1. I'm going to be honest; I hated it when Cal playing Oregon State under Mike Riley. Whether against us, a Pete Caroll–led USC, or other team, the Beavers always seemed to have a knack for pulling out victories at the worst possible times for us. Do you get the sense that Oregon State has maintained its giant-killer status? Why or why not?
I'd have to say yes. Obviously, the Beavers have fallen on some tough times but if there's one thing that seems to be true about this program, it's that they come to play every week, regardless of how bleak things look. This season, Oregon State is also loaded with young and inexperienced talent, that is just waiting to become one cohesive unit. If they can finally put all the pieces together at once, they'd definitely have a good chance of knocking off a much more talented team. The one reason I think they'd have a chance against a team like California, is that the Beavers could get some confidence going against the Golden Bears defense and next thing you know, you enter the final minutes in a close game where anything can happen. But to be honest, I'd give Oregon State a better chance against a more methodical type of team with a less explosive offense.
2. Tell us about Gary Andersen. What does he bring to the table? What do you/the fans think of him in terms of game management, as a recruiter, and as the head of a football program?
Oh, Gary Andersen. I guess a coach of any program has a wide range of lovers and loathers but when your team has won just one time in their last thirteen outings, Andersen probably has a few more loathers than lovers at this point. During his short stay at Wisconsin, Andersen proved he was a winner, especially in conference play where the Badgers went 13-3 in the Big Ten, which likely was a huge reason Oregon State wanted to bring him in. The Beavers know they need to win in conference to turn around this program but the only problem is...Andersen hasn't won a Pac-12 game yet.
In terms of game management, I think most of the fans believe that he's not a bad in-game coach. The fan base is pretty aware that the talent of the roster is not at that of a typical Pac-12 team and it shows, even when the "X's and O's" side of things look good. With a few more gifted pieces, that could change but it's hard to see when the losing trend has become so common.
As a recruiter, Andersen was able to snag some recruits that he was pursuing while at Wisconsin and he's also established an interesting trend of Hawaiian and American Samoan players finding their way to Corvallis, which has added a bit of a talent influx. Obviously, the Pacific Northwest and the state of California is the main pipeline that he'll need to hold ground in but already, with the amount of freshman pieces that he's brought to campus who are already in the mix of things, the recruiting trend seems to be heading upwards.
As far as the overall scope of Andersen, I think that most people are holding their tongue to see how the rest of the season plays out. If 2016 ends as 2015 did, there's belief that his days could be numbered in Corvallis, if 2017 mirrors the previous two season. If more improvement is shown however, it's likely that the school is going to commit to a long-term rebuilding project. I personally don't think he's going anywhere, anytime soon but you have to remember, Oregon State is currently operating under an interim athletic director, which can always make things interesting.
3. Who are some of the key Oregon State players on offense?
On offense, it always starts with the quarterback and recently, through some of the Beavers' struggles, that position has come under a bit of fire. Darell Garretson, a Utah State transfer, is still the starter but walk-on freshman Conor Blount has earned the back-up spot and has seen time in Oregon State's last two games. If the offense stalls out against California, I wouldn't be surprised to be Blount run out there on the field. Out of the backfield, sophomore Ryan Nall is the featured back, who is a bruising runner with underrated speed but freshman Artavis Pierce has been seeing increased usage as well and both can cause problems. Split out, be aware of former quarterback-turned-receiver Seth Collins, who is a strong possession guy for Oregon State, while he's flanked with some dangerous playmakers in Victor Bolden Jr. and Jordan Villamin.
4. Who are some of the key Oregon State players on defense?
Defensively, the Beavers have two very bright spots in their secondary in safety Devin Chappell and cornerback Preston Decoud, who both can cause some problems for opposing offenses. Obviously, California is going to throw the ball around a bit so it will be interesting to see what approaches that the Golden Bears offense takes in dealing with those two pieces. As far as an under-the-radar guy to watch, keep an eye on outside linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu. Ugwoegbu is a great athlete who has a tendency to make the well-timed and excitable play, which usually results in some sort of momentum change.
5. Are there any keys to the game you believe this matchup will turn on?
I think one thing that could make this game very interesting is if quarterback Darell Garretson finally has that breakout performance that most Beavers fans have been anxiously awaiting. Garretson has been pretty "vanilla" up to this point in the season and as the losing begins to settle in, it's kind of expected that he'll become more a risk-taker to try and kick-start the offense. If Garretson begins to excel in the "shoot out" style that the Golden Bears will try and turn this game into, maybe Oregon State can catch a California team off-guard. It would also be interesting to see how the Beavers would play if they took a lead early, instead of trailing early, in a game this year. It's possible that a hot start could change the Beavers outlook on this match-up.
6. How do you project the next three seasons will turn out for the Beavers? In particular, will y'all beat a down Oregon program?
The problem for projecting the next three seasons for the Beavers is that it's largely unknown what kind of leash the school's administration will have with Gary Andersen. Obviously, the program is in the midst of a major rebuilding project and Andersen was a "big splash" hire coming from Wisconsin but they could hit a point where too much losing isn't healthy for the trajectory of the program and next thing you know, Oregon State rebuilds from square one again.
If the school sticks with Andersen long-term, I think the ability for him to grow Oregon State into one of those trendy programs is very much there. The school has a unique location (close enough and far enough from California) and the recruiting pipelines that it can establish from the Golden State to the mid-west is very available. However, it all starts at home with winning both the local and regional wars. Overtaking an Oregon program headed in the wrong direction at the moment would be huge for the Beavers, who are usually typecast into the "little brother" mode of the rivalry. If Oregon State is trending up while the Ducks are trending down, there's a real chance for Gary Andersen and company to flip the script on Oregon as far as the in-state power program goes.
7. Who do you want to punch in the face?
Nobody. We're all lovers over at Building The Dam. We promise. And while we don't want to punch anyone in the face, we can't say we're losing sleep over the recent struggles of Oregon. Just putting that out there.