Arizona at Oregon State: Q&A with Building the Dam

We caught up with Building the Dam to discuss two pretty bad teams in need of a win. The Oregon State Beavers and Arizona Wildcats will meet in what Andy Wooldridge called the "Desperation Bowl." No disagreements here, but really, how desperate are these two teams? I think the fitting tie between the two squads is UA safety Adam Hall laying the hit on OSU receiver James Rodgers last year, tearing his ACL. Now, Hall is likely to return from his own ACL injury. Who will pull themselves out of the gutter Saturday?

With both teams on losing skids, which do you think is more desperate? Oregon State, who has lost to some good (Wisconsin) and some not-so-good teams (Sacramento State), or an Arizona team that's gotten leveled by mostly pretty solid squads? Stoops' job is probably on the line more than Mike Riley's, I'd assume?
I honestly think Oregon St. is the more desperate team, because Arizona's schedule affords more chances for wins than the Beavers' does, having already blown 2 of the games they had parked as a W in the preseason, and then letting a road game they were in position to win get away last week.
In last year's game, it was Arizona safety Adam Hall who made the hit on James Rodgers that ended up tearing his ACL. Now it's Hall who most likely will return Saturday for Arizona after undergoing his own ACL injury. How has Rodgers looked this season after his return, and how much of a set-back was that injury to his productivity?
Oregon St. coach Mike Riley cautiously held Rodgers out until the third game of the year, but he's been full speed since coming back. 

His productivity has been limited a little, because freshman quarterback Sean Mannion hasn't worked with him that much. Mannion has seemed to overlook Rodgers several times in the last 2 games, in favor of larger, and more familiar (to him) figures, like Marcus Wheaton and TE Joe Halahuni.

I expect that to continue to improve as we go along; Oregon St. needs to leverage a healthy Rodgers. 
On the topic of the receiving groups for the Beavers, Chandler, Ariz., product Markus Wheaton appears to be coming into his own. For those of us who don't get to watch Oregon State, what's Wheaton's game like and how will Riley use him in the Beaver offense?
Wheaton is Oregon St.'s leading receiver, and has 32 catches for 390 yards, plus 6 carries for 43 more yards. He'll be used all over the secondary, on a variety of routes, and also on the fly sweep at times.

After Rodgers got hurt, it took a little while for him to adjust to being the "go to" receiver, but he wasn't that far behind Rodgers to begin with. Rodgers has continued to mentor him as well, and if the rest of the team weren't struggling so much, he would be much more in the conversation conference wide.
Arizona's offense is coming on strong of late, especially in the red zone. How do you think the Beavers will handle Nick Foles and the passing attack? And do you think they will be successful in limiting Arizona in the red zone?
I fear the Beavers will handle Foles poorly. That's partly because he is really good.  He's also done pretty well against Oregon St., beating them 37-32 2 years ago in Corvallis, and he played pretty well last year in Tucson.

Compounding the problem, after Brandon Hardin got hurt, it left only one experienced player in the secondary, safety Lance Mitchell. Beyond that, there was 1 career start on the rest of the roster in the secondary.

Things are improving, as CB Jordan Poyer had 2 interceptions last week, and S Anthony Watkins picked off Brock Osweiler as well. But a relatively inexperienced linebacker crew isn't yet the best at supporting the pass defense, especially.

The key to the pass defense, and probably the game, will be how well the Oregon St. defensive line does at pressuring Foles. Red shirt freshman DE Scott Crichton, freshman DE Dylan Wynn, and JC transfer DE Rusty Fernando all are coming on well, and should be able to disrupt things. Coach Riley has also said the key will be pressure.

In the red zone, the Oregon St. defense, which has been pretty good against the run, should do better than against explosion plays, because there won't be as much space for the 'Cats to operate in.

I have to ask about Sean Mannion. How upbeat (or downbeat) is everyone about his play? He put up big numbers (40-for-66 passing for 341 yards against ASU last week) but had four interceptions. At the same time, will the Beavers put more emphasis on the run against Arizona, considering the UA defense is, uh, not good?
People seem to be as upbeat as possible about Mannion, given the messy way Riley managed the transition from Ryan Katz. Clearly, he can really throw. And nobody, even the ones who oppose the move, inside and outside the team, blame Mannion.

Even Riley realized the air show in Tempe was too much, though, and even without RB Malcolm Agnew, everyone expects to see Oregon St. run the ball at least a bit more against Arizona.

I think Riley hopes he can be successful being more balanced against Arizona's struggling defense.
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