The Oregon State Beavers and Arizona Wildcats came into the season with very different expectations. Nevertheless, the two will meet Saturday in Corvallis (1 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks) with very similar resumes in this young season.
Before the game, we asked Joe Londergan, who writes for our sister site Building the Dam, about what we could expect from the Beavers on Saturday.
Here’s our Q&A. We also answered questions about Arizona for them, and you can see that here.
The Beavers and Wildcats are both 1-2 with the victory coming against Southern Utah. How has the reaction to the beginning of the season been in Corvallis?
Mostly positive, honestly. The Ohio State loss was something we all saw coming for obvious reasons but given how dinged up the team was (and still is) collectively, it could have been a lot worse. OSU is leading the Pac-12 in total yards after all. Young guys like Jermar Jefferson have given OSU fans something they haven’t had in a while when it comes to football: optimism.
Sure, losses suck. But take this game against Nevada last week for example. The general sentiment on Oregon State Twitter was that Gary Andersen at the helm, OSU would have pretty much given up with the lead Nevada had at one point. But with Smith, they kept fighting and got back in there at the end. Nobody expected “The Return” to be an instant turnaround. The improvement in culture and attitude in fans and the program itself is very apparent.
After such a rough 2017, what are Oregon State’s goals in Jonathan Smith’s first year?
Being competitive is a big goal for this team. There’s a lot of inexperience on this team, but there’s some good talent and they’ll figure it all out in time. With last season setting the bar so low, Smith really needs to just win multiple games to show he’s moving this team in the right direction. I think a big thing too is building excitement for the next few years. Winning big at home two weeks ago helped with that and the big transfers they’ve landed in the last few weeks (Avery Roberts, Tristan Gebbia, and Addison Gumbs) will be huge for that.
Running back Jermar Jefferson looks to be the best freshman in the Pac-12 thus far. What makes him so dangerous?
I love Jefferson’s vision. He has a knack for seeing where his holes are and where his opportunities to advance the ball are. I know we tend to glorify backs who either run right through people or juke guys into next week, but Jefferson is great about taking the “one cut and go” approach. Also, as good as Jermar is, credit to the Beavs’ o-line right now. Their ability to run block has been really impressive and it’s helped the other back Artavis Pierce have some big moments as well when he has been on the field. That aspect of the Beavs’ offense has been fun to watch these first few weeks.
Quarterback Conor Blount has seen lots of playing time in Weeks 2 and 3 in place of injured Jake Luton. Any word on Luton’s status?
So Luton has a sprained ankle and he is day-to-day right now. I personally feel pretty bad for Jake. He seems like such a good, down-to-earth guy but his body has been getting physically destroyed ever since he got to Corvallis. A spine fracture last year, he was taken out of the Ohio State game to undergo concussion protocol, and now the ankle injury. But I think Blount has done fine for the most part. He’s a little more mobile than Luton, but maybe not quite as good of a passer. I joked last week that we just Blount and Luton to do the fusion dance from Dragon Ball Z and we would be all set.
Oregon State has had problems defensively this year, again much like Arizona. How will they fare against this Arizona offense?
Khalil Tate is great. There’s no doubt about that. So I think he’ll give OSU some problems, especially since the pass rush hasn’t been great the last three weeks or so. I think they’ll get a turnover and bust out the chainsaw once, but the inexperience in the linebacking corps, in particular, will probably continue to shine through. Arizona will score quite a few points, I think.
Are there concerns about the kicking game after OSU lost to Nevada on a missed field goal?
Some. But that’s been an issue for a while. Choukair missed seven field goals last year and he’s missed four this year. Choukair looked really really good in spring ball and fall camp, so I’m a little surprised he’s missing some of these kicks. You can’t blame the loss on that last field goal, obviously, but you expect a guy who is as good as we all know Choukair is to hit that.
Finally, score prediction for the game?
I think that this game is going to be pretty close based on what we’ve seen out of both teams. I’m thinking Arizona takes this one. I’m NOT particularly impressed with either defense though, so I think we’ll see quite a few points scored. 34-28 Arizona is my prediction. I hope I’m wrong though.