What a difference a week makes. Last week we gushed about the balance displayed by the offense. When balanced, Coach Riley's system is tough to stop and they have the ability to score points. When unbalanced, the offense looks like a disaster.
Against Utah, the stats show quarterback Sean Mannion was 27-49. The stat sheet also shows that the Beavers rushed 26 times. The problem with the stats is that factored into the rushing numbers are six 'rushes' by Mannion, which were really sacks. No, he wasn't planning to rush the ball, they were pass plays that went awry. He also took a knee just before halftime which counts as a rushing attempt.
So, let's take another look at the Beavers "balanced"…or should I say "unbalanced" attack. 19 real rushes and 55 passes. That's bordering on the record setting unbalance seen at Arizona State earlier this year.
No wonder Mannion and the Beavs lead FCS opponents in interceptions. Defenses know the Beavers will abandon the run at the first sign of adversity, which makes the defenders job a whole lot easier.
SHE SAYS-GRADE: D
This team gets down by three points and it's like they are down by a hundred. Goodbye run game and hello chuck it up and pray. Unfortunately, the prayers are often answered in the form of catches by the other team.
Let's dig a little deeper into the numbers, shall we? As Angie pointed out above, the Beavs actually only attempted 19 rushes. They gained 92 yards on those 19 attempts. A 4.84 yard average.
But who needs a decent run average like that when you can call 55 pass attempts a game?
Sorry, starting my rant against the coaching a little early.
Markus Wheaton had his worst game as a Beaver. While he got his first touchdown catch of the year, he also dropped three very catchable balls, one of which was another sure touchdown.
Mannion did what he could, but wasn't helped by the wide receiver drops and Utah's defense loading up to stop the pass.
Oh, and the O-line gave up six sacks.
HE SAYS-GRADE: D-
The first half was ugly football for the Beaver defense. The Beavers appeared to lack intensity and struggled once again to wrap up on tackles.
Improvements were made at half, but by then the damage had been done. My biggest question is not so much in regards to the players, but the scheme.
Without Castro Masaniai and Feti Unga, the Beavers are missing the core of their run blockers. I actually thought we would have seen WSU gain a ton of yards, but creative blitzes and aggressive tackling prevailed.
Against a back-up quarterback who has struggled to pass all season, why not bring some different looks? Make him beat you through the air. Even the Utah coaches were scratching their heads.
Oregon State's defense showed improvement in the second half and they were not helped at all by the offense. We saw third down conversions go down and in the second half the defense pretty much shut down they Utah offense. They just need to play that way for four quarters instead of two.
SHE SAYS-GRADE: C
I think Utah coach Kyle Whittingham summed it up best when he said this about the Beaver defense - "They gave us a chance to play without having to open up the offense."
Utah's offense is not good. As mentioned, they had been averaging 13 points per game in their four prior PAC 12 games.
Their quarterback was headed to Division II University of Nebraska Omaha, before they dropped their football program earlier this year.
He's been on campus in Salt Lake City since June. He completed six passes in the game. They did not want to throw. And that was more than obvious to anyone who scouted the Utes this year.
Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Beaver defense that Utah would be running almost every play. It took until the 2nd half before adjustments were made. By then it was too late, the damage had been done on the ground.
Tackling was especially poor in the first half.
HE SAYS-GRADE: D
Punter Johnny Hekker was the MVP of the game. He did an outstanding job helping to pin the Utes inside their 20. It's a bad sign however when the punter is the MVP.
On the other side of the coin, freshman kicker Trevor Romaine continued to struggle with his field goals, missing two in Salt Lake. Not sure what needs to happen here as the kid definitely has the leg.
SHE SAYS-GRADE: C
I agree with Angie about about Hekker. He had an awesome game.
The return game wasn't nearly as effective as it had been in prior games. The coverage team gave up a big punt return in the second quarter and compounded it with a holding call. This led directly to Utah's first touchdown.
And the place kicking is just pitiful. I wonder what will happen here when there is real pressure on the kick?
HE SAYS-GRADE: A+ for Hekker, D for the rest.
Let's talk offense shall we? As mentioned above, the Beavers continue to run away (pun intended) from the run at the first sign of adversity.
The run takes time to establish. You need a back who can pound it time and time again for small gains and then eventually they'll bust one for a big gain.
That's how the pro-style offense works. You keep the defense honest and that in turn opens up the passing game.
Riley has stressed this time and time again over the years and we saw what a balanced attack should look like against WSU last week. Why the complete reversal a week later?
Yes, the offensive line was being manhandled by Utah's strong front, but why then stay with five and seven step drops? Sometimes it feels like there is no rhyme or reason to the play calls. Second and short…a pass? Third and short…a pass? How about fourth and one...a pass? The Beavers have a 6-foot-5 quarterback, but instead of a QB sneak the offensive coordinator called yet another pass.
I'm beginning to feel like a broken record about the balance of play calls on offense, but as it stands now, opposing defensive coordinators are licking their chops.
While others have been extra critical of the defense, they are completely decimated by injuries and did a solid job of in-game adjustments. Why they didn't do more to stop the run early and try to make Hays win it through the air is beyond me though.
SHE SAYS- COACHING GRADE: F
This game was mismanaged from the start. From a defensive plan that didn't come out and force Utah to throw, to an offensive plan that didn't balance the run/pass game.
Utah's coach clearly defined the problem with the Beavers defensive game-plan in his post game comments. The Utes were never going to beat Oregon State with the pass. Everyone knew it. Well, everyone except Oregon State's coaches apparently.
Sticking with the base 4-3 defense, with undersized defensive tackles, backup linebackers, and an opposing team that was determined to run the ball, was a recipe for losing.
But almost more galling was the offensive game-plan.
A perfectly balanced run/pass game last week lead to a rout by the Beavers. This week, it was just the opposite, with an unbalanced called game from the start that lead to being routed.
Yes, before anyone says that they abandoned the run because they were down by 24 at halftime read this: it was 19 passes to 8 rushes when the score was 3-0 Utah. Over a two to one difference when the game was essentially tied, on the road, with a quarterback that leads the nation in interceptions.
The Beaver coaches were scared to run even before the game started based on the plays they called. And the actual rushing numbers from the game prove that fear to be a fallacy.
Here's what we knew going in. Utah had a crappy offense and a good defense. But because of the way the Oregon State coaches game planned, they made Utah's offense look decent and their defense look great.
And with that plan, they gave the Beavers almost no chance to win.
HE SAYS-COACHING GRADE: F