KERRY SAYS: Look for Beavers to notch two wins in row
CORVALLIS — A winning streak, you say?
That's what Oregon State is looking at if it can somehow manage to come out on the plus side of its game against Nevada at 4 p.m. Saturday in Reno.
The last time the Beavers won two in a row was in 2016, when they knocked off Arizona and Oregon to finish Gary Andersen's second season at 4-8.
This is one the Beavers should win, as a member of the Pac-12 going up against a lower-echelon Mountain West school. But beating Nevada in the "Biggest Little City in the World" is not likely to be easy.
The Wolf Pack pounded FCS opponent Portland State 72-19 in their opener, amassing 636 yards total offense, including 420 through the air. Then they traveled to Nashville, where Vanderbilt outscored them 24-0 in the second half en route to a 41-10 rout. Nevada managed only 14 first downs and 250 yards — 34 rushing — against Vanderbilt and yielded 468 yards to the Commodores, who dominated time of possession 36:02 to 23:58.
Nevada's second-year coach, Jay Norvell, is a former assistant at Arizona State (2016) and UCLA (2007) on his first head-coaching job. Norvell, 55, was co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 2011-14. The Wolf Pack were 3-9 under Norvell last season.
His offensive coordinator is Matt Mumme, son of Hal Mumme, the former Kentucky coach who is one of the forefathers of the pass-happy "Air Raid" offense employed by Washington State coach Mike Leach. The Wolf Pack run a modified version, but they're more effective passing than with their run game.
Senior Ty Gangi, 6-2 and 205 pounds, is the leading returning QB in the Mountain West, having thrown for 2,746 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Sophomore receiver McLane Mannix caught 57 passes for 778 yards and six touchdowns as a Freshman All-American.
In Nevada's first two games this season, Gangi has completed 38 of 65 passes (58.6 percent) for 558 yards and four TDs with three interceptions while the 5-9, 185-pound Mannix has 10 receptions for 218 yards and three TDs.
In last week's 48-25 win over visiting Southern Utah, Oregon State's offense was as balanced and effective as it could be in the first half — and it is operating without a major weapon — junior tight end Noah Togiai, who is expected to be out another month or so with a knee injury.
The OSU defense was solid for a half, then shaky, due primarily to poor tackling.
If there is a single area in which the Beavers must improve, it is pass rush. They have two sacks in two games, but more than that, there has been virtually no pressure applied to quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State and Chris Helbig of Southern Utah.
The Beavers don't seem to have a player capable of shedding a block and coming in off the edge to get to the QB. That puts pressure on an inexperienced, injury-depleted secondary. The hope is that linebackers such as Kee Whetzel and Andrzej Hughes-Murray can get some heat on opposing QBs on blitzes as the season wears on.
It's going to be up to OSU coaches to develop the talent on hand through the rest of the season, starting with Saturday's game against Nevada.
When he was a sophomore quarterback in Dennis Erickson's first year as coach at Oregon State, first-year OSU coach Jonathan Smith led the Beavers to a 28-13 win at Reno in 1999. I'm saying history will repeat itself 19 years later, but by a slimmer margin. Let's say a Jordan Choukair field goal in the final minute will provide the winning points and snap a 20-game road losing streak that extends to 2014.
THE PICK: Oregon State 33, Nevada 31