For our Five Questions, Five Answers feature this week, The Oregonian’s Connor Letourneau offered some of his insights about the Oregon State Beavers. Many thanks to Connor. You can follow his work here and follow him on Twitter here.
1. What were the keys for the Beavers in their upset of Arizona State?
A lot went right for OSU last Saturday. It established the run game early, breaking off two big gains for touchdowns. Defenders were more consistent in their assignments than they had been in recent weeks. In the second half, the Beavers held the Sun Devils to just three points. It also helped that the offensive line delivered its best performance of the season. The front five, which finally seems settled on a starting lineup after much reshuffling, nullified ASU’s pass rush after intermission. OSU made enough plays down the stretch to secure the victory.
2. Many have Sean Mannion pegged as a potential first-round draft pick, and he recently became the Pac-12’s all-time leader in passing yards. This hasn’t quite been the senior season many expected of him. What have been the issues for him and the offense this season, and are there signs that things are turning around?
Since Mannion is a true pocket passer, he depends on his supporting cast to succeed. This year, replacing Brandin Cooks proved daunting. A young receiving corps struggled to get open. An unheralded offensive line had a tough time in pass protection. In recent weeks, though, linemen and receivers have made significant strides. Mannion is beginning to put up the numbers people expected from him this year.
3. Have there been any noticeable differences with first-year offensive coordinator John Garrett taking over as the play-caller in recent weeks?
Nothing too significant. Riley and Garrett collaborate on the play calling. Before games, they meet and fashion a basic blueprint for what they’ll do. Then Garrett makes the in-game decisions. In many ways, Garrett seems to follow a similar approach as Riley. The Beavers still lean on the pass, but they proved last week they can kick-start the offense on the ground.
4. What kind of impact will the loss of running back Terron Ward on the OSU offense?
That remains to be seen. Ward and Woods had found a nice rhythm this season as OSU’s “co-starters,” so losing Ward certainly hurts. But Woods seems more than capable of becoming the featured running back. He is much more purposeful with his runs than he was a year ago. Backup Chris Brown has been solid in limited action this season and should shoulder a heavier load moving forward.
5. How much do you sense the Huskies’ rout of Oregon State last year will serve as motivation for the Beavers this week?
For the most part, the people I spoke with downplayed last year’s debacle as a motivating factor. Coaches and players said UW and OSU are both new teams. Still, I think it’s part of the narrative. The Huskies downright embarrassed the Beavers at Reser Stadium last year. They want to prove that wasn’t an accurate representation of what this program is about.