing for 500 yards in a game, it might be all that we can hope for. I’ll say again, can we pretty please get an INT or two?

2. Run the ball: It may be up the middle due to Robert Barber’s suspension, or it may be attacking the edge. Regardless, more time of the Beavers offense on the field equates to less time of the Air Raid. WSU boasts an attacking defense that has been solid against the run, however, Oregon State’s line has shown promise the last few weeks and the WR’s have been impressive blocking down field. If it’s Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, Tim Cook, or Paul Lucas, the Beaver’s coaches need to put the RB’s into the cracks of the WSU defense and let the make plays.

3. The mid-range game: The mid-range passing game has been missing the past season and a half and it might as well be Mike Riley recruit Marcus McMaryion that rejuvenates it. Despite some ups and downs, McMaryion has shown that he can throw the ball. It will be key to have him get some confidence and then let him sling it a little. In many instances last year, McMaryion was put into bad situations that ended poorly. Credit to him for not giving up and continuing to compete. Given some confidence, McMaryion has demonstrated that he can make plays—and he does throw a pretty spiral. If WSU loads the box with seven or eight defenders, McMaryion has to complete some throws. Bonus if McMaryion can consistently hit mid-range throws of 10-15 yards to keep drives moving and maybe a couple of deep balls as well. Anyone else surprised that the fade down the sideline to Jordan Villamin has been glaringly absent this season?

Prediction WSU 35, OSU 31

I think OSU has shown some life of late on both sides of the ball. Players are buying-in to Coach Anderson’s system and the effort is pretty much there. Just a few too many “Doh!” execution issues will be the difference.