Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Who's ahead, offense or defense?

After two games Raju weighs in on his thoughts on who is ahead early in the season.

First things first, though — props to the Beavers for taking care of business and easily handling Idaho State, snapping a 10-game losing streak in the process. 

But make no mistake, they have a long ways to go — especially on offense. Take away a 92-yard touchdown run by Victor Bolden and Treston Decoud’s 75-yard interception return for TD, and the offense managed only 23 points against the Bengals.

That’s not a good sign, not against an FCS team that got shellacked the previous week by Pac-12 foe Colorado, 56-7. The Buffaloes racked up 597 yards of total offense, averaged 6.8 yards per play, and gained 32 first downs. They also were 11-18 on third down, and converted on 7-8 red-zone opportunities. 

Now, compare how the Beavers did against the Bengals. They finished with 418 yards of total offense, averaged 5.9 yards per play, and gained 17 first downs (the same amount as ISU). They converted only 4-16 on third down, and were 3-4 in the red zone.

Not terrible, but you’d certainly hope for more against a team like Idaho State. Rebuild or not, OSU should’ve pushed the Bengals around and set the tone offensively. But the Beavers struggled to find a rhythm and hit big plays consistently. That third-down conversion rate is alarming. That won’t cut it in Pac-12 play.

And minus Bolden’s rushing stats (3 carries, 111) and Garretson’s (8 carries, 46 yards), the Beavers gained 89 yards on 30 carries. That’s an average of 2.9 yards per carry. Definitely not good, especially against an FCS squad. Once again, the OSU offensive line struggled to creates running lanes, and Garretson was hurried and sacked more than you’d like…

Speaking of Garretson, while he did a good job extending plays with his feet, he was far from impressive Saturday, completing only 50 percent of his passes for a 172 yards and no TDs. More concerning was the fact that he missed on the deep ball several times when his receiver had his man beat. Those opportunities could be harder to come by against tougher competition, so he needs to get that touch down and convert them more.

Let’s face it, the offense is a major work in progress. The offensive line has struggled in both the run game and pass protection, the running backs have not hit holes that have been there quick enough, and the Garretson and his receivers seem off. With new offensive coordinators and a new QB, ups and downs are expected, but we’ve heard so much about Garretson and the work everyone has put in, so shouldn’t have OSU been able to do whatever they wanted against Idaho State? 

On the other side, the defense looks better than it did last season, so far. Yes, the competition hasn’t been the greatest and the d-line needs to work on getting more pressure, but the players seem to be in better position to make plays and seem confident in what they are doing. Now, it’s a matter of executing better (Ah, tackling, the never-ending quandary at OSU) and quicker. The Boise State game will be an excellent test for this unit.

But, the secondary has been very strong, as DeCoud and Brandon Arnold have emerged as playmakers, while Devin Chappell has been a strong, steady leader. Dwayne Williams and Xavier Crawford have added much needed athleticism. And against the Bengals, the linebackers were all over the place, with two sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception. If the d-line improves at the same rate, we might be in for a surprise. 

Most importantly, the defense has been making big plays when it matters most. While there’s been some uneven play at times, it has stepped up and held strong when it’s has needed to — and honestly, that’s what matters most, getting stops, even if it isn’t pretty.

It’s a long season and the offenses they will face will be stronger, but at the least, we are seeing the potential of the OSU defense. Next year could be fun. For now, it will be interesting to watch this unit grow during the season, even as it takes its lumps.

After last season, who would’ve expected that the defense would be ahead of the offense?


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