It’s midweek, which means it’s defensive preview time for the Oregon State Beavers.
Let’s get to it:
From what I’ve seen of Oregon State, they show a diversity of defensive fronts; just casually keeping my eyes out, I’ve noticed a tendency for the 4-3 and 2-4-5 while also throwing around a 3-4 or 3-3-5 not infrequently and even, on occasion, doing something like a 3-5-3 (in my notes I have written down “lol wut is this, 1962?”).
What stands out in the Oregon State defense is that nothing really stands out.
The run defense is a serious weakness — Minnesota scored at least one drive where they threw the ball exactly zero times and managed to move upwards of 60 or 70 yards — and that frequently puts pressure on an otherwise okay secondary.
With so much pressure on the run, the defensive backs have at times felt the punishment for that. Former running back Kyle White is athletic with an eye for the ball. Grad-transfer Austin Hudson has filled in decently when called upon. Freshman David Morris hits like he doesn’t want to live and plays coverage pretty well. Xavier Crawford is following up a breakout true freshman year. Jalen Moore is versatile and will make opponents fumble if they aren’t taking ball security seriously.
But the unit has looked unspectacular. Not horrific, given the standard you’d expect with a 1-3 record where the only win was a close game against an FCS team. Just not special.
They gave up six passing touchdowns to Luke Falk two weeks ago and got torched in the second half of the Colorado State game. Three of those WSU touchdowns were of 20 yards or more. The only gave up one passing touchdown against Minnesota, but that was a 67 yard play.
At linebacker, Manase Hungalu has been one of the few bright spots and is a pillar of the defense. Any given game, he’ll probably be near the top of the tackles list and, against Portland State, he helped secure the win with a pick-six.
Andzrej Hughes-Murray is a native of Federal Way who’s been productive enough to work himself into a starters spot as a true sophomore. Then there’s guys like Jonathan Willis or true freshman Kesi Ah Hoy who have been pretty okay with flashes of something exciting, or Bright Ugwoegbu, who recovered a fumble against Minnesota.
Then on the defensive line, there’s not much remarkable to the point where, after finishing researching the OSU defense, I realized not a single name of a defensive lineman had ended up in my notes.
In the trenches, the line has had little success stopping the run and look like they typically lose the leverage war against opposing offensive lines. This is especially apparent in goal-line and other short-yardage situations, where I almost never saw them win one of those battles. This then makes sense why the secondary has had some issues with explosive plays, given the resources that have to be dedicated to stopping the run.
Honestly, it’s pretty impressive the defensive backfield doesn’t have more trouble and aren’t left even more isolated.
When you watch Oregon State’s defense, you don’t see a bunch of guys crazily out of positions so much as you just don’t see them in exactly the right position.
Similarly, their tackling isn’t hopeless — but it isn’t exactly a strength either.
Sensing a theme?
Again: What stands out is that not much stands out, neither great nor horrible.
From stuff in the Colorado State and Wazzu games, Oregon State looks like they don’t defend the flats super well either. Then again, those are a weakness for most college teams.
Another thing that prevents them from staying competitive so far is either a weakness in conditioning, depth, time of possession or, most likely, a combination of all three. They’ve seemed pretty gassed late in games; Colorado State scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Wazzu scored two TDs within the course of three minutes in the end of their third quarter, and Minnesota scoring four TDs in the second half of that game next Oregon State’s zero TDs. In the first four weeks of the season, Oregon State has been outscored 86-21 in the second half.
Overall, they don’t look like a 2008-style crapstorm of insanity, despite what their record and scoring deficits may look like. Rather, the defense just looks... there. If there’s anything truly terrible, it’s the run game, but otherwise the defense, like most of this team’s overall performance, just looks moderately below-average in execution and depth in all aspects.
With their tackling being merely okay on a defense whose weakness is the run game... against a Washington offense that just got done with Myles Gaskin’s best rushing yardage game in his career... Oregon State is probably gonna get all sorts of messed up by Gaskin and the run blocking.
Especially with the Huskies’ offensive line seeming to have figured out a lot of their problems in the run game last week against Colorado, this looks like another matchup for them to build on that performance and force their will onto an adversary that shouldn’t be able to do much about it.
Honestly, I would be cool with it if Browning threw the ball exactly three times, and all three of those times were just fat deep passes to Salvon Ahmed just for funzies.
In all seriousness though, even though the Husky offense is known for its balance, I would expect them to go heavily towards the run a la Stanford circa 2015, where the other team knows exactly what’s coming and is just out-done anyway. Basically, Washington’s trenches are probably gonna bully their way to a (probable) victory.
If they establish that — especially early — this will be a good game for Washington’s receivers to take advantage of a more isolated secondary. Especially since few pass-catching targets not named Dante Pettis have emerged as a consistent threat, this could be a game where we see flashes of who might step up. Something in my gut is telling me Hunter Bryant might have a good day... I dunno. We’ll see.
As always, any lurking Beav fans feel free to chime in (you guys know these guys best)!
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.