A View From Corvallis

It's that time of the week again; time to get the final word on Washington's opponent. This week it's the Oregon State Beavers, and Beaverfootball.com's Jim Phillips was kind enough to answer our questions as the Beavers travel north to face the Huskies Saturday night at Husky Stadium.

1. Is Mike Riley on the hot seat? - "It’s hard to see that. Some fans and shock-jock media columnists have become more vocal with their displeasure, but it is hard to see Riley leaving at any other time other than one of his choosing far down the road and the reason why is simple. Mike Riley has one of the more lengthy rollover clauses you’ll find. Every year Riley goes to a bowl, another year gets added. Right now, Riley has another seven years on his deal, though 2021. Oregon State would have a hard time buying him out."
2. How did OSU beat ASU, and how much of a shock did it come to OSU fans? - "Oregon State burned ASU on the Sun Devils’ blitzes. It was easy to see the Beavers studied the ASU film well and took advantage – two runs up the middle for TDs, one on a check down, were the longest runs of the season by a team that hasn’t run all that well. The Beavs also were much improved in pass-pro against ASU. OSU came out jacked up and mostly stayed that way all game. ASU, in cold temperatures, looked lifeless at time and as if they didn’t want to be out on the field. Ultimately, Oregon State was more focused throughout and played a more consistent game. Many fans were surprised, but others thought this team had been capable of similar, but hadn’t done so, all year."
3. Washington won this game big last year. Is it still on the minds of coaches and players? - "Meh. Maybe. The Beaver players and coaches tend to move on pretty well from one week to the next – Oregon State one week after getting shellacked by Washington last year arguably played their best game of the season the following week against Oregon. But Riley has tried to use the beat down, just a little bit, as a motivational tool this week. The players can’t help but be reminded of it, the media is asking them about it continually this week, but I don’t think it will be much of a factor either way on Saturday night and for either team."
4. OSU fans happy with Sean Mannion's play this year? - "Somewhat. Most recognize he’s really been hampered at times by his patchwork offensive line and a receiving corps that, while showing marked improvement the last few games, has not been nearly as potent as last year. Losing WR Richard Mullaney, their most consistent pass-catcher, for the year hurt - as have the multitude of injuries on an offensive line that wasn’t deep to begin with. For his part, Mannion has not stepped up in the pocket when pressured, he’s gone more side to side which is a darned good way for a non-mobile QB to guarantee bad things to happen. As he’s felt more pressure, his eyes have come down in some games. Last week was the best the offense and Mannion have looked in a while. If the line can give him a good pocket, Mannion is among the game’s best, bar none. If not, he and the OSU passing attack can become very ordinary, very quickly."
5. How has the injury to Isaac Seumalo affected the offensive line's performance this year? - "It’s hugely affected them. He’s the best Beaver o-lineman and one of the Pac-12’s very best. And although he lines up at center, he’s probably a better guard and that said, he’s also manned the tackle spot, to great acclaim, when injuries hit last year. Losing him for the entire season to a foot injury that just won’t heal has been a very big blow. Critics will say that injuries are part of the game and OSU has failed to recruit and develop enough o-linemen for just such a situation. And it’s very difficult to argue with that."
6. How big is the injury to Terron Ward? - "It’s big. Ward plays four positions (running back, punt and KO coverage and return man) so the Beavs have to replace all of that. Former co-starter Storm Woods now gets the lion’s share of the carries but it should also give Chris Brown, a guy OSU fans have been calling for the last two years, an extended audition to prove himself further to Riley and the coaching staff. Redshirt freshman Damien Haskins is a favorite, a 5-9, 232-pound dump truck with surprising agility and moves, but don’t think you’ll see a whole lot of him unless disaster strikes with Woods or Brown, who have more experience and who have built up more trust with the staff, or if the Beavs have a short yardage situation and want to mix things up."
7. OSU always seems to have a monster defensive line, whether it's anchored by someone like Paea or Crichton. Who are the stalwarts this year and what should UW fans expect? - "There isn’t that one star-type player but DTs Siale Hautau and Edwin Delva have slowly, steadily improved to the point they had their best game of the season last time out. They’re not going to get a lot of stats or sacks but they’re space eaters, the guys that allow the others in the front seven to shine. DT Jalen Grimble should be back for the first time since the USC game but who knows what we’ll see after such a long layoff. He was on his way to being the Beavs’ best d-lineman when a cut block stopped him cold, (one OSU d-coordinator Mark Banker took major issue with on USC’s dive-from-the-side-at-the-knee blocking scheme after OSU lost Grimble plus Noke Tago for the year in that game). Dylan Wynn was forced to move inside until last week, and had an impact at his more natural DE position against ASU. My guess is that Oregon State’s defense, led by their d-line, will try to take something away against UW, and I would expect them to try and take away the run. But then again, I’m not Banker so who the hell knows what we’ll see on Saturday."
7. Who are some key contributors for OSU that have emerged on the defensive side of the ball this year? - "Senior corner Steven Nelson has really boosted his stock, I have no idea why more people nationally aren’t writing up a storm about this guy. He’s been as close to lockdown as Oregon State has had in a very long while and BF.C’s Chad Luther said it best: “Nelson is the best Beaver CB since Coye Francies and you can legitimately argue, since Dennis Weathersby.” Safety Ryan Murphy has a chance to play on Sundays. Others to watch for include the linebackers, a senior trio of lunch-pail types in D.J. Alexander, Michael Doctor and Jabral Johnson. (Also, pass rushing specialist Obum Gwacham, a former WR, can make some noise on passing downs.)"
8. How big does the carrot of bowl eligibility loom for OSU in terms of motivation? - "It should be very big. The media started writing the Beavs off despite four wins based on the upcoming schedule about 4 weeks ago. The ASU upset means Oregon State either has to beat Washington or Oregon, and I think most objective observers would say Washington presents the easier road. For Mannion and the seniors, it would allow them to finish their career on a high note and it would also give NFL scouts a longer look next to some of the other guys out there. For the coaches, they want those 15 extra practices to work their young guys more."
10. What does OSU have to do to win this game? - "Oregon State needs to give Mannion a good enough pocket against a very good UW pass rush. They don’t need to be world beaters with their running game but it does need to be at least serviceable enough to make Oregon State’s play-action effective. Defensively, they need to try and force Miles to beat them through the air and that means stopping the run. Perhaps most importantly, they need to win the battle inside the helmet – Oregon State needs to come out sharp and battle back when faced with adversity. They did that against ASU, but they’ve done it far too little at other times this year. If it comes down to something at the end of the half or the end of the game, Husky fans can take heart in this and know they’re not alone: Oregon State has had several clock management head scratchers this season."

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