Mac Magee over at Building the Dam was kind enough to answer our questions about the Oregon State Beavers. OSU has taken the coveted 12th spot from the Buffs in the conference power rankings, and CU is coming off a huge win in Oregon. We discuss their notable players, Gary Andersen, and how they plan to move the ball.
1. Treston Decoud has been absolutely shut-down as a boundary corner. How has he been able to dominate his matchups and how do you propose the Buffs deal with the problems he poses?
Go away from him. Seriously. The best way to avoid dealing with cornerback Treston Decoud is to do what most coaches do when there's a great defensive back on the field and that's simply avoid him at all costs, especially when Oregon State doesn't have a wealth of talent besides him in the secondary. So in all seriousness, not bringing him into the mix at all is probably Colorado's best bet. If that's possible. Obviously, the Buffs will go his way at some point and when they do, making sure not to turn the ball over is the key. Decoud won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week earlier this season when he picked Idaho State off twice, including returning one of those interceptions back for a score. He's as big-time of a cornerback as there is in the Pac-12 and he can make his impact felt in an instant.
2. Ryan Nall beat up the front seven of CU last year, and he rumbles forward better than any other back in the Pac-12 that I've seen. Has he been living up to expectations this season? How do the Buffs stop him?
There probably isn't a more accurate statement that could describe Oregon State running back Ryan Nall any better. When he runs, he simply rumbles. Nall may have more speed than some of those "old school power backs" but when trying to describe his game, that's the phrase most commonly used. Nall is the go-to-guy in short yardage and red zone situations and expect him to get around 15 touches in every game, one way or another. He's been a bit beat-up throughout the course of the short season thus far but he's been a guy that Oregon State can rely on for the same consistent effort each game. For the most part, he's definitely lived up to expectations.
As far as stopping Nall, he isn't exactly a prototypical big-play threat so he's one of those guys who if you can contain him from getting to the second level, you can probably lessen his impact on the game. If Colorado can get pressure into the backfield, either on rushing plays or in the passing game, it may also change the way that Andersen is forced to use the running back. Nall is obviously a bonus in pass protection, when needed, so getting the heat on Garretson will be key for the Buffs, who can then turn Nall from running back to blocking back. But stopping him? Probably not going to happen. Like you said, "he rumbles" and when he gets going, it's hard to stop him. Nall is a grind-it-out back who has been known to endure an endless fury of defensive attacks.
3. This may be a simple question, but who is the Beavers' quarterback this week? And do you think they can have success against a loaded CU secondary?
For those who aren't aware of the situation, in Oregon State's last game against Boise State, head coach Gary Andersen pulled starting quarterback Darell Garretson to start the second half and inserted true freshman walk-on Conor Blount in his place. To say the move was shocking is a colossal understatement. Blount wasn't even listed on the depth chart and two other back-ups, Marcus McMaryion and Mason Moran, were simply passed over for no reason. It was one of those moves for Gary Andersen that had to pay off.
It did and Blount led the Beavers serviceably in the second half, finishing the game going 11-18 through the air for 138 yards but after the game, it was reveled that Blount's insertion into the game had more to do with a Garretson leg injury than any sort of quarterback drama. Now, all week long leading up to the Colorado game, Andersen has reiterated that Garretson is the starter going forward but Blount has jumped to the second spot on the quarterback depth chart for this week and looks to have secured the back-up position. So for now, that seems to be settled. Garretson is the starter. Blount is the back-up.
As far as this week goes, the question is can they have success about these Colorado defensive backs. The thing that could help Garretson, a veteran Utah State transfer, is that Oregon State's passing offense is a high-completion type of system that focuses on short-to-intermediate passes, which has a tendency to sometimes hinder opposing defenders' abilities to force themselves on the game. If Garretson can get the ball moving and begin to expose a deep-play threat, the assumption is there that Oregon State has the guys to make those type of plays. But Garretson will definitely have his hands full, especially coming into this game still not at full strength. If Oregon State wants to find success through the air, it'll be by sticking to their methodical game-plan and taking what the defense gives them.
4. Who is the one player to watch on offense? Defense?
On offense, it probably has to be wide receiver Victor Bolden Jr., who is one of those do-it-all guys for the Beavers. Bolden Jr. is second on the team in receiving this season (behind former quarterback Seth Collins) but he also has be known to get some carries out of the backfield and last week, he returned a kick-off 99 yards for a touchdown against Boise State. He's just one of those electric playmakers who's hard to contain. There may be a point in the game where he goes a bit silent in Oregon State's offense and that's the exact point to start worrying about him. The coaching staff has used him as a bit of a spark plug offensively this season, when things look to be beginning to stall out and he's delivered consistently for the Beavers.
Defensively, as far as a bit of an under-the-radar guy, I'll go with outside linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu. Ugwoegbu is a 6'2", 230 pound freak athlete who when on his game, is one of the toughest players to handle on this Beavers defense. Against Boise State, Ugwoegbu sniffed out a huge third down play right before halftime, which turned a potential Broncos touchdown drive into one that ended with a field goal. He also tallied five tackles (two for loss) and one sack in the outing. Not a bad day. He's probably not the biggest name on the Oregon State defense (yet) but he very-well is the type of player that keeps opposing coordinator's up at night. In similar fashion to Bolden Jr., the second you forget he's out there, is the second he's probably going to make you remember.
5. How do you see the game playing out? Is Gary Andersen the right coach for the Beavs?
To be optimistic, for the sake of Beaver nation, the "big game hangover" card could be played to say that Colorado maybe won't be as focused and ready heading into this game and that if Oregon State can get out to a fast start, it'll probably be the first time all year that the Buffs don't take a lead early. But that's just some "glass half full" type of thinking. If the same Colorado team that showed up against Oregon shows up against Oregon State, the Beavers are going to have a very rough time on Saturday.
As far as Andersen being the right coach, the Beavers are in the midst of a rebuilding project that's going to take some time and while everyone wants to win now, there's steps involved in ascending to the top. In general, Andersen has a done a solid job of establishing new recruiting pipelines, developing players already on the roster and changing the culture over from former head coach Mike Riley, who when he left Oregon State in 2014, had coached the Beavers since 1997. The biggest thing that could probably help Andersen right now more than anything is beginning to pick up some key wins in conference play. While winning just two games last season hurt, most of the fan base was more perturbed by a lack of a Pac-12 victory than anything else. Conference games simply mean more and that's where the signature wins have to come from first.