We have a 8-pack of questions with the chief editor at Beaver Byte Steve about this Saturday’s game between the Oregon State Beavers and the Cal Golden Bears.
Golden Bear Lair: Oregon State seems to be flirting between being one of the elite teams in the Pac-12 and being a second tier team. What do you think has been the biggest attributer to them inching towards being part of that top tier?
Steve: Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks taking their game and leadership qualities to the next level. They both have proved to be true leaders this year and the numbers they are producing lead the nation. Riley’s offense takes a QB at least until his 2nd year to make considerable progress but these guys have been money so far.
GBL: Sean Mannion is the best quarterback in the nation you don’t know. Give us a quick rundown of his game.
S: Sean isn’t overly mobile but he is making good decisions this year and understands they can win most games so long as the offense is productive and errors are at a minimum. He is reading the coverage and going through his progressions and finding the best target instead of having much of a preference. With the running game struggling, he has still been able to manage the game and spread out the ball so defenses are still uncertain as to who will make the next big reception.
GBL: Oregon State is ranked 11th in the nation in scoring offense. What is it about this year’s offense that makes it so dynamic?
S: Mannion and Cooks first and foremost, but the other receivers are also talented and effective at moving the chains and making big plays. Richard Mullaney has past Oregon State Biletnikoff winner Mike Hass like hands and Kevin Cummings has been effective at getting open for a needed catch when OSU needs it. TE Commor Hamlett has also been good but is out so TE Caleb Smith, who has been getting better, will need to continue to do so.
GBL: Defensively, Oregon State has not been as good. They are ranked 71st in the nation. What things must they do in order to stop the offensive attack of the Cal offense?
S: The secondary can help themselves by being opportunistic and playing sound enough that the linebackers can focus on keeping the Cal running game in check. OSU leads the Pac-12 with 12 interceptions. Pressuring Goff and mixing up some blitz packages makes sense. Goff does not appear overly elusive and it is only those very mobile QBs that really give Oregon St. fits.
GBL: One area that the Beavers have been solid is in the turn over department. Despite the offense having turned the ball over 7 times this year, the Beavers are at +8 with 15 turnovers of their own. What has been the cause of the Beavers ability to get turnovers?
S: CB Steven Nelson leads the nation with 5 picks and Ryan Reynolds earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week against WSU. They are running with receivers but keeping their eyes open and towards the QB whenver possible. In rushed QB scenarios they are quick enough to make a play on the ball or tip it. They seem to have good chemistry and with passing being popular in the conference it has produced opportunities.
GBL: Mike Riley has this team sitting at 5-1 on the year and 3-0 in the Pac-12. We’ve seen Stanford look vulnerable, Washington has two Pac-12 losses already… Is this team a real competitor for the 2nd spot in the Pac-12 North?
S: OSU is usually a real competitor for the #2 spot. They had Stanford in trouble last year until Hogan just squirted out a pass as he was being tackled that went for a TD. That and the Vaz accidental fumble swung the game and were all that kept OSU out of the Rose Bowl.
GBL: Which players should Cal fans be paying special attention to this weekend?
S: Mostloy the usual suspects but the leadership is so good that OSU is tough to stop for long on offense. Mannion, Cooks, Mullaney, Cummings and then Storm Woods and Terron Ward at RB. The running game has been down but Ward is looking better and Woods is effective on screen plays and short passing routes.
GBL: Oregon State wins if…
S: They don’t beat themselves. Goff, Cal and Sonny Dykes will now doubt be hungry and try to make it a ballgame in the first half. If OSU can get to atleast a 10 point halftime lead most OSU fans will feel pretty good about securing the win. Turnovers could hurt us but we have been pretty good about playing smart for the most part. Our defense has some vulnerabilities but OSU so far this season has been able to move the ball more consistently. If the Beavers stay focused and go to work for 4 quarters they should have a little more firepower than what Cal will find it easy to keep pace with.
Make sure to tune into Saturday’s game. Kick off is set for a 7:30pm (PT) live from a cold Memorial Stadium. The game will be aired on ESPN 2 (the Duce). You can catch more analysis about the Oregon State Beavers at Beaver Byte!