Oregon State travels to UCLA seeking their first win on the road in the Coach Gary Andersen Era. They face a UCLA team that has been a disappointment so far this season under Head Coach Jim Mora Jr. UCLA is 3-6 overall and 1-5 in conference play. The Bruins entered the 2016 season with high expectations. They were picked to finish first in the PAC 12 Media Poll, and they entered the season ranked 16th in the nation. UCLA has struggled especially on Offense. They rank 127th out of 128 teams in Rushing Offense. Star QB Josh Rosen is out for the season. Senior QB Mike Fafaul has taken over for Rosen. Fafaul has thrown 9 TD’s and 9 interceptions. This is the last opportunity for the Beavs to get that elusive road win in 2016, as this is the last road game of the season. Here’s what the Beavs need to work on as they attempt to get their first road win in two years.
Need to Play With Focus and Intensity on the Road
The Beavers haven’t played a complete game on the road this season. Mistakes and missed opportunities have increased in games away from Reser Stadium. It is common for teams to not play as well on the road compared to playing at home. With limited depth, numerous injuries, and inexperience, playing on the road has been a challenge for this young Oregon State team. Therefore, the Beavers need to stop being their own worst enemy with penalties, missed assignments, decision making, etc...
The Kicking Game Needs to Bounce Back
Kicker Garrett Owens has missed 5 of his last 7 field goals. Coach Andersen mentioned he would give Freshman kicker Jordan Choukair a look. It might be a strategy by Coach Andersen to push Owens to improve. Punter Nick Porebski struggled at Stanford. He had punts of 28 and 27 yards, respectively. He averaged 35.3 yards per punt vs the Cardinal. The Beavers hope Owens and Porebski bounce back against the Bruins.
In the PAC 12, it is very rare to win games scoring 15 points. The Beavers must develop consistency on Offense. Penalties, struggles in the passing game, and missed assignments have hurt the offense. In addition, injuries have played a part in the struggles on the Offense. Coach Andersen talked about Connor Blount getting reps at QB against UCLA, which is likely an attempt to spark the Offense. Marcus McMaryion has shown flashes of brilliance, but the Beaver Coaching Staff is looking for something to improve the nation’s 110th ranked Offense. It will be interesting to see how the Quarterback situation plays out during the next three games.
RB Ryan Nall is back in the Boot this week at practice. He is listed as questionable for the UCLA game. Nall has struggled with injuries all year. RB’s Artavis Pierce, Paul Lucas, and Tim Cook need to be ready to take a bulk of the carries. Pierce, Lucas and Cook have proven they are more than capable.
Heart and Work Ethic
Credit the Beavers for not phoning it in this season after being virtually eliminated from making a bowl game. The Beavers 2-7 record does not reflect the strides this team has made in Year 2 of the Andersen Era. Their heart, work ethic, and refusal to throw in the towel has made Beaver Nation proud. The veterans on this Beaver team have noted a significant improvement in the team’s attitude this season compared to last season.
The challenge for the Beavers for the next three games is to continue with the same attitude and heart that they have displayed all season. Typically, it is difficult for a team to keep a positive attitude when they have a 2-7 record, especially when guys get injured or banged up throughout the grind of the season. The Beavers need to keep up the fight this weekend in Los Angeles. They have a great opportunity to defeat a struggling UCLA team.