To say that Oregon State's offense isn't very good would be an understatement. The Beavers rank 116th in rushing yards, though that stat, like their 285 passing yards per game, is skewed by the fact that they have had to play from behind in nearly every game this season. A more telling stat would be to look at rushing yards per carry, which is...3.0. That ranks 110th among FBS teams. Hey, it's an improvement.
In Oregon State's three wins this season, they have been able to do a number of things right, things they weren't able to accomplish in their eight losses. Today on How We Stop, we'll take a look at those three Beaver wins, and exactly what went right for the offense.
OSU Win #1: Arizona - Coming into the game against the Wildcats, OSU was 0-4, floundering, and looked like a prime candidate to challenge the huskies for the title of "Mr. Northwest 0-12". So how did the Beavers beat an Arizona team who, one week prior, played USC extremely tough in the LA Coliseum? The answer has nothing to do with the offense.
Arizona was coming off a brutal stretch of schedule where they played Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, and USC in consecutive weekends. Mark Stoops was Dead Coach Walking, and the team was tired. And it was mental breakdowns and mistakes that led to the Beavers building a 27-6 halftime lead in Corvallis. In addition to two field-length drives that featured five runs in twenty-eight plays, the Beavers O was helped out by: a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, an interception returned to the Arizona 39, and a fumbled kickoff recovered at the Arizona 36. In the entire game, the Beavers had three scoring drives that started in their own territory. Much like Oregon against LSU, Arizona outgained OSU in this game. Amount this performance worries me: As close to none as possible.
OSU Win #2: Washington State - This was OSU's most complete game of the season. Sean Mannion threw for 376 yards and four touchdown, and was only intercepted once. The running game averaged over 5 yards per carry, and the Beavers were 8-12 on third down. Eleven different Beavers caught passes, torching an overmatched WSU defense. This is the kind of performance that could make Saturday's game verrrrrrrry interesting. Important to note: Washington State's pass rush was non-existant in this game. Is there a direct correlation between Sean Mannion's success and the amount of time he has in the pocket? Absolutely. Amount this performance worries me: Somewhat. Not enough that I expect it to happen, but enough that I know it's possible.
OSU Win #3: washington - This win is a combination of the first two. Oregon State capitalized off turnovers, but had to go the length of the field to do it. Sean Mannion had his second-best game as a Beaver, throwing for 399 yards and two scores, and the huskies were only able to register one sack. Amount this performance worries me: Meh. Mannion played well, and Markus Wheaton went crazy, but it was against a terrible husky defense.
I see two main keys to Saturday's game:
- Get pressure on Mannion - when he plays well, it's because he has time to throw. The Duck D needs to shake off the USC game, where a non-existent pass rush allowed Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee to hook up for (approximately) 962 yards, and get back to the way they were played against Colorado, WSU, the huskies, and Stanford.
- Force the check-down - Any talented quarterback can throw to their first option. It takes a step up in maturity to go through progressions and make good reads and throws to secondary options. On the season, Sean Mannion averages just over 7 yards per pass attempt. Against WSU and washington, he averaged over 10 yards. Take away the first option, which will almost always be Markus Wheaton or Joe Halahuni, and Mannion is forced to make fast-paced college decisions. Combine that with a tenacious rush bearing down on him, and he will make mistakes.