If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
The Oregon State Beavers of 2018 remind me a little bit of the Washington State Cougars of 2010. A bit better than previous iterations of the team but still struggling to find their way out of a rebuild. To be sure, these Beavs are better than those WSU teams (Jermar Jefferson is all the evidence you need of that) but Jonathan Smith’s task in Corvallis is still a tall one.
When you look at the Oregon State offense, the aforementioned Jefferson, Isaiah Hodgins, and Conor Blount are providing some firepower for a team in desperate need of it, especially after the departure of Ryan Knall. With a serviceable defense, it’s probably enough to win you a game or four!
“Serviceable defense” being the key phrase there because hoooooooo boy, this defense.
We often wondered with those Wulff teams if teams ran on them because they didn’t need to bother throwing the ball. Why risk the type of offensive play that results in more turnovers when you can just stuff it down the other team’s throat so effectively?
This Oregon State defense is just that. Their passing defense is ... well, it’s still not awesome at 7.46 yards per attempt allowed. But their rushing defense is downright ghastly. At 6.9 yards per attempt allowed and at 303.4 yards per game allowed, they rank 127th in the NCAA out of 129 teams.
So, the question remains with this team: is everyone running the ball because the Oregon State pass defense is, at least, decent, or because it’s so damn easy to just hand it off?
The Cougs will likely be a team to provide at least half an answer to that question. No doubt, this team is still going to huck it all over the dang yard on Saturday because they huck it all over the dang yard against everyone. But Gardner Minshew II should lean a little more on his duo of talented running backs, James Williams and Max Borghi, against a team that has trouble stopping seemingly any tailback.
Williams and Borghi are keeping the lightning and thunder tradition of the Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow years alive and well. Williams is difficult to bring down, especially when he is in Corvallis and using the B button twice in one play. Boobie rarely allows the first man, let alone the second, to tackle him, and it often takes several defenders working together to bring him down.
So, in that one way, Williams and Borghi are alike but the true freshman just does things his own way. Borghi, quite literally, just runs people over and has a burst of speed once he hits the hole unlike anything we’ve seen in quite some time at Washington State. He seems to relish the contact Williams does what he can to avoid; hell, he even goes right after a USC safety and knocks him flat on his rear end (Brian Anderson has a great break down of that play right here).
I would love to see a little more of them this weekend against the Beavers. Not balance for the sake of balance’s sake, to be sure, but if Oregon State is going to sell out to stop WSU from passing (as I would expect they’ll do), the run boxes will be there on damn near every play.
So feed Boobie and the Baby Bull and let them run you all the way to a win on Saturday.
The cloud is moving nearer still / Aurora Borealis comes in view / Aurora comes in view / And I ran / I ran so far away / I just ran / I ran all night and day / I couldn’t get away
Mike and Ali Score
James Williams and Max Borghi, your most important person(s) against Oregon State.