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Opponent Offense Preview: Oregon State Beavers

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It really helps a rebuild when you uncover a true diamond in the rough, as is the case with Jonathan Smith discovering Jermar Jefferson in the small backwater town of Los Angeles. Without him, who knows what Oregon State would look like this year. Granted they still only have 2 wins, so it can’t get much worse. But the true freshman currently is 3rd in the Pac-12 with 1,200 rushing yards and tied for first with 12 TDs, breaking most of Jacquizz Rodgers’s OSU freshman records.

Many Husky fans scoffed at the hire of Jonathan Smith by OSU - to many, they were helping Washington get rid of one of the weakest links on the coaching staff. That still may prove to be true, but Smith in his first year in control of a woebegone Beavers program has put together an explosive rushing attack that ranks 45th in overall rushing S&P+. The offense has been surprisingly decent, fun, and explosive, despite QB injuries. The defense, not so much. But that’s Gabey’s problem to write about tomorrow.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Basics

Like we saw during his four years running the offense for the Huskies, Oregon State’s attack is based on trying to create mismatches and numbers advantages for the offense. Also like the Huskies, they run everyone’s favorite offense: “the multiple.” One play will be out of the pistol, then they’ll run a two-back set with pre-snap motions, followed by a play action WR jet sweep. One calling card of this attack is the heavy use of screen passes, probably more than any other Husky opponent this year. Teams that try to get too aggressive with a suspect OSU offensive line can get burned if they don’t respect the screen game.

They like to move quickly as well and are 6th in the country in plays per game. Their 40 rushing attempts per game is also top 25 in the country. By comparison, Washington runs about 68 plays per game to Oregon State’s 80. The key difference is yards per play - Oregon State averages a full yard less than the Huskies and are much less efficient. What will look familiar to Husky fans is the way Smith calls plays - he passes in obvious running situations, and runs on clear passing downs. Sometimes this “zig when the defense zags” can work quite well, but it requires precise execution and timing. It’s been a mixed bag for the Beavers.

Through the Air

Oregon State, despite injuries at various points in the season to starter Jake Luton and backup Conor Blount, still averages just under 250 pass yards per game. That’s about 10 more yards per game than the Huskies. UW will probably face Jake Luton on Saturday who returned after his week 1 injury to lead the Beavers in a come from behind victory against Colorado and played in their last two against USC and Stanford. On the season, Luton has thrown for 1,188 yards, 7 TDs, and 2 interceptions. The Marysville product is a tall pocket passing QB, and standing at 6-7 is not much of a threat with his legs.

His main targets are the trio of Isaiah Hodgins, Timmy Hernandez, and Trevon Bradford. They each bring a slightly different skill set to the table and help give the Beavers a well rounded receiving corps. Former 4-star Hodgins stands at 6-4 and is the main deep threat, averaging over 10 yards per target. Combined with a 70% catch rate, Hodgins is one of the most efficient receivers on the roster. Hernandez is a solid possession receiver who’s had at least 2 grabs in every game this season and is tied with Hodgins with 48 catches.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Colorado
Isaiah Hodgins is averaging over 14 yards per catch.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly there is Trevon Bradford, who is often on the end of WR tunnel screens and jet sweeps. He’s a good athlete who can turn up field in a hurry, and he usually has 1-2 rushing attempts per game. He isn’t just a gadget player; he’s leading the team in TD catches with 6 and caught the game tying pass against Colorado on a slant on 4th down. He’s a player many Oregon State fans would like to see given more opportunities.

Last year’s leading receiver and All-Pac 12 selection is TE Noah Togiai, who is by comparison having a quieter year in 2018. After 34 catches last year, he has 6 this year, though half have been for touchdowns. His declining production is indicative of the changes in the offense, moving from Gary Andersen’s heavy sets that emphasized tight ends, to Jonathan Smith’s more spread/multiple attack, which favors the WRs and outside play making.

In pass protection the offensive line has been problematic, with an 11% sack rate - one of the worst in the country.

On the Ground

So Jermar Jefferson is really freaking good. Like all great young running backs, his vision truly sets him apart. Yes, he’s quick, and has some pretty good moves, but his ability to be patient and find the hole lets him glide through defenses. He already has two 200-yard games this season and seems a lock to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. With all the misdirection that Oregon State likes to run, it creates plenty of lanes and creases for him to cut back through.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

This ground attack is a bit boom or bust, however. About 1 in 5 runs get stopped for zero or negative yardage, and they have only a 43% opportunity rate (meaning when the offensive line produces 5 yards worth of rushing). But, they vault up to 17th in the country in rushing explosiveness - both Jefferson and back up Artavis Pierce can hit big plays.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this is an average Oregon State offense with an above average rushing attack. They’ve scored at least 30 points twice in Pac-12 play, which is more than Washington can claim. But, they don’t finish enough drives with scores, keeping them at an average of 27 points per game. What really kills them are 3rd downs; they rank 3rd in the nation averaging a whopping 17 per game! Over half the time, those are 3rd and long situations, indicating an offense that has trouble getting ahead of the sticks on 1st and 2nd down. If they can manage to get to 3rd and short situations, they are top 40 in success rate.

Oregon State’s offense should play right into Washington’s hands. As I’ve stated here numerous times, the Husky defense forces teams to play mistake free and convert long drives on a series of short, successful plays. Oregon State stays alive with big plays and won’t be able to win enough first downs to call the type of game they want to call. When forced to throw they could do a lot worse than the Hodgins, Hernandez, and Bradford trio, but they’ll be going up against the strength of the entire Washington team - the DBs. With a porous Oregon State offensive line playing in Husky Stadium on senior night, the defense should have no problem containing Jefferson and the Beavers. While we all bemoan the lack of play makers in the front 7 of the defense that can create havoc, they tackle incredibly well and are never out of position. Oregon State thrives on their misdirection putting defenses out of alignment but as long as the Huskies keep doing what they’ve done all year, Oregon State won’t be able to generate much.


How many points will Oregon State score on Saturday?

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  • 6%
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  • 46%
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  • 35%
    (154 votes)
  • 7%
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    (11 votes)
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