The Beavers (1-8, 0-6) enter as the only team in the Pac-12 without a conference win.
We wanted to know more about them (and why they have struggled so much this season), so we asked Joe Londergan of Building the Dam, SB Nation’s Oregon State site, for some insight.
Here’s our Q&A.
What are Oregon State's strengths (if there are any) and weaknesses?
Ryan Nall is a strength, absolutely. He's up to 632 yards on the year with seven touchdowns. But as a whole the offense is the worst scoring offense in the Pac-12. The scoring defense is last in the league too, as a matter of fact. Manase Hungalu is a pretty stellar linebacker though. He's second in the Pac-12 in tackles with 81, partially thanks to 20 against Cal.
How has Darell Garretson been this season? Is he better than Luton?
Garretson has been okay. He's completed 55 percent of his passes for 875 yards, but he's only thrown one touchdown with three interceptions. Overall, Luton is probably a better quarterback since their totals to date in terms of completions and yardage are nearly equal and Luton has thrown more TDs despite playing in fewer games. Garretson does add nicely to the running game though and he's especially dangerous in the red zone. Keep an eye on him.
Do you agree with Mike Leach that Ryan Nall is the best running back in the Pac-12? What makes him so good?
It's hard to say. Nall is very good player and I don't know that there's a player in this league that's more essential to his team's succeeding than Nall. I also think his frame and ability to get yards after contact are a big part of why he's so good and why he has potential to succeed at the next level. But is he the best running back in the league? Not quite in my opinion, but he's up there.
How did Oregon State get where they're at?
A mixture of things. First of all: injuries. Jake Luton is more than likely out for the rest of the year with a spine fracture. Pretty much all of the secondary is hurt in some fashion. Nall missed a game in there. OSU also picked an unfortunate year to drop off so much in pass defense with how good the QBs around the Pac-12 this year are. I think teams taking advantage of that major weakness played a huge part in the early losses of the year.
Also, before the injuries, I think some overconfidence played into those losses. Gary Andersen even said it himself. They ended last year on a pretty high note beating Oregon and I think the players (and fans) got a little bit of an inflated ego based on that. If you're referring to Gary Andersen leaving, I think he expected some improvements from his players and his assistants and they just weren't happening. That and losing just completely took a toll on him and he didn't have it in him any more. So OSU released him from his coaching obligations, and here we are: 1-8.
How has the team changed since Gary Andersen's departure? It seems like they've improved.
They have played better, despite still losing. There's definitely a renewed energy on the sidelines with Cory Hall at the helm in the interim. They're also taking more risks in terms of play calling, which makes things more interesting (what do they have to lose, really?). They ran a trick play against Cal last week where tight end Tuli Wily-Matagi threw a TD to Ryan Nall. Then against Stanford they threw a screen to an offensive lineman.
But Cory Hall's had a couple mistakes of his own, like not calling a timeout in time near the end of the Stanford game. Bottom line, I'd expect them to continue that high energy, aggressive style and at least attempt to send the seniors off with some late season wins.
Realistically, how much of a chance do you give OSU slowing down Khalil Tate and beating Arizona?
I don't think they have much of a chance, honestly. Even if they do manage to contain his rushing ability somewhat, their secondary is too beat up for me to be confident in their pass defense right now. Tate's probably going to have another big day.
To beat Arizona, Oregon State has to......?
Cut the penalties and the turnovers. They hung in there with Cal last week but two separate targeting penalties and an unsportsmanlike conduct definitely didn't help their chances. And in the Stanford game, some fumbles from Ryan Nall at critical times were the difference maker in what ended up being a one-point loss. Just overall execution has to improve on offense. The more they can just keep Khalil Tate off the field the better.
Arizona has themselves another win here, I think. That offense is just too much for the OSU defense in its current state. 35-21, Wildcats win.