You learn more from a defeat against a good team than multiple easy wins against bad ones. I would say this is a lesson for Oregon State scheduling, but scheduling a two team conference schedule into the future will have many more considerations than early season strength of schedule.
The Beavers proved that their run game is a force to be reckoned with and had little issue getting yards when needed on the ground, and showed resilience in fighting back in a game that could have quickly gone lopsided. On the flip side, the concerns going into the year about the secondary reared their head in full force on Saturday, and we are left with questions about how much better off the passing game is on offense than last year.
The Beaver offense played a season high 77 total snaps, which was boosted by the hurry-up pass game in the 4th quarter while chasing a two score deficit.
Quarterback: DJ Uiagalelei (76)
Uiagaleli rarely seemed comfortable with his first read on a passing play, routinely hanging onto the ball and frequently checking down and throwing over the outstretched arm of a pass-rusher to get to a running back or tight end in the flat. Whether this is because of potential lack of comfort in the offense or a lack of open receivers is an open question, but one would not expect pass catchers to be any more open against a tough Utah team next week.
One of the highlights of the game was the breakout of the DJU designed run in the 2nd half. Uiagalelei ran for 72 yards and a TD on 6 carries, with 49 of those yards coming on just 3 runs in the 4th quarter. If Oregon State has similar issues in the passing game next week, forcing the defense to account for the QB would be a good way to shake things loose.
Running Back: Damien Martinez (41), Deshaun Fenwick (32), Isaac Hodgins (13), Isaiah Newell (4)
The tone of the day was set for the offense on the first drive. Down 7-0 after a quick WSU score, Martinez busted off a 27 yard run to start the drive. Three plays later, facing a manageable 3rd and 2, Martinez fumbled the pitch from Uiagaleli to back OSU 6 yards, leaving the Beavers to punt on 4th and long in WSU territory.
Martinez went on to have a perfectly fine day, but it was Fenwick who highlighted the day with 3 TD and 110 yards on 11 carries. It was only two more snaps than he has had in prior games this year, and one additional attempt, but two effective running backs is a good problem to have.
FEN FOR SIX‼️ pic.twitter.com/FWmkSx6tvZ— Oregon State Football (@BeaverFootball) September 23, 2023
Hodgins did not get a carry from the fullback position, but he did catch one of the previously referenced outlet passes for his first career catch.
Wide Receiver: Silas Bolden (64), Anthony Gould (55), Jesiah Irish (34), Rweha Munyagi Jr. (19), Jimmy Valsin III (7), Jeremiah Noga (2), Zachary Card (1)
Outside of a 50 yard catch by Bolden on an open crossing route, it was a tough day for the receiving corps. There were few open looks and the attempts to throw into coverage did not lead to much success either. Bolden and Gould combined for 15 targets but only pulled in 9 of those. Irish returned from an injury that kept him out last week, but was not able to haul in any of his 3 targets.
A lot of credit does need to go to WSU’s defense. CB Cam Lampkin in particular was a force, allowing only 2 catches on 8 targets, breaking up 3 of those passes, and tying for the team lead with 5 tackles. The tackling was good across the Cougar defense, allowing an average of only 4.4 yards after the catch.
Tight End: Jack Velling (54), Jermaine Terry II (26), Jake Overman (16), Riley Sharp (12), Bryce Caufield (1)
Continuing the theme above, Velling was targeted 6 times, but was only able to haul in 2 passes, one of which being a wide open 5 yard TD pass with 1:12 left. The matchup referenced before the week against WSU linebacker Kyle Thornton did not go the Beavers way, he was tarted just once for a 12 yard gain.
Overman announced via social media earlier today that he is entering the transfer portal. He has been a solid third on the depth chart so far this year, but will test the Beaver depth at the position going forward.
Offensive Line: Jake Levengood (76), Tanner Miller (76), Joshua Gray (76), Taliese Fuaga (76), Heneli Bloomfield (61), Grant Starck (15)
The Beavers had only one offensive penalty in the game, a questionable personal foul on Taliese Fuaga for jumping on the defender he was blocking in the second level. The fact that the defender could have made the play had Fuaga not stayed on the block does not seem to have entered the official’s mind.
Other than that, the offensive line had another successful day. Uiagalelei’s average time to throw was 2.73 seconds, above his season average, and 6.2 yards per rush is a stat you take any day.
The Beaver defense played a total of 65 snaps, and showed little sign of being able to stop the Washington State offense for much of the 1st half. QB Cam Ward had time to throw, and when his receivers were not open, they made some outstanding contested catches in racing out to a 28-14 halftime lead. There were some changes in the defensive depth chart as the game went on, and will be something to watch heading into the Utah game on Friday.
Defensive Line: James Rawls (45), Joe Golden (41), Isaac Hodgins (24)
Golden had 2 QB hurries and two stops in the run game. The three man rotation at the interior defensive line seems well established at this point, regardless of Hodgins’ exploits on the offensive side of the ball.
Edge Rusher: Sione Lolohea (45), John McCartan (36), Cory Stover (30), Andrew Chatfield Jr. (20)
In a bit of a change from prior weeks in this piece, the outside linebackers/defensive ends/edge rushers are broken out into their own section. The same 4 man rotation from last week was in effect against Washington State, with similar snap count distributions between them.
The highlight from this group was Lolohea’s 3 pressures and forced fumble on a 2nd quarter sack of Ward. The 2nd fumble in as many possessions by Washington State gave the Beavers an opportunity to tie the game in the 1st half (which they unfortunately were not able to cash in on). On the flip side, McCartan struggled to make an impact in the pass game, and missed a couple tackles on his way to registering the lowest PFF grade (30.9) of any Beaver regular in the game.
Linebacker: Easton Mascarenas-Arnold (65), Calvin Hart Jr. (56), Melvin Jordan IV (10), John Miller (3)
Mascarenas-Arnold struggled mightily in the passing game, allowing catches on all 9 targets he received and 65 of 85 yards after the catch. Washington State’s offense eliminated his strength of flowing sideline to sideline; when they threw short outside it was quick and their runs were designed to exploit the Beavers focus on getting back into pass defense. Calvin Hart Jr. had a forced fumble that was even more consequential than Lolohea’s. If he doesn’t punch the ball out of WR Jaylen Jenkins hands around the OSU 21 yard line, the Cougars are likely up 3 TDs midway through the 2nd quarter.
Cornerback: Ryan Cooper Jr. (66), Jaden Robinson (65), Jermod McCoy (41), Tyrice Ivy Jr. (8)
The Beavers defense missed 17 tackles in this game, 10 of them by members of the defensive backfield. Cooper Jr., who was otherwise decent in coverage had 4 of them, which allowed Washington State to turn good plays into great ones. Ivy Jr. started the game as the slot corner, but only saw 8 snaps in which he gave up 3 catches for 65 yards. McCoy replaced him, and Ward and the Cougars proceeded to pick on him to the tune of 5 catches on 6 targets, 88 yards and a TD.
Robinson was the only Beaver with a PFF pass rush grade above 70 on his 3 blitzes, one of which he converted for his first sack of the year.
Safety: Akili Arnold (66), Kitan Oladapo (65), Josiah Johnson (14)
A busted coverage stemming from apparent miscommunication between Oladapo & Cooper Jr. on the second play of the game led to as easy a 63 yard TD pass as you will see.
Beyond that both starting safeties had statistically similar days, each with tied for the team lead with 6 tackles (a sure sign that the defense is struggling is when safeties are at the top of the tackle charts).