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Oregon State Preview: After Routing UCLA Beavers Took a Step Back

October 17, 2019
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Just when it seemed as if Oregon State was ready to climb out of the bottom of the Pac-12 the Beavers, who face Cal at Memorial Stadium Saturday morning, last week resembled the OSU team we have come to expect.

Under second-year coach Jonathan Smith, a former star quarterback in Corvallis, the Beavers were spanked 52-36 by Oklahoma State in the season opener, but since then they clobbered FCS foe Cal Poly, got close to both Hawaii (on the road) and rejuvenated Stanford, and then dismantled UCLA in Pasadena. 

Oregon State Athletics
Coach Jonathan Smith

Understandably excited, the Corvallis faithful thought their team was ready to take on No. 15 Utah at home. That is when the Beavers reverted to the form that has produced an 11-43 record since Mike Riley left his second tenure as head coach following the 2014 season. Utah rolled, 52-7, and as lopsided as the score is, the game wasn’t even that close.  

Injuries have certainly been a factor.in the Beavers’ troubles. The defense, in particular, has been hit hard. Nevertheless, Smith realizes the talent level might not quite be up to Pac-12 standards.

“In this league, if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you’re going to get beat. Right now where we’re at, we don’t bring our ‘A’ game, we’re going to get blown out, especially against a good football team like (Utah),” Smith said after Saturday’s debacle.

The Beavers do have some weapons, though, particularly on offense. Sixth-year quarterback Jake Luton and wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins (17, above) who just might be the best pass catcher in the conference, can give the Bears problems. 

Oregon State Athletics
Jake Luton

Hodgins leads the league in virtually every receiving category, 8.5 catches per game (2d nationally), 118.2l yards per game (4th) and nine touchdowns (tied for 3d) 

“He’s a big (6-4, 203) physical receiver, so we’ll just have to get physical with him,” said Cal safety Trey Turner III this week.

Even against Utah Hodgins had eight catches, but for a season-low 77 yards and for the first time this year no touchdowns. Controlling him was largely the work of cornerback Jaylon Johnson, generally considered one of the best cover men in the country. “I just wanted to take away the big plays,” Johnson told the Pac-12 Network after the win. “They are known for double moves and big plays, scoring touchdowns and I wanted to limit that as much as I can.”

Without Hodgins, Luton is basically helpless. Senior Trevor Bradford, who was supposed to be the primary complement, is injured. Tyjon Lindsey created a stir with seven catches in the opener but has disappeared (five catches) since. And so it goes down the line. Until somebody else emerges, it’s Hodgins against the world.

The running game was designed to revolve around sophomore Jermar Jefferson, who set a school freshman record with 1,380 yards in 2018. He gained 181 yards against Hawaii, but hurt himself in the process. He did not play the following week, was used sparingly the next two games (nine total carries) and did not play against Utah. He could be back this week, which would be a huge boost to the Beavers.

“He’s a very good runner,” Wilcox said. “We saw him last year, we saw him coming out of high school. He’s a very talented guy, really burst on the scene last year as a true freshman...Real decisive, runs through tackles, can stick his foot in the ground, get north and south...Kind of a slasher guy with really good strength.”

Senior Artavis Pierce has done his best to pick up the slack, averaging 83.8 yards per game, 6.8 per carry.

With three seniors, including massive (6-4, 347) left guard Gus Lavaka, the offensive line is big and experienced. They couldn’t control the Utah defensive front and Luton was under a lot of pressure. Cal defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said that had as much to do with the Utes as with the Beavers. He lauded offensive line coach Jim Michalciz, once a member of the Cal staff.

“He’s done a great job, he’s been doing this a long time, obviously he was here at Cal,” DeRuyter said. “He’s got those guys playing together really, really well. To see their improvement from last year to this year is remarkable. They do a great job in their running scheme and they are protecting the quarterback much better. You can throw Utah out, they are a different animal.”

 

The defense has been OK against the pass but mainly because opponents have so much fun running the ball. The Beavers are giving up 205.7 yards per game on the ground, worst in the Pac-12. It might be different if Oregon State had the personnel it expected going into the season. 

Andrzej Hughes-Murray, a talented and experienced inside linebacker, was injured the week before the season opener and has not played a down. Fellow linebacker Addison Gumbs, a transfer from Oklahoma made it through two games before getting hurt. 

The safety position, already thinned by injuries, took another hit this week as Omar Hicks-Onu, a backup who was seeing a lot of playing time, left the team and put his name in the transfer portal. Jalen Moore, Jeffrey Manning Jr., and David Morris have all missed time due to injuries, and Kee Whetzel quit the team due to personal reasons before the season began.

Some little bits of good news:  linebacker Avery Roberts, who missed the Utah game with an injury is expected back for the Bears, as is defensive lineman Jordan Whittley.

Oregon State Athletics
Hamilcar Rashed

Two other linebackers, inside backer Shemar Smith and outside man Hamiclar Rashad have been the highlight defenders, They are 1-2 in the team in tackles, with 38 and 36 respectively. 

The Beavers in general and Rashad, in particular, do have a knack for getting into the opposing backfield, Rashad leads the Pac-12 and is seventh nationally with 10.5 tackles for loss. 

As a team, Oregon State has 46 team TFLs, second in the Pac-12 and tied for 24th nationally.  \ Last year the Beavers totaled just 53 for the season, last in the Pac-12 and 124th nationally. 

It is when the opposition crosses the line of scrimmage that the Beavers have troubles. Their tackling in the Utah game resembled Cal’s against Arizona State, and that ain’t good.

Place-kicking has been a problem all year. The Beavers are just 2-for-7 on field goals and have missed the last five straight. 

Senior Jordan Chouakir has been the man the last year and a half, but he has been inconsistent and was wide right on a 44-yard attempt in the second quarter Saturday with the Beavers down 21-0.

In the waning seconds of the first half, freshman Everett Hayes was given a chance at a 42-yarder and he missed it. That prompted Smith to announce at his news conference on Monday that he was opening the position to competition this week. We will find out on Saturday who won that battle.

Notes: 

  • Cal leads the all-time series, 38-33, and has won four of the last five. The Bears are 22-15 in games played in Berkeley.
  • Michalczik was on the Cal staff from 2002-2008 and from 2011-2012. Defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar was a graduate assistant with the offensive line at Cal in 1999.
  • Oregon State is averaging 5.33 yards per rush, (1,063 yards on 200 carries). That would be the best in school history if the season ended today. 
  • Isaiah Hodgins’ younger brother Isaac is a starting defensive lineman.
  • The Beavers are fast starters, scoring on their first drive in four of the six games.
  • OSU has turned the ball over just twice, both on interceptions. The Beavers have not lost a fumble.
  • Offensive lineman Blake Brandel has started 42 consecutive games, fourth-longest string in OSU history.
  • Oregon State has been called for 36 penalties in the first six games. The average of six per game is the second-lowest in the conference.

Related Stories:

Wednesday Practice Report: FIne-Tuning for Oregon State

Tuesday Practice Report: OSU Prep Continues

Monday Practice Report: Bears Back to Work After Bye

 

 

 

 
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