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October 10, 2013
Ask The Insider: OSU Preview
We dive into a comprehensive Q&A to discuss what to expect under with the nation's leading passer Sean Mannion, the Oregon State defensive package, playmakers to look out for, her prediction and much more below.
WW: Sean Mannion is quietly putting up Heisman-worthy numbers and doesn't look to be slowing down. What has been the key to his emergence and what are his strengths as a passer?
AM: Second and third year quarterbacks have usually seen great gains in Mike Riley's offense and this year is no exception for Sean Mannion. He has also been fortunate to have good pass protection from the offensive line and a battery of good to great receivers and tight ends to throw the ball too.
Mannion has a very strong arm and is able to make the deep and intermediate throws. This season he is playing with more confidence and hasn't gotten rattled by opposing defenses. The confidence factor alone has helped him immensely as he's settled down and made good choices.
WW: Similar to WSU, Oregon State's ground game has been poor. The offense hasn't missed a beat in its absence, however. Absent a viable running game, who are the playmakers on offense that WSU will need to account for and what do you expect the overall offensive game plan to look like with a week to prepare for WSU?
AM: The Beavers will have a healthy offensive line for the first time all year with the return of Grant Enger, Josh Mitchell and Gavin Andrews. Storm Woods, the team's starting running back is also back for the Washington State game after suffering a concussion at the Utah game. The Beavers game plan will always be to run a balanced offensive attack, but this year they've had to rely on the passing game to get things done.
Of course Cougar fans have heard of Brandin Cooks, the team's leading receiver, but the strength of the Beavers receivers is in the depth. Double team Cooks and the Beavers can throw the ball to Richard Mullaney or Kevin Cummings. Try to take all three receivers out of the mix, and the tight ends will kill you with Connor Hamlett, Kellen Clute and Caleb Smith all registering touchdowns this season.
While the Beavers run game struggles in the statistical category, Storm Woods and Terron Ward have put up some numbers in the screen game, which while considered in the passing game statistics, are really part of the run game in my opinion.
WW: Oregon State's defense has been respectable this season, but has been also been burnt in a few games, including against Eastern Washington and Utah. Where are the strengths on defense and who is likely to be a difference maker on that side of the ball on Saturday?
AM: The Beavers struggled early finding an identity, especially at linebacker. Starter D.J. Alexander suffered a knee injury during fall camp and missed the first few games. The Beavers also started a new middle linebacker in Joel Skotte, who has now been replaced by Rommel Mageo. Right after Alexander returned to the line-up, the other starting outside linebacker, senior Michael Doctor went down with a potentially season ending foot injury.
The upheaval and movement at linebacker has settled down now, with junior Jabral Johnson finding his groove opposite Alexander, and redshirt freshman Mageo, showing speed and athleticism in the middle.
Other names for Washington State fans to watch include the Beavers starting defensive ends, Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton and the entire Beaver secondary, led by senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds.
Reynolds' hasn't seen incredible numbers this season, but that is because teams are trying to avoid throwing to his side of the field at all costs. Against Colorado, he spent much of his day shutting down the Buffaloes star receiver, Paul Richardson.
WW: Will Oregon State be without an key players against Washington State?
AM: The bye week could not have come at a better time for Oregon State, as they have several key players back from injury. The main player who is out this week (and for the foreseeable future) is linebacker Michael Doctor who has a foot/ankle injury.
WW: What does Oregon State need to do in order to come out with a victory in this game, in your opinion? WSU?
AM: The Beavers will need to continue to take care of the football first and foremost. Mannion has been making good decisions through the first five games, but disaster can strike anytime you are throwing the ball as much as the Beavers are do at the moment.
I'd like to say that they need to find their run game, but frankly, they haven't needed it so far and they may be able to get by another few weeks going through the air. Passing attacks surely don't scare of a Mike Leach coached team, so I expect the Cougar defense to come out ready to stop the Beavers passing game. Maybe this will be the week the Beavers will make some progress running the ball.
As far as keys for the Cougars, putting pressure on Mannion early and often will be a key.
WW: What is your prediction for the game?
AM: The Beavers have proven time and again that they can come off of bye weeks firing on all cylinders, and I don't think it changes this year. Solid leadership and a healthy roster will help the Beavers on the Palouse come out with another close victory. I see a shootout through the air with the Beavers beating the Cougars 48-42.
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