1. Oregon State has lost six of its last seven games, with the only victory coming in overtime against Cal. In what stage of the Gary Andersen rebuilding project would you say the Beavers are on at the moment?
We are currently in the second year of coach Andersen’s rebuild of the Oregon State program and, while the win/loss record may not show much progress, it is happening, starting with the scoreboard. Last year the Beavers finished the season 2-10 with wins over Weber State and San Jose State. The average margin of loss was 25 points, including a 41-0 loss to UCLA and a 52-7 loss to Washington.
This year, the Beavers lost by a touchdown on the road at Minnesota to open the season, have their first conference win under Andersen with the overtime win against Cal, and let a 24-6 halftime lead evaporate over Washington State. This season, the Beavers margin of loss is 15 points, and that includes a 41 point drubbing to Colorado earlier in the year.
The Beavers are definitely a team improving, and when you consider the number of injuries they’ve had (especially on defense and quarterback) and the fact that they have played nine freshmen, the Beavers are making progress and they are definitely hungry for another win.
Both are fairly inexperienced with McMaryion starting his third game last week at Stanford as a redshirt sophomore and Blount is a true freshman, who walked on to the program this fall after originally planning to walk-on closer to home at Wisconsin.
Blount should be considered more of a mobile threat, although many felt McMaryion was not running much during the past two weeks as he the only quarterback left without burning the redshirt of true freshman Mason Moran.
Both quarterbacks have shown some moxie and have made some good throws, but both have also struggled during their limited action this season.
3. Running back Ryan Nall is an impressive athlete with deceptive speed for his size. What's the key to his success and how does the offensive staff put him in position to succeed?
Nall is really a fun running back to watch. A real throwback to the days of tough, fight for yards type players. You’re completely correct with your comment on his deceptive speed. Beaver fans had their eyes opened last season during the Civil War where Nall was able to run past the Oregon secondary, and he has done it on more than one occasion this season too.
The offense will utilize Nall both as a straight ahead rusher and as a receiver out of the backfield, both have been very successful when he is 100% healthy. The Beavers offensive line has also had some shifts due to injuries and he has seen more success running between the tackles over the past several weeks because of the improvement on the line.
He has been dealing with a nagging foot/ankle injury and left the Stanford game in the second half, so while he is probable, Beaver fans and coaches are hopeful he will be 100% for Saturday.
4. UCLA has struggled mightily to run the football all season. How would you assess the Oregon State's defense and, in particular, its ability to stop the run?
This may be UCLA’s lucky day, as the Beavers have given up an average of 235 yards per game this season. It isn’t that the Beavers run defense is particularly bad, in fact they’ve had some great short yardage stops throughout the year, but they’ve also been susceptible to teams breaking free for long runs which has hurt their average.
Last week against Stanford was especially tough as the Cardinal rushed for 365 yards, that was with a healthy Christian McCaffrey however, who seems able to get his yards. Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols also had a big day against the Beaver defense, gashing the Beavers for 208 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
5. What is your prediction for what will happen in the game and a final score?
Looking at UCLA’s recent games against Colorado and Utah, I’m a bit surprised at the two games scoring differential. If anything, I would have expected the Colorado game to be a higher scoring affair and the Utah game to be more of a defensive battle.
UCLA has talented players all over the field. I honestly think that Mora does less with more than many coaches in the conference, but the talent is there and the Beavers are still a year or two away in the rebuild. I do think Oregon State’s physicality on defense may surprise the Bruins, but right now the Beaver offense is a weapon or two away. The Bruin defense only needs to key in on Nall and receiver Victor Bolden to make things extremely tough for Oregon State.
I’ll go with UCLA 24 – Oregon State 17