KERRY SAYS: It's all about the Beavers
Oregon State's mantra this week: "One game does not a season make."
Portland State's premise: "We gave Brigham Young a scare last week. Get the offense going a little more and we can knock off the Beavers."
Saturday's inter-state matchup at Reser Stadium is not just a must-win game for Oregon State. It's a must-win-convincingly type of contest.
Not that the Vikings are easy foil. After watching video of PSU's 20-6 loss at BYU, OSU coach Gary Andersen was impressed with the tenacity of defense — led by 6-3, 260-pound senior end Davond Dade, the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week — and the athleticism on offense of Bruce Barnum's bunch.
But this is really more about Oregon State than its opponent.
The Beavers will be more poised on offense in their second game behind quarterback Jake Luton. They'll be more fundamentally sound on defense. There should be fewer turnovers on offense and fewer receivers running wild against the defense.
PSU's stout 'D' will load the box and focus on OSU tailback Ryan Nall. That should open up the middle for Luton to find tight end Noah Togiai and a host of receivers. If he throws it and they catch it, that adds up to an effective passing game, which should open up the run.
"We still want to be a 60-40 team (60 percent run, 40 percent pass)," Andersen says. "But when you're a spread team and a team lines up and says, 'We're going to 100-percent-plus-two you in the box,' there should be some coverage scenarios you can take advantage of."
Oregon State's defense has something to prove. The Beaver defense didn't get it done against the run, put little pressure on Colorado State QB Nick Stevens and then wilted when the heat mounted in the final period.
D-linemen Titus Failauga and Elu Aydon, who missed parts of the CSU game with injuries, are expected back Saturday. And prize true freshman Isaiah Dunn, a cornerback, has been cleared academically for eligibility and will be in the Beavers' rotation in the secondary.
The miscommunication that linebacker Manase Hungalu mentioned postgame should at least be alleviated in Game 2. The Beavers will mix up their coverages and their attack schemes against PSU's promising true freshman QB, Jalani Eason, a 5-11, 185-pound playmaker. They hope the Vikings' talented true freshman punter — Hayden Cowden, who averaged 47.9 yards on seven boots against BYU — has a busy, and not quite as successful, Saturday.
Portland State is no marshmallow. This could be a very competitive game, at least for a while. Andersen says his goal for the Beavers every game is to score 40 points. They'll come close enough to that figure to win this one, if not convincingly.
THE PICK: Oregon State 34, Portland State 20