After Saturday, we’ll know about Beavs

CORVALLIS -- The Beavers and the Aztecs aren’t exactly strangers to each other. When they face each other this Saturday, it will mark the 364-day anniversary since they played last. A year ago, Oregon State (then 2-1) defeated San Diego State (then 0-2) by a final score of 34-30. The Beavers needed a miracle to win that game, and that’s pretty much what happened.

In that game, the Beavers rallied from a 9-point deficit with less than three minutes to play. A touchdown pass from Sean Mannion to Terron Ward put the Beavs within two points of San Diego State.

Nine seconds later, Steven Nelson intercepted a Quinn Kaehler pass and ran it back 16 yards for the go-ahead score.

Flash forward to today, and there are several questions that have yet to be answered about this year’s Oregon State team, and they all pretty much amount to whether or not this team is better than it was last year.

Through two games, the Beavers’ play has been quite up-and-down, giving little indication as to how they’ll fare against Pac-12 teams.

Saturday’s rematch with SDSU might be able to help clarify.

The Beavers (now 2-0) and the Aztecs (now 1-1) will square off at an almost identical point in the season as they did last year.

Oregon State had a lot of trouble in that game, and they won narrowly. That Beavers team ended up with a 7-6, 4-5 Pac-12 record.

Thus, the outcome of Saturday’s game will be a nice measuring stick for each team’s progress since then. To help compare, this is what San Diego State has done since the Beavers saw them last.

Following the loss to OSU, San Diego State has gone 9-3.

Senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler remains the man under center. Kaehler threw for 3,007 yards last year, with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His number one target was senior receiver Ezell Ruffin, who caught 68 passes for 1136 yards for three touchdowns last year, and has 117 yards in two games this year.

The second leading receiver for the Aztecs last year was Colin Lockett, who had 52 receptions for 736 yards and five touchdowns. Lockett has since graduated, and SDSU now relies on sophomore receiver Eric Judge to produce. Judge has 145 yards and a touchdown this year.

Both Ruffin and Judge are pretty tall, as they are both listed at 6-foot-1.

The Aztecs have also fared well in the absence of their leading runner from last year, Adam Muema. In two games this season, sophomore running back Donnel Pumphrey already has 211 yards and four touchdowns, all while listed at a diminutive, 5-foot-9, 170 pounds.

In last year’s game against OSU, Pumphrey had 63 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.

This year, Pumphrey is sharing the backfield with junior running back Chase Price, who’s run for 116 yards and one touchdown of his own.

San Diego State is as consistent as they come. The Aztecs have advanced to a bowl game in four consecutive years, finishing with records of 9-4, 8-5, 9-4, and 8-5.

Against the Pac-12, SDSU notched a convincing win against a Washington State team that finished 4-8 in 2011. In 2012, the Aztecs lost to a Washington team that finished 7-6. Last year, they lost to an OSU team that also finished 7-6.

Thus, San Diego State is pretty much a 5- or 6-win team if they played in the Pac-12, and they’ve been at that level for four years. There’s no reason to think that they can’t be that again this year.

As for the Beavers, if we’re recapping from a year ago, they’ve gone 6-5.

In the offseason, the NFL draft and free agency saw Brandin Cooks go to New Orleans, Scott Crichton go to Minnesota, Rashaad Reynolds to Jacksonville, and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf to New York.

In the SDSU game last year, Cooks had 14 catches for 141 yards. Scott Crichton had five tackles, including 2.5 TFLs, and Reynolds had 3.5 tackles and a deflection.

It remains to be seen if a year of experience, a few new players, and a few players back from injury has made the Beavers a better team than they were last year, but Saturday should give us a good indication.

Indeed, how well they play San Diego State should tell us how good the Beavers are.

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