Oregon State found a re-commitment to the running game on Saturday, racking up a season-high 46 rushing attempts that were only blemished by two first half fumbles. That gameplan combined with a Beaver pass rush that made life miserable for Shedeur Sanders and the Colorado offense allowed the Beavers to control the ball for a season-high 35:58 and run 76 offensive plays to only 60 on defense.
Much of the discrepancies in plays and time of possession can be attributed to the first two drives of the second half, that combined for 20 plays, 11:26 off the clock, and extended the lead to 18. The Buffs got their offense rolling shortly thereafter, but it was too late at that point.
Quarterback: DJ Uiagalelei (67), Adian Chiles (9)
Through first four Uiagalelei drives of the game the Beaver’s QB was 1-for-4 with 2 sacks. A holding penalty and two fumbles by running backs contributed to the stalled drives as well. DJU took advantage of a short field gifted to the Beavs by a Colorado 3-and-out in the shadow of their own goal line with less than a minute left in the half and threw a perfect touch pass to double the lead.
DJ to Fen to close the half— Oregon State Football (@BeaverFootball) November 5, 2023
In the second half, the passing game started to click, and those two drives showed how the Oregon State offense is intended to operate. Uiagalelei threw just three times on the 12-play drive to start the second half, but two were for first downs and allowed OSU to lean on the running game, bleed clock, and eliminate any opportunities for Colorado to get back into the game.
The passing game wasn’t working any better on Chiles series (he was 0-for-1), but a pass interference penalty to start the drive and Chiles well executed 23-yard TD run on a QB draw were just what the Beavs needed to bookend the rushing attack. Amusingly, Uiagalelei was brought back in during this drive as a quasi-short yardage back. Replacing one running-capable QB with a different one to run a slightly different style of run encapsulates some of the over-creativity we have seen from the Oregon State coaching staff so far this year.
Running Back: Damien Martinez (55), Deshaun Fenwick (19), Isaiah Newell (4), Isaac Hodgins (1)
Oregon State’s running game was consistently successful, but rarely explosive. The Beavers gained 5 or more yards on 63% of their carries, and the longest carry by a running back was 17 yards (Chiles TD run did go longer). That steady but unremarkable success when paired with a passing game and safe ball handing is the Beavers calling card. When paired with incompletions and two fumbles within 3 drives of each other, it results in a half with a score that was closer than it probably should have been.
Fenwick did not get another carry in the 1st half after he fumbled running into Anthony Gould on a 4-yard carry. That was part of the reason that Martinez saw a season high in snaps.
Wide Receiver: Silas Bolden (49), Anthony Gould (49), Jesiah Irish (32), Rweha Munyagi Jr. (25), Jimmy Vaslin III (23), Jeremiah Noga (4)
Partially due to the run-heavy gameplay, it was a quiet game for the Oregon State wideouts. As usual, Bolden and Gould gathered a majority of the targets for wide receivers, combining for 7 targets, 6 catches, and 77 yards. After the most productive game of his career, Vaslin III was used primarily as a blocker against Colorado. 17 of his 23 snaps were on run plays, and he received just one target on the 6 passing plays he was in for.
Tight End: Jack Velling (63), Jermaine Terry II (45), Riley Sharp (8), Gabe Milbourn (3)
Saturday was a throwback to early season games for Jack Velling. He picked up his usual 6 targets, but only hauled in 3 of them. All three of his catches went for first downs, including a 27-yard catch on 2nd and 20 on that first drive of the 3rd quarter. The throw and catch erased an early holding penalty that threatened to stall the Beavers and get Colorado the ball back with good field position.
Offensive Line: Tanner Miller (76), Joshua Gray (76), Taliese Fuaga (76), Grant Starck (76), Heneli Bloomfield (72), Flavio Gonzalez (4)
Particularly in the first half, Colorado was able to get pressure on the QB more than we are used to seeing. It seemed that much of that was due to schemed up pressure that messed with the communication on an offensive line missing their starting center and their left guard for parts of this game. A clear example came when Uiagalelei was sacked by LaVonta Bentley late in the 1st half as the Beavers were driving to score. Bentley rushed from the outside as Taliese Fuaga went to block a non-existent rusher from the inside. The drive stalled and the Beavers were forced to punt from the Colorado 39.
Those issues showed up less in the 2nd half, and that combined with continued run blocking we have come to expect from this line helped the Beavers extend the lead and put the game out of reach.
Much was made about Colorado’s decision to relieve offensive coordinator Sean Lewis of play calling duties in the leadup to this game in favor of NFL veteran coach Pat Shurmer. The change made little difference to the success of the Colorado offense, who was held to under 20 points for the third time this year. The Beaver defense had Sanders visibly rattled in the 2d half. His passes were inaccurate, and he was limping off the field to sit alone on the sidelines when he was not being escorted to the locker room. It’s a credit to him and the rest of their offense for pulling things together for a couple scoring drives to bring the game back to one score late once the Beavers backed off coverage, but there was rarely a threat from the offense while the game was in doubt.
Defensive Line: Joe Golden (40), James Rawls (39), Isaac Hodgins (16), Takari Hickle (5), Semisi Saluni (4)
The 32 pressures the Beaver defense generated is tied for OSU’s season high (also had 32 against Utah). Joe Golden was responsible for a season high 5 of those, to include his 5th sack of the year. Isaac Hodgins returned to the rotation this week, which enabled the defensive coaching staff to reduce Golden and Rawls snap counts after season high usage the last two weeks.
Edge Rusher: Sione Lolohea (43), John McCartan (34), Andrew Chatfield Jr. (33), Cory Stover (26)
It was an absolute feast for Beaver edge rushers in this game. Lolohea (9) and Chatfield (8) led the team in pressures, and Chatfield converted his into 3 sacks in his 33 snaps. Cory Stover chipped in with a forced fumble that the Beaver’s recovered in the first half. John McCartan may have had the quietest day of the outside linebackers and still managed to pick up 3 pressures and a sack.
Linebacker: Easton Mascarenas-Arnold (60), Calvin Hart Jr. (55), Melvin Jordan IV (5)
Colorado went into this game with an intention to target the short middle of the field. Mascarenas-Arnold and Hart Jr. were targeted in the passing game a combined 15 times, just shy of half of all of Sanders’ targets in the game. In some ways that was successful, those targets turned into 13 catches and 123 yards. On the other hand, that approach allowed the Beavers to keep the Colorado passing game in front of them, and limit explosive plays.
Missed tackles continue to be an issue for Oregon State as a team. According to PFF, the Beavers missed 21 tackles in this game, tying a season high, and is their 4th straight game of 18 or more after going 5 straight games with 14 or less. They have one more game to fix an issue that is going to be a real problem when Oregon State looks to limit the playmakers of Washington and Oregon to close out the year.
Cornerback: Jaden Robinson (60), Ryan Cooper Jr. (55), Noble Thomas (47), Jermod McCoy (15)
Both Ryan Cooper Jr. and Noble Thomas returned to the field this week. Thomas played a good game, allowing 3 catches on 5 targets for a total of 19 yards. Cooper Jr. seemed to be struggling at the end of the game. He was in coverage on a crossing route against Xavier Weaver that went for 36 yards and set up the Buffs’ first touchdown. Cooper Jr. seemed to jog the entire play which would indicate injury more than lack of effort. Despite that he was back in on the following drive and played most of the game.
Jermod McCoy returned to a reserve role for this game but did have an excellent pass breakup on that same drive. The experience is huge for someone the Beavers will almost certainly be counting on as a starter for the next couple years.
Safety: Kitan Oladapo (60), Akili Arnold (59), Jack Kane (4)
Similarly, to McCoy, the return of Cooper and Thomas sent Kane back into spot play duty. Oladapo and Arnold both played solid games with little to show for it on the stat sheet.