Editor’s Note: For each game this season, we are identifying a player and position group that could be the X-factor for the Beavers in that game. We claim no responsibility for jinxing any players.
Victor Bolden (Senior) — Wide Receiver
Vitals: 5-9, 183 pounds; from Rancho Cucamongo, California, where he attended Los Osos High School; was a Scout 3-star recruit; has started 33 games in his career.
2016 Stats: Played in all nine games, eight of which were starts; leads the team in receptions (38), yards (477), and touchdowns (2); is second on the team in rushing yards with 337 yards, including a team-best 92-yard run; also has a 99-yard kickoff return.
Why he’s the X-Factor: You might be wondering why a receiver gets the nod, when he’s facing off against a team, whose strength is their secondary. Well, Victor Bolden has been OSU’s most consistent threat at wide receiver this season, and if anyone is likely to bust off a big play against the Bruins, it will be Bolden. And if the Beavers want to get a rare road win, they will need a big play or two.
What’s great about Bolden, though, is he isn’t a one-trick pony. Yes, he can make the catch and run afterward, as evident from his 75-yard touchdown last weekend. But he also can take reverses and fly sweeps to the house, as he has a 92-yard touchdown run this season. Last but not least, he’s dangerous on special teams, having returned a kickoff for 99 yards this year. He can hurt you in so many different ways.
Against the Bruins, it would be huge if Bolden can haul in a few big catches early on, opening things up for the running game, and also his fellow wide receivers. The coaching staff shouldn’t be afraid to let Bolden carry the ball, either, especially against a defense that’s ranked eighth against the rush in the Pac-12. Overall, the likelihood that Bolden has a big game is quite high, and that would boost Oregon State's chances for a win.
Why it’s the X-Factor: The Beavers have kept several of their games this season much closer than expected, leading many onlookers to wonder if the Beaver's passing game was better, would have it made the difference? Well, UCLA is one of those more winnable games, and not to beat a dead horse again, but if the Beavers hope to win, they must get better quarterback play.
And it appears that both Marcus McMaryion and Conor Blount will play, and how they fare will play a major factor in the Beavers’ chances to beat the Bruins. But it’s so hard to predict how they will do, especially if the potential two-QB system scenario creates a “looking over the shoulder” mentality. If McMaryion or Blount plays well enough to separate himself from the other, it would be huge for OSU.
If the Beavers are able to run the ball, play action could be the quarterbacks’ best friend. Or at the very least, they need to roll out and let plays come to them, instead of forcing throws. Sooner or later, something needs to give for the Beavers on offense — and that’s why the quarterbacks will play huge role this weekend; hopefully ones that lead to a solid road win.
Blitzers, who are your X-Factors for the UCLA game?