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Cal football opponent review: Oregon State Beavers

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In a solid performance, Cal took and maintained control against a young Oregon State team. What should we make of this performance and what can we expect for next year?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The Oregon State Beavers continued on a downward trend from the 2014 season in their first season under head coach Gary Andersen. It was certainly a transition year as Coach Andersen inherited a young and inexperienced squad, while also having to deal with the added complication of implementing his own offensive and defensive schemes. The inexperience and youth in conjunction with widespread injury problems would lead to inconsistent performances that would result in a 2–10 season with their lone victories over San Jose State and FCS squad Weber State. They would go winless in Pac-12 play with the lone "close" game a 17–13 loss to a fellow cellar-dwelling Colorado team. Let's examine the struggles of Oregon State this past season as they seek to rebuild under Coach Andersen.

Offense
The 2015 Oregon State offense was abysmal, consistently ranked near the bottom of the FBS in categories including total offense and scoring offense. They averaged a lowly 336.4 yards and 19.0 points per game. Coach Andersen implemented a run-heavy offensive approach (56.5% rushing/43.5% passing split), and for good reason. Injuries would result in a revolving door of freshman quarterbacks at the helm, leading in large part to the 115th-ranked passing offense in the nation, throwing for an average of only 159.1 yards per game. To further complicate matters, the youth and inexperience of the quarterbacks were almost rivaled by that of a young wide receiving corps. The result was a poor completion percentage with the leading wide receivers, sophomore Jordan Villaman and junior Victor Bolden, averaging a modest 53.5 yards per game and 30.8 yards per game, respectively.

When you take into consideration just how anemic the pass attack was, it surprises you just how well the running game was able to do. They averaged 177.3 yards per game, and a respectable 4.77 yards per rush. Quarterback Seth Collins would lead the team in rushing attempts even though he was limited to only seven games by injuries. The two other leading rushers were the runnings backs, senior Storm Woods and sophomore Ryan Nall, both of whom averaged over 5.0 yards per carry.

Even with the Beavers' prowess on the ground, their inability to move the ball through the air would result in a struggle on 3rd-down conversions, converting only 31.7% of the time (117th in the FBS). However, when they were able to reach the the red zone, it was a different story as they scored on 83.9% of their trips, with touchdowns on 61.3% of those trips. Furthermore, the offensive line would provide adequate protection, allowing only 1.58 sacks per game and only 4.92 tackles for loss per game. Though young, this team would not struggle with ball protection, impressively surrendering only 5 fumbles on the season and throwing only 11 interceptions, totaling 16 turnovers (16th in the FBS).

The Beavers have many issues to address this coming season. With the decision of original starting quarterback Seth Collins to transfer, who will take over at quarterback in 2016? Will the Beavers be able to replace Isaac Seumalo and Josh Mitchell—two of their top offensive lineman—as well as senior running back Storm Woods? Oregon State may have the answer to some of these questions if QB transfer Darrell Garrettson steps up, running back Ryan Nall continues to punish opposing defenses, and their wide receivers can continue to develop. However, this offense remains a huge question mark for next season. Regardless, another season in coach Andersen's system will prove highly beneficial. It just remains to be seen whether or not that will be enough to help the Beavers take a huge step next year.

Defense
The Beavers defense was also consistently ranked near the bottom of the FBS. The defense would allow a staggering 481.5 yards per game (115th-ranked), and 37.0 points per game (113th-ranked). This defense was unable to stop anybody—period. They couldn't stop opposing passing offenses, allowing 256.0 yards per game through the air. They couldn't stop opposing rushing offenses, allowing a whopping 225.5 yards per game and an average of 5.14 yards per rush. They couldn't stop opposing teams on 3rd down, allowing a 45.5% conversion rate. And they couldn't stop any team in the red zone, allowing opponents to score on 85.9% of trips into the red zone.

To further complicate matters, this was a team that struggled at forcing turnovers. The Beavers would recover only 4 fumbles and intercept only 8 passes, totaling an underwhelming 12 turnovers on the season. A large part of this problem could be traced back to the inability of the front seven to apply pressure to the opposing quarterback, as they averaged only 1.42 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss per game.

Unfortunately for the Beavers, they have many areas to address on defense for next season. They have to rebuild their defensive line and deal with a weak linebacker corps that has to replace the production of Rommel Mageo who led the team in tackles, interceptions, sacks, and forced fumbles. Provided that the Beavers can find suitable replacements for the departing players, another year of experience for returning starters and recruiting players that better fit the 3-4 defensive scheme that they have implemented should result in an improved defense. If not, it will be another long season in Corvallis.

Special Teams
Special teams was perhaps the lone non-weakness of the 2015 Oregon State team. Yet it was also not a strength. They would rank in the middle of the pack in almost all categories including kick return defense, kickoff return, and punting.

Punter Nick Porebski would lead the way for a solid punting unit, averaging a solid 41.1 yards per punt, leading to a net punting average of 38.49 yards per punt with only one touchback on the season. Furthermore, none of his punts were blocked and the punt return unit would block one punt on the season. Meanwhile, kicker Garrett Owens converted on 73.3% of his field goal attempts. The field goal unit also allowed no kicks to be blocked, while the field goal defense unit blocked a notable four kicks on the season.

If we come to the conclusion that the performance of special teams is based largely on effort, then expect Oregon State to deliver another solid performance next year. Regardless, expect to see improvement in 2016 as both punter Nick Porebski and kicker Garrett Owens were only true sophomores in 2015.

Conclusion
After a slow start to the game, Cal was able to pull away from the Beavers in a game where Oregon State never truly threatened. Though not as dominant of a performance as one might hope, it was a result that we needed to see as our Golden Bears ended a four-game losing streak. It was a whole lot of what we expected to see. The Cal offense was able to beat up on an overmatched Oregon State defense that had been unable to stop anybody all year, while the Cal defense was able to limit the damage by an inconsistent Oregon State offense.

As many question marks as Cal faces next season as they seek to replace Jared Goff as well as the top six receivers on the 2015 depth chart, Oregon State faces even more. If Oregon State is unable to resolve its issues—which in all honestly does not seem likely given the sheer number—we could be in for another underwhelming game in 2016. Cal, with more experience and depth to name two apparent advantages, should be able to once again take control of a game against a still-young Oregon State team.