Talking o-line with Coach Cav & Colin Kelly

CORVALLIS -- Looking ahead to Oregon State's next test – a Pac-12 tilt at the Rose Bowl against No. 23 UCLA – what are the keys to success? Well, you can start with the offensive line, so BF.C went to Oregon State o-line coach Mike Cavanaugh and starting right tackle Colin Kelly for insight.

OSU will need to do things right over the next 12 days in order to make their stand count against the Bruins on Sept. 22. While many teams will have played three or four games by that weekend, the orange and black clad athletes will be heading into only their second battle.

And it will be against a team that also powered through and notched a big win over a ranked Big Ten opponent -- then-ranked No. 14 Nebraska this past Saturday.

Oregon State's front five put up a markedly strong performance last Saturday – an impressive showing that spoke to the potential of the bulldozers on the line.

From the booth, it felt a little like the Beaver offensive line was saying – ‘Pardon me? You don't know who we are? Well you are about to find out.'

"We all felt great about going into the Wisconsin game – we felt like we were going to win it," offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh told BF.C on Tuesday.

You hear coaches say it all the time - leadership from individual players is as integral to a team's success as is leadership from the coaching staff. Colin Kelly was one of the players who showed it last Saturday.

"Our communication and execution at some key spots definitely helped us out," Kelly said. "The fact that we were able to work together as one, in-sync unit the majority of the game really helped our passing and running attacks out."

NOT SURPRISINGLY, Cavanaugh wasn't entirely satisfied with his group of blockers against Wisconsin. He maintains constant vigilance is the key to success – never ceasing to try and elevate one's game to the next level. BF.C asked him for his assessment of the o-line's performance.

"We protected the quarterback pretty good," Cavanaugh said. "And the tailbacks averaged about four yards a carry, which was also good. But we have obviously got to keep improving upon the running game – we had some nice runs, and then we had others that went for two yards. We've got to make it more consistent."

Practice makes perfect, right? With "the longest training camp in history" under their belts and a big W over Whisky heading into a bye week, can the Beaver offensive line maintain (or improve) that sharp edge against Wisconsin?

"Basically what it comes down to is this – we needed to play a game," Kelly said. "We needed to play a game so we could get used to that speed. On both offense and defense, we as individuals know what the style is like, or how hard the games are going to be in the Pac 12. It helped us with our experience and timing."

A question, though – Will it be harder to play consistent, hard-nosed football as Mike Riley and Co. switch it up in the backfield with Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew? Do different running backs, play-by-play and drive-by-drive, affect the tempo of the offensive line?

"I would have to say no, not really," Kelly said. "I guess Malcolm is a little more downhill, and Storm is a bit shakier. But when it comes down to it, they know our schemes, and they have to set us up a bit (for the block), we can't have them running all over the place."

Depth is still an issue up front, and staying healthy is a top priority. So how does Cavanaugh plan to address that moving into Pac-12 play? He doesn't.

"We will have the same approach every week – because every week is going to be a tough battle," said Cavanaugh. "We have got to be ready mentally and physically every day, that's how it always is in the Pac-12. I'm just hoping my guys embrace that challenge every week."

"It is going to be a big game, but this is what we want," Kelly said. "In order to beat UCLA, we will need to help set up a running game. We need to prove people wrong you know – prove that we aren't going to be last in the Pac 12 North. UCLA is a good football club – but we are up and coming. After that game (Wisconsin) we have a lot more confidence in ourselves. "

THE SYSTEM WAS slightly different for that game, as Cavanaugh's mandatory stint high up in the coaching booth (due to neck surgery) marked the first time in well over a decade the seasoned coach has not spent a regular season game barking at his players from the sideline.

"It was good," Cavanaugh said. "I was probably calmer up there. I sat next to Coach (Danny) Langsdorf and got to see a lot more (of the field) obviously, so I enjoyed it."

Cavanaugh made it clear that he was not thrilled about being less involved with the action on the sideline however – he and his players are anxious for his return to the field when deemed healthy enough. It's a good bet furious jaunts up and down the sideline, dropping various four letter words left and right and spurring his troops onward are sure to follow.

"It definitely was a little different, for me at least," said Kelly. "I've been here four and a half years now, and every year, he has been on that sideline. It was a shock at first, but after awhile we knew he wasn't that far away – he was basically talking through (GA) Tavita Thompson – so it felt like he was there after awhile."

SATURDAY WAS ALSO different in that for the first time since 2008, Riley was calling the bulk of the offensive plays.

Has that affected Cavanaugh's approach?

"It doesn't really affect me either way," Cavanaugh said. "It comes down to them asking me what I think the best runs are – so whether Danny or Mike is calling them (the plays), it doesn't really affect my procedure."

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