Well, we got a seeming must-win coming up against OSU. We need this win to have a chance at getting to 6 wins and being bowl eligible. Stanford and USC are much tougher opponents. BYU seems beatable, but if we don't win here, we are leaving another winnable game on the table.
To figure out more about this version of the Beavs, we're talking with our friends up north at Building The Dam. Many thanks to AndyPanda and RVM for their answers here. Go Bears!
1. What happened to Sean Mannion? Has he regressed or is this an issue of the talent around him?
Andy: It's mostly the talent (and the injuries and inexperience) around him. Sean has struggled and could have done a few things better, or at least different, but that's mostly a reaction to the issues around him.
The offensive line lost 3 starters to graduation, and now 2 more for an extended duration due to injury, and had numerous other short term disruptions due to injury. They finished the Stanford game with 3 offensive linemen working at their 3rd different position already by mid-season, and a 3rd stringer.
Couple this with a very inexperienced WR group that is very athletic, but has also had time loss due to several injuries, and need time to achieve separation due to inexperience, and the fact that the TEs have had to effectively be removed from the passing game because they are busy trying to protect Sean, and its been a very bad combination of circumstances, and its understandable how Mannion has become tentative at times.
RVM: Andy has covered this well, my big additional thought here is that yes the offensive line has been a mix-and-match patchwork this season, yes the receivers are inexperienced and injuries have also been a problem here, and yes the TEs need to be more of the actual passing attack instead of trying to shore up the line, but that all said I do think Mannion needs to roll with this too a bit better than he has.
Hmm, was that a lame pun I just did to lead into this? Anyways, he needs to improvise better, and the rolling out against Utah worked well in the second half but that went away against Stanford. I like Sean a lot as a leader and as a player in the program, but his on the field fire is not his strong point. He gets hit and his timing goes way off. Sure if all the factors Andy and I outlined were not issues, or maybe just one was an issue, he would be probably throwing for a zillion yards again this season. But he is not and this not being able to roll with things I worry will have an effect on his draft stock.
The skill set is still there and there is time to rekindle it all on the field, but also this season and his OSU career is starting to wind down. I don't want to get into some sort of blame game and laying the team's struggles on him more than he deserves (coaching too has to take a hit with not being more dynamic in their play calling and getting him going when things are tough), but I do want to see him finish a great OSU career strong. I'll go with the glass half full thought here, and I still like to believe this team and Sean have it in them to finish strong.
2. The Beavers have beaten all the teams they should have beaten (most of them by narrow margin) and struggled mightily against all of their tougher opposition. Would you characterize this kind of a season as a success or a failure so far?
Andy: It's actually about what should have been expected, W & L wise, but the severity of the margin of losses to USC and Stanford combined with losing the Utah game when they were so close has made it disappointing, if not a failure. With a deep and veteran defense and a true star QB coming back, many expected to get a win in at least 1 of those 3 losses.
RVM: I thought that USC game was there for the Beavs, but SC had the game plan for sure and OSU never adjusted so that was a disappointment. Utah looked to be a 'W' with how the Beavs actually did adjust in the second half, but that one is a game that is tough to live with but one can (sort-of) live with it, and Stanford I thought was there too for the taking but it does seem for sure that was a badly timed game to catch a well coached program with their seemingly no way are we going to lose two conference games in a row. Plus the Beavs just right now do not match up against the Cardinal defense at all. The record though is yes about expected really, but at the same time disappointing if that makes sense. I believe this is the crunch time for their season, and the defense is only going to carry the team so far against the remaining teams they play and the offense needs to show up. Winnable games are there, but they have already lost some winnable games too (how is that for a hedging the bets comment?).
3. Oregon State seems to have had more success against spread-ish teams (Colorado, Utah) than power teams (USC, Stanfurd). Do you see that carrying over to the game against Cal?
Andy: I do, but that's because Oregon State's success has had far more to do with the opponent's defenses than their offenses this year, and Cal's defense is really struggling. Unlike in several recent prior years, this Oregon St. defense has been reasonably good against all types of offenses, whereas the offense has struggled against extremely physical defenses from USC, Utah, and Stanford, but has done ok against defenses that rely more on speed than physicality.
RVM: Yep, agreement with Andy here and wow nothing to add to that analysis!
4. Like Cal, the Beavers currently have 4 wins. Do you see them going bowling at the end of the year? Why or why not?
Andy: Its really up in the air at this point, and one reason is I'm not at all convinced a 6-6 record will get an invite, even though there are a couple more bowls this season, and there's probably going to be 8 other bowl eligible teams in the conference, and only 7 tie-ins, unless the Pac-12 gets a team into the 4 team playoff.
Because Washington has a big, physical defense, and that game is in Seattle, this week's game against California is an absolute must win for Oregon St. if they are to have any reasonable shot at a bowl.
RVM: Hmm, hate to be the middle of the questions are just getting copy-and-paste redundant on you all but: Oregon State defense is good enough for this team to end with a winning record and a Bowl invite, but the Beavs' offense needs to amp up their game two to three notches for that to happen.
5. It sounds like injuries have taken a toll on Oregon State this year, with WR Victor Bolden and RB Storm Woods each missing a game and WR Richard Mullaney and C Isaac Seumalo suffering season-ending injuries. How is the team's health looking this week?
Andy: It's actually pretty good.
RB Storm Woods and DEs Jaswha James and Lavonte Barnett, who were also pre-game scratches at Stanford, look like they will be back for the Bears. They could have played against the Cardinal, but would not have been at their best.
TE Kellen Clute is still out, and WR Richard Mullaney is done for at least the rest of the regular season, but the O-line may get tackle Dustin Stanton back. He had to leave the Stanford game with a knee injury, but the MRI came back ok, and he's back practicing.
DT Jalen Grimble, who injured his knee against USC is still out, but the depth of the d-line has been fairly able to absorb that loss.
RVM: Andy is the man with the know on this one!
6. How is our old friend Jacob Wark doing?
Andy: He's been doing fine. With Clute's injury against Utah, Wark has moved up to #3 at TE, and since Oregon St. uses 2 TEs with some regularity, he's seen the field some. He's made a few good plays for the Beavers.
RVM: Sigh, I defer to our man hunting the behind the scenes stories on this one too!
7. How is the fanbase feeling about the coaching staff? If the Beavers miss out on a bowl this season, will Mike Riley be on the hot seat?
Andy: It's a mixed bag, because some people are still staunchly in his corner, but an increasing number of people are no longer satisfied with a middle of the pack performance. Some are actually more concerned about some of the assistants, but Coach Riley has been very hesitant to make staff changes, and if he won't address certain issues, then the heat rises to him.
I suspect Coach Riley may be headed for a "Craig Robinson moment", where Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis, who also was initially in favor of retaining Robinson as well, was forced into taking action when he found out he couldn't pay people to come to Robinson's games, because an increasing number of the investors weren't satisfied with Robinson, who, like Riley, won some games, but not enough of the biggest ones.
RVM: I don't know if I go there with the "Craig Robinson moment" and the AD. DeCarolis and Riley I think just have too much history here. I don't really see it being the same type of deal either with the investors. Andy is closer to some of that being in Corvallis and on campus more than I am, but I feel it will not be such a "sudden" turnaround of the AD's heart and head as it was with Coach Robinson. I personally see it as a more of a deliberate, put more thought into it all decision if there is that type of decision made. Plus with Riley he has a lot of years under his belt and some pretty tough ones too where one wonders if he makes the more "shocking" decision if things can't get turned around soon enough. Just my probably totally uninformed personal thoughts, I have been way wrong before, why I don't make the big bucks or get the cool "I wish I was Fox News and I am going to yell about it all" blog coverage for calling out them out all the time! Okay so enough of my potshots at the local and national media, and seriously things change and in this case if things stay the same (or get worse) I am just not sure who will make the call for the change.
8. In our 2010 trip to Corvallis you ended Kevin Riley's career with Cal and during our 2012 trip you ended Jeff Tedford's career with Cal. What sinister plans do you have for us this weekend?
Andy: Perhaps the end of Art Kauffman's career at Cal? If Sean Mannion is going to snap out of his slump we've been discussing, a repeat of last year's 481 yard, 4 td passing performance against Cal would not only be a good way to do it, its more likely against the last in the FBS against the pass bad news Bears than anyone else.
RVM: Kauffman in a wrestling match, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! (Google it kids.) (Sorry we are getting near the end, and that annual "punch in the face" Berkeley question is looming for me!)
9. Whom do you want to punch in the face?
Andy: Whoever put the schedule together that makes this week's game against California the 5th night game in the last 8, and 11th night game in the last 18 contests for Oregon St. Those tv execs haven't actually been in these football stadiums after 11 PM at night, and then stuck in traffic well after midnight, week after week.
RVM: Plus not sure I was too happy with the bye placement this year either, no momentum! You know the punch myself in the face irony of this is for me is we finally get an afternoon game against WSU coming up and I have a day long conference to attend that day!!!