Challenges abound for Oregon State in Boulder

CORVALLIS -- Oregon State’s defense has impressed me so far heading into Saturday's tilt at Colorado (Pac-12 Networks, 1 p.m.) I thought they would be an improved group from last year. I didn’t think they’d be better than the offense.

In the season opener, the Beavers held Portland State to 14 points. (In the season opener last year, they let Eastern Washington run up 49 on them.) Then Hawaii only scored seven points through three quarters. In Week 3, the Beavers held San Diego State to seven points.

Last week, they gave up 28 points to USC with virtually no help from the offense in the entire game – the Beavs ran only 56 plays to the Trojans’ 81.

That is quite a bit better than what I thought this defense could be, and the d-line with guys like Bud Delva (pictured) have been a big part of it. But there is still one thing they haven’t shown they can do, dating back to (at least) the first game of last season.

They still haven’t shown they can contain a mobile quarterback.

The most recent mobile quarterback the Beavers faced was Portland State’s Paris Penn in the season opener. In that game, Penn torched the Beavers for 112 yards and two touchdowns on but nine carries. The Beavers stopped everything else PSU did, but they never contained Penn.

When they play the Buffaloes in Colorado this Saturday afternoon, they’ll face sophomore QB Sefo Liufau. He might not have running plays called for him, but he can be tempted into pulling it down and taking off. And he's been productive in that area.

Liufau has had two games this year where he’s run for 47 and 72 yards.

And that’s a threat to OSU.

The fact that Liufau is more than just a pocket-passer is just another in a series of challenges the Beavers face this week.

The other challenge is the altitude. Oregon State is traveling to Boulder for the first time since 1988, meaning no player, and not even Mike Riley, has been a part of a collegiate football game at that elevation. Boulder sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains, with an elevation of 5,430 feet.

Colorado’s stadium, Folsom Field, is not a dome, so the lack of oxygen will be new for Oregon State and the Beavs are taking it seriously -- they are prepared to use oxygen masks on the sidelines during Saturday’s game .

Also working against the Beavers is that Oregon State’s fall term began on Monday, so this is the first week that the Beavers have focused on something other than football. Colorado’s classes begin on August 25.

The list of worries continues, as Colorado has the most prolific receiver in NCAA football. Nelson Spruce already has an incredible 56 receptions, 697 yards and 10 touchdowns in just five games.

Oregon State coaches are comparing him to former OSU receiver Mike Hass. Hass won the Biletnikoff Award in 2005.

Three years ago, the Beavers very nearly offered Nelson Spruce. The decision came down to either Spruce or a receiver from California who had just set a record with 122 receptions in a year.

The Beavers went with the latter, better known as one Richard Mullaney.

With a potential running threat at quarterback, the elevation, with classes starting u[ again, and with Nelson Spruce on the opponent’s team, I haven’t even mentioned Oregon State’s biggest concern.

The Beavers’ offense has got to play better.

The offensive line was finally given its first taste of the Pac-12 last week, and they looked like they had a bad case of indigestion.

Indeed, the o-line was a big reason why Mannion only had 123 passing yards and two interceptions to show for 32 pass attempts – and why he looked uncomfortable all night long.

The receivers weren’t that great either. Mullaney was the only Oregon State receiver with more than one reception, and he finished with five catches for 78 yards. Redshirt freshman receiver Jordan Villamin had a catchable ball deflected away from him in the end zone that ended up being intercepted.

The tight ends, combined, had just two receptions for six yards.

Oregon State’s running backs actually had a decent showing. Storm Woods and Terron Ward combined 90 yards on 16 carries, with four receptions for 23 yards. The big question there, with the outcome still very much in doubt entering the fourth quarter, was why only 16 touches.

And there are questions at every position on the offensive side of the ball. Maybe the only thing working in Oregon State’s favor is that they won’t be facing USC’s defense this week. Instead, they’ll be going up against a defense that surrendered 59 points to California.


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