football

Ask The Insider: OSU Preview

WazzuWatch.com is taking an
in-depth look at the Cougars' huge home game this weekend against a hot
Oregon State team and we caught up with Angie Machado, Publisher of
BeaverBlitz.com on the Rivals.com / Yahoo! Sports network.
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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