Oregon State vs. Fresno State: Get To Know The Beavers
Sneaky good matchup
Beavers taking the next step?
Fresno State hosts a pretty big matchup by playing Oregon State this weekend. The Beavers are on the rise after a bowl appearance last year and in the Week 1 game took care of Boise State in a fairly convincing fashion.
With the Beavers taking on another Mountain West school, we reached out to Angie Machado of Beaver Blitz to get insight on this Oregon State team after the first week of the season.
1. What did Oregon State learn about itself after the Week 1 win over Boise State?
Oregon State defense has struggled mightily over the past several years, but in 2022 it looks to be a major strength. Last year, midseason, Jonathan Smith dismissed DC Tim Tibesar and elevated inside linebackers coach Trent Bray to the interim position. By December, Bray had the interim tag removed and spent all offseason installing his new aggressive form of defense. Against Boise we saw the team swarm to the ball and have five takeaways.
Offensively, the Beavers run game struggled a bit against Boise State, but that is a bit misleading as the Broncos loaded the box to make stopping the run the emphasis. We did see quarterback Chance Nolan look more comfortable throwing the deep ball, but I will be looking for him to take that into week two as consistency has been one of the areas he has struggled with over the past year.
2. Fresno State has a stellar passing offense led by QB Jake Haener, how will Oregon State’s defense fare against that passing game?
This to me is the key matchup to the game. Yes, Fresno State has a stellar passing attack with top level quarterback and receivers, however, the Beavers defensive strength is in the secondary. This will be a major test for the veteran secondary led by seventh year safety Jaydon Grant. To me, I may give the slight edge to Fresno’s offense, however, this then comes down to Fresno State’s offensive line vs Oregon State’s front seven and whether or not the Beavers can get pressure on Haener and force him into bad decisions. A year ago I had zero faith in the Beavers pass rush ability, but after watching both Fresno State’s opener against Cal Poly and the Beavs game against Boise, I think the Beavers front seven may hold the edge on this part of the matchup. All said, this is going to be a really fun battle to watch as I really think it’s a toss-up.
3. Who are the key players that Fresno State needs to know in this matchup?
Offensively, of course, quarterback Chance Nolan is a name to know. He is a mobile quarterback who will have designed run plays called and tuck and run if the pocket breaks down. Tight end Luke Musgrave has become one of the Beavers top receiving targets. He’s big bodied and is a complete mismatch for any defensive back. The Bulldogs will see several running backs on Saturday, including South Carolina transfer Deshaun Fenwick, and true freshman Damien Martinez, who are both straight ahead downhill runners and Trey Lowe who is a change of pace back and usually called in on third downs as he is a receiving threat out of the backfield. The real strength of the Beavers offense however is the offensive line, who excel in protecting Nolan while also opening running lanes for the backs.
Defensively, as noted above, safety Jaydon Grant has experience and is a vocal leader for the defense. Fellow defensive back Rejzohn Wright is a long corner who looked solid in coverage last weekend and had the team’s first of five turnovers is joined on the other side by Alex Austin who, after taking some lumps as a true freshman years ago, has grown into one of the teams most consistent playmakers. Inside linebacker Omar Speights is a four year starter and quietly holds down the middle of the defense, especially good in run support.
4. Oregon State lost every game on the road last year, what was the poor reason that plagued them away from Reser Stadium and is that changing this year?
Actually, they beat USC on the road last season, but yes, they did struggle on the road last year, mostly from self-inflicted penalties and not playing a complete four quarters. This is a veteran team who at least says all the right things that they are focused on being a better road team. Heading to Fresno State may be a tough task as the Beavers are 0-7 on the road down in the Valley and we know it is an extremely hostile place to play.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
So in my preseason picks, I had this game picked as a loss. After seeing the two teams play last week, I think it is closer than I thought during the preseason and really see it as a toss-up. I think Fresno State has a very strong passing game, but I was not impressed with the offensive line and protection. Seeing the pressure that OSU was able to get on Boise State early, makes me think that this game will be tougher on Haener than Fresno State fans want to admit. I do love the match-up between the FSU receivers and the OSU secondary, and feel that this could be one of the Beavers toughest games on the schedule.
Offensively, I have concerns about Oregon State’s receivers and consistency. Chance Nolan has elevated his deep ball ability, but OSU receivers have struggled to consistently make the big catch. While Boise State stacked the box against the Beavers, I think Fresno will need to respect the pass a little more and that opens up the Beavers run game.
This game has all the makings for a classic and I think it really could be decided by a field goal or less. Until Oregon State can win a big game on the road, I’m going with Fresno State 31-Oregon State 30