Oregon State Game Preview

The Washington Huskies raked in the midseason awards and accolades during their bye week, but not even that can shake their focus as they prepare for the Oregon State Beavers.

The second half of the season begins this Saturday when the Huskies welcome Oregon State to Husky Stadium. While the Beavers have only won two of their six games thus far, a win over Cal and a close call with the Utes are friendly reminders that anything is possible in PAC-12 play. Washington may be favored by upwards of 35 points, but they refuse to take Oregon State lightly.

Players to Watch

#3 SO 6’1” 204-pound QB Marcus McMaryion

2016 stats: 5 of 9 for 76 yards, 55.6% completion, 1 TD, 163.16 efficiency

Scoop: Darell Garretson, who’s started each of the Beavers’ first six games, suffered an ankle injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season. As a result, Marcus McMaryion will get his first start of the season against a familiar foe in the Washington Huskies; he threw his first career touchdown last year against the Dawgs in an effort that yielded 130 yards of total offense. His usage has declined a lot this season, but this could be his shot to make a case for being a fixture in the Beaver offense. He has a solid arm and could be the catalyst that sparks a struggling Oregon State aerial attack.

#34 SO 6’2” 234-pound RB Ryan Nall

2016 stats: 64 carries for 464 yards, 7.2 YPC, 6 TD, 13 receptions for 87 yards

Scoop: Calling Ryan Nall the strength of the Beaver offense is accurate in a variety of ways. Primarily, if you have a back that can get you over seven yards a carry you know you have a weapon. On top of that, Nall may be the strongest, most powerful back the Huskies see this year, and that includes Royce Freeman, whom the Huskies faced a couple weeks ago. For his size, the former tight end can move pretty darn well; he ripped an 80 yard touchdown against Cal earlier this year. Where he is least impressive is his ability to change directions quickly. However, with a guy as powerful as him, you’ll take his size and speed. Unfortunately for the Beavs, he may be unable to go. But if he’s out there on Saturday, expect him to be a focal point of their offense.

#21 FR 5’11” 201-pound RB Artavis Pierce

2016 stats: 48 carries for 262 yards, 5.5 YPC, 2 TD

Scoop: True frosh Artavis Pierce has taken his opportunities in stride, getting 48 carries in just six games. That can partially be attributed to Ryan Nall’s health issues, but give credit where it’s due; he’s a great compliment to Nall’s strength, showcasing speed and shiftiness. Should Nall be unavailable, Pierce will shoulder the load for the Beavers.

#22 SO 6’3” 188-pound WR Seth Collins

2016 stats: 26 receptions for 286 yards, 11.0 YPC, 12 carries for 32 yards

Scoop: Seth Collins’ two years at OSU have been chaotic. He immediately earned the starting job as a true freshman, accumulating 14 total touchdowns through the air on the ground in just eight games. The coaches decided it was best to switch Collins to receiver the ensuing offseason, and after considering transferring to continue his quarterback career, he chose to stick with Oregon State. The switch has in some ways been fruitful, as Collins leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. However, the switch hasn’t made the Beavs’ passing attack any more potent.

#6 SR 5’9” 183-pound WR Victor Bolden

2016 stats: 22 receptions for 197 yards, 9.0 YPC, 17 carries for 228 yards, 3 total TD (1 rushing, 1 receiving, 1 kick return)

Scoop: Victor Bolden has been the personification of versatility for the Beavers this season, taking 39 scrimmage touches for just over 400 yards this season. Basically, by averaging over 10 yards per touch, the Beavers move the chains every time he touches the ball. It’s not that simple, but its fun to manipulate stats. Oregon State loves getting him the ball however they can, which includes a lot of fly sweeps, end arounds, and the like. He’s got nice speed and quickness and can do damage with the ball in his hands.

#47 SO 6’2” 226-pound LB Bright Ugwoegbu

2016 stats: 41 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF

Scoop: Sophomore stud Bright Ugwoegbu has found himself in opponent’s backfields all season long. His strength is his speed, beating linemen off the ball and getting penetration as a result. Staying in front of him obviously takes some of his effectiveness away, but he’s still a skilled pass rusher who can make moves to beat his blocker.

#35 SR 6’1” 235-pound LB Caleb Saulo

2016 stats: 52 total tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 4 QB hits

Scoop: After one glance at the stat sheet, Caleb Saulo jumps off the page. He leads the team in tackles and is third in tackles for a loss. He’s one of players on the Beavers with a sack, and has four quarterback hits, indicating he can get after the quarterback as well. He leads the Beaver defense from the his spot in the middle, seemingly always finding his way to the ball.

#9 SR 6’2” 203-pound S Devin Chappell

2016 stats: 45 total tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 3 FF

Scoop: With the trouble the Beavers have had stopping the run this year, in-the-box safety Devin Chappell has had his hands full. His numbers are impressive, but that can partially be attributed to the fact that a lot of runs have busted though the first level or two, leaving him responsible for making stops.

#14 SR 6’3” 208-pound CB Treston Decoud

2016 stats: 32 total tackles, 2.0 TFL, 2 INT, 6 PD

Scoop:  OSU’s pass defense efficiency is third in the conference, and Treston Decoud is a big contributor to that stat. At 6’3” 208, he’s a big body to try to get by as a receiver and a tough obstacle to throw over as a quarterback. His length has allowed him to bat down quite a few passes and pick off a couple as well; he even took one to the house this year.

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What does the Oregon State Offense look like

The Beaver offense is the second worst in the conference, averaging just over 25 points per contest. It’s more than fair to say their struggle throwing the ball is the reason for there struggles. The Beavers only pick up 146 yards per game passing, and have found the end zone through the air just four times while getting picked off six times. Their low numbers aren’t a result of low volume; OSU throws the ball more times per game than Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. It’s just a general lack of efficiency. Compare their 4.6 yards per attempt to Washington’s 9.8 yards per attempt. The difference is night and day.

Consequently, Oregon State relies on running the ball to generate offense, and honestly they move the rock well on the ground. Their 5.4  yards per carry are third in the conference, behind only Oregon and Washington. In fact, it’s amazing that they run the ball so well when they have such a hard time passing. Their ability to mix up should get credit for that.

The Beavers love to hand the ball off to their receivers. That's Love with a capital L with exclamation points. Receivers have accounted for 47 carries through six games, which averages out to about eight carries per game. With guys like Victor Bolden and Paul Lucas OSU can line them up in the backfield and hand them the ball, however they love to run fly sweeps, end arounds, and all other fun, tricky receiver handoffs. Their propensity to give handoffs to receivers and the frequency with which they utilize fly-motion, they are able to set up some nifty misdirection as well.

Formation-wise, Oregon State is pretty multiple. Their depth chart lists four wide receivers, a tight end, an ‘r-back’ and a ‘h-back.’ They can set up in the spread with four receivers, bring in a tight end and h-back to tighten things up, and they’ve taken snaps out of the gun as well as the pistol.

The bottom line is Oregon State’s passing game hangs their rushing attack out to dry. They’re still able to get their ball carriers space to make plays, but when it comes down to it, their still missing a few pieces.

What does the Oregon State defense look like

Ironically, their defense couldn’t be more opposite from their offense; the Beavers’ pass defense is second in the conference, behind the Huskies, allowing just 179.5 yards per game. They’re tied for the conference lead in fewest passing touchdowns allowed, and they limit quarterbacks to 5.4 yards per attempt. Their downfall is their run defense. They allow the third most rushing yards per game in the conference and allow over five yards per carry.

On paper, their lack of success stuffing the run is surprising. Their 3-4 front is anchored by two linemen exceeding 310 pounds. However, only one player in the d-line two deeps is a senior, and he doesn’t start. So whether it’s a lack of experience, failure to get off blocks, or both, the Beavers have been a door mat for opposing backs.

As I mentioned earlier, Oregon State is a pretty solid pass defense statistically. They have nice size in their secondary, with three of four starters standing 6’1” or taller. I am a big fan of Treston Decoud. He’s a nice, big corner whose long arms are tough to throw over. Their thumper is Devin Chappell, who is second on the team in tackles and has forced three fumbles.

The story for the Beavers is again one of a group lagging behind the other. Their pass defense is impressive, but the fact that they allow over five yards per carry gives way to offenses who run the ball well.

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Keys to the game

Oregon State

  • Force turnovers - The Huskies are first in the conference in turnover margin. Their offense has been seemingly unstoppable as a result. Sudden change has been a rare occurrence. Forcing a few turnovers could throw some adversity at a Husky team that hasn’t seen much this year.
  • Disrupt Jake Browning’s rhythm - It’ s hard to go on the road against a top five team. Taking their Heisman candidate out of his comfort zone could make that easier. That’s a lot easier said than done.
  • Get off the field - The Beavers allow opponents to covert over 42% of their third downs. Allowing the Huskies to move the chains and continue running the ball could wear the defense out early.

Washington

  • Continue the trend - The Huskies have scored 10 rushing touchdowns in three conference game. The progression of the run game has been extraordinary of late, and the trend should continue against one of the worst rushing defenses in the conference.
  • Get some pressure - Marcus McMaryion will get his first start of the season on Saturday. An afternoon with Joe Mathis and the gang in his face will make it a little harder to shake the rust off.
  • Know your job - The coaching staff, as always, is stressing the importance of sticking to individual assignments. Against a team that runs so many motions and fly sweeps and misdirections, a failure to stay true to your job can be magnified.

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