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Q & A: Oregon State Football with Building the Dam

Despite losing again last week, the Bears showed signs of improvement as a team. For the first time, we did not give up a touchdown on the opening drive. Linebackers were making quicker reads and flowing to the ball. While tackling wasn't quite there, I think we can agree: baby steps! This week, the Bears run into Sean Mannion and the Oregon State Beavers. After losing in Week 1 to FCS Eastern Washington, the Beavers have gone undefeated, led by Sean Mannion's ridiculous passing numbers. To get a sense of OSU v.2013, we turn to Building the Dam, SBNation's Oregon State fansite. Thanks to AndyPanda and RVM for their candid responses. Go Bears!

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

1. Oregon State is 5-1 with a loss to an FCS team and a narrow win over a terrible San Diego State team. Why should Beavs fans be worried moving forward?

AndyPanda: Oregon St.'s defense is still a work in progress. The defense feasts on mistakes, but is still vulnerable to a well executed spread out attack for the same reasons it has been a problem for years. And as a by-product of playing nickel & dime, its challenging to defend the run against teams that can also pass effectively, preventing the secondary from focusing on run support.

Offensively, the rushing game is also a work in progress. If the Beavers have to fall back on aspects of the game other than those they are currently good at, the drop off could be precipitous.

RVM: I would say let's not focus so much on the Beavs specifically for the moment and I think a big cause of "concern" would be that the conference is very tough this year and as such not much room for a ton of W/L error. To now shift back to the Beavs and this affects us and the team because we are now about to head into the really tough part of the schedule. So yes the defense will be continually tested each week in different and possibly more and more challenging ways. And yes to go with AndyPanda I would like to see just some more of a rushing game. Our passing offense is incredible, but I just think the Beavs are going to need some clock chewing rushing game to give their defense enough of a rest to be able to do anything against some of the teams upcoming.

2. Oregon State is 5-1 and one of three Pac-12 teams that is undefeated in conference play. Why should Beavs fans be optimistic about the rest of the season?

AndyPanda: While the schedule gets much tougher after the trip to California, the Oregon St. gets 3 of their next 4 games at home, and an extra week to prepare for the lone road trip in that stretch to Tempe. Also, the Beavers match up well with Stanford and USC schematically, especially when playing them at home.

RVM: I agree with AndyPanda and will add my personal feelings here and the team is finding more and more identity as they progressed through that early part of the season, and aspects of the defense I really think have seen improvement. WSU might or might not be as good as we all thought, but either way I also think that was a huge win for the team. I also will go with some of my own fan melodrama here and yes that Eastern Washington loss sucked and yes San Diego State is a down on itself team (though improving slightly themselves) and SDSU seemed like it should have been a cake-walk, but I think those two games have helped this team grow, and especially combined with the spectacular win against Utah.

3. How do you stop Sean Mannion?
Aside from injury, it will take getting pressure on him from the initial rush. He's making good reads and decisions, and doing it quickly, so blitzes and stunts and anything that takes time haven't been effective; he's made the quick throw to the opening the defensive move created before the extra pressure can get home.

RVM: Can a defense get him constantly out of his pocket? Can they hit him around enough to give him a deadly case of the happy feet? Can they mix up the coverages enough to confuse him and his receivers and tight ends? To me these seem almost too clichéd, but really this is what has to happen. I would say that the first two are probably the most likely, exploit the no-rushing game and blitz, blitz, counter rush, counter rush and eat some possible being burned by Sean on these rushes to establish a relentless pressure on him. From what we have seen so far though from Mannion, his receiver corps, and the offensive line I think this will be tough for any team in the conference.

4. What accounts for OSU's lack of production on the ground? Has the running game been de-emphasized due to the O-line/RBs' struggles or due to Mannion's incredible productivity?

AndyPanda: Both of the above and more. There were multiple injuries and illness in both the backfield and on the line that are only recently getting healthy, which made it necessary to pick something (pass protection) and focus on it.

And with not only Mannion, but also Brandin Cooks and the rest of the receivers playing well, it only makes sense to keep doing what's working when you have a game to go win.

RVM: Guess I would only add here is that I feel with the injuries that maybe they said "okay, what is going to be the strength of the offense?" "It is going to be Sean and the passing game, so let's shore up this patchwork of a line to work best with the passing schemes we want to run and also of course be able to handle some fly-sweeps, and when we get the line a bit healthier we can start to adjust for maybe some more rushing formations." Also with Storm's injury it even became more de-emphasized, and heck yeah when you have your QB throwing 4+ TDs and 400+ yards per game with no basically no INTs, you have to go with what is working!

2013 Oregon State Football Intro Video (via OSUBeaversAthletics)

5. Who is the #1 player on defense for OSU that Cal fans should be worried about?

AndyPanda: That's hard to say, given that both Steven Nelson and Rashaad Reynolds have had huge, game changing interceptions. Nelson has the best speed in the secondary, but Reynolds is easily the most experienced. Both will get to errant passes.

RVM: Agree with AndyPanda, and also Scott Crichton has a bit too under the radar so far this season. He has to be posed to have a really dominating breakout game. He has been solid, but just seems like he is the type of player who should be a notch or two up from "solid." But I am sure opposing offensive lines know this well and hence why he has not had that true star type of performance yet.

6. Who is the #1 player on offense for OSU not named Sean Mannion that Cal fans should be worried about?

AndyPanda: Cooks leads the nation in receiving yards, catches, and touchdowns, and is a rushing threat as well. If that doesn't worry Cal, nothing will.

RVM: Yep, Cooks, Cooks, and Cooks and then when you shut him down, Mullaney (if healthy), Cummings, Smith, and Bolden (on the fly-sweeps).

7. At this point, how many people does Mike Riley have to kill before OSU would even consider firing him?

AndyPanda: Unless it's a key booster, probably named Reser, it would have to be a pretty high number. But Coach Riley is too nice to kill anyone, so its not a concern.

8. The Beavers, at least of late, have had a penchant for forcing turnovers. Has that been a matter of good, aggressive play from the defense, poor play from opponents, or just good old fashioned luck?

AndyPanda: Both aggressive play and poor decisions or throws by the opponents. The decision has clearly been made to risk some execution to put more speed on the field, by going with both Nelson and Sean Martin, both CBs in the nickel, instead of using a 3rd safety, at least in the open field (the compressed red-zone always requires some sort of adjustments).

Hurried, off-target throws will turn into turnovers. (BTW, we've noticed Jared Goff's completion percentage is < 60%).

RVM: I may be overstating, and yes I agree with AndyPanda above completely, but I also feel the OSU offense puts some pressure on opposing offenses. What I mean by this is that Mannion is so poised this season that he seems capable to at anytime take the offense down to counter any type of opponents momentum shifting scores. I believe that this is forcing some opposing offenses to feel like they have to force the issue more. It becomes: "heck we need to keep scoring, cause if we don't Mannion is going to and we are going to be always playing catch up." I feel a little bit of that happened when WSU scored 14 straight to go up by 7 and then Mannion said okay that's how it is going to be and drove right down and tied the game up. The OSU defense adjusted really well in the fourth quarter I thought, so credit is due there, but I also feel that WSU got out of their game when they could not put the Beavs away in that third quarter.

9. Cal's offensive line has been iffy all season, and worse with two starters out to injury. Does OSU have a pass rush that can take advantage?

AndyPanda: Oregon St.'s pass rush hasn't been as effective as hoped for this season, but Scott Crichton has proven before that he can wreak havoc if an opponent can't match up with him. And in part due to personnel limitations, Dylan Wynn, normally the other DE, will also come from the DT spot at times as well, and is the quickest of the d-linemen.

No one on the Oregon St. line is overwhelming physically, but if an assignment is missed, the Beavers can probably blow up a play. It's more about being assignment sound than physically dominant for an opposing o-line.

RVM: Yes, agree with AndyPanda, and have talked about Crichton above so nothing really to add here.

10. Who do you want to punch in the face?

AndyPanda: Whomever is responsible for the endless run of night games Oregon St. is getting assigned to, and being in a traffic jam after mid-night. It appears there is an NCAA rule that says the Beavers are not allowed to play a game starting at 3:30 or 4 PM.

RVM: Per AndyPanda's comment +1