Photo by Scott Boldt
Oregon Football

Ultimate Breakdown: Oregon State

November 29, 2019
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Thanksgiving weekend means only one thing for the state of Oregon. It’s time for the 123nd football edition of the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State.

The game will also be Senior Day for many key Oregon players. Kickoff at Autzen Stadium is Saturday at 1 p.m., and the Ducks were favored by 19 points to begin the week.

After tumultuous first season, Jonathan Smith has turned the Beavers around. The former OSU quarterback and Washington offensive coordinator has OSU one game away from postseason eligibility, thanks in large part to a potent offense. This is the Beavers' biggest game every year, and with bowl eligibility on the line they should not lack for motivation.

Smith has brought the same firepower to Corvallis that he showed with the Huskies. Now 5-6 on the season, the turnaround for Oregon State has come quicker than many anticipated.

Smith's scheme features a passing game that is intricate; he employs a lot of different concepts and routes, run from a variety of formations. He will set up the run early to draw in the eyes of the defense, then take advantage of mismatches on the outside with a plethora of play-action passes.

As a unit, the Beavers average 33.1 points per game and 414 yards per game. On average, 256 come through the air and 158 on the ground.

The biggest difference on offense this season has been the effectiveness of senior quarterback Jake Luton (No. 6). Since taking over the starting role last season, the 6-7 Luton has stepped up his game to the point where he will be getting looks from NFL teams.

On the season, Luton has thrown for 2,714 yards on 222 of 358 passes, and he has 28 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. He has shown incredible poise in the pocket and has the arm to make virtually any throw.

In a pinch, Luton has come to rely on big plays from junior Isaiah Hodgins (17), who has 78 catches for 1,086 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hodgins' 13 touchdowns lead the Pac-12 and rank fourth nationally. Hodgins has exceptional ability to create separation, and he uses his 6-4 frame and great hands to finish the play.

Outside of Hodgins, the OSU receiving corps has been in flux all season.

Trevon Bradford (8) looks to be available Saturday after missing eight games with a foot injury. OSU strategically held Bradford out last week against Washington State so that he could play against Oregon and preserve his redshirt. Despite just 7 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown in 2019, Bradford will look to make an instant impact in the season finale.

Sophomore Champ Flemings (16) has emerged as a big play threat for OSU. The speedy 5-5, 141-pounder has 31 catches for 435 yards -- good for 14 yards per catch -- and 3 touchdowns.

Flemings splits time with Nebraska transfer Tyjon Lindsey (1), who also has missed time in his redshirt sophomore season. Lindsey has 17 catches for 211 yards and 2 scores, and he has carried the ball 8 times for 73 yards and 1 score.

Sophomore Kolby Taylor (5) has filled in for Bradford at times and shown that he will be able to contribute moving forward. The reliable Taylor has 216 yards and 1 touchdown on 21 catches.

Tight ends are a mainstay for Oregon State. And while they have been primarily used as blockers in the past, senior Noah Togiai (81) has developed into a threat in the passing game. With 40 catches and 377 yards to go with 3 touchdowns, Togiai has more than tripled his production from last season.

Behind Togiai is sophomore and one-time Oregon commit Teagan Quitoriano (84). Quitoriano has carved out more of a role this season, even though he has just 4 catches. A solid run blocker, he has 2 touchdowns to go along with 81 yards while playing in every game.

Sophomore Jermar Jefferson (22) exploded onto the scene in 2018, but he has missed three games this season and hasn’t been as productive. Still, he has 604 yards and 7 touchdowns on 122 carries, and he has caught 6 balls for 611 yards and 1 score. He has good vision and patience, and he sets up his blocks well.

Senior Artavis Pierce (21) has stepped into the role of primary back in 2019. Pierce has 848 yards on 142 attempts, good for almost 6 yards per carry, and he has scored 6 rushing touchdowns. He is heavily utilized in the passing game, where he has amassed 22 catches for 159 yards and 1 score.

To take advantage of all those skill position players, Oregon State's offensive line must establish the run early and keep Luton upright.

The line is led by 6-7, 305-pound senior left tackle Blake Brandel (73), who has now started all 47 games in his collegiate career. Alongside Brandel at left guard is fellow senior Gus Lavaka (63), a 347-pounder who has started 40 games for the Beavers.

At center is junior Nous Keobounnam (69). The 285-pound Keobounnam has started 10 of 11 games this season.

Senior Clay Cordasco (56) mans the right guard position. The 314-pounder has started every game this year. Redshirt sophomore right tackle Brandon Kipper (68), who is 6-6 and 305 pounds, is the Beavers' least experienced lineman.

The offensive line will need to continue to work well together to open up running lanes for Jefferson and Pierce against a stout Oregon rush defense. And the pass protection has to stronger if the Beavers want to achieve balance. Far too often this season, drives were stalled by sacks on second or third down; the Beavers' 24 sacks allowed is 77th in the FBS.


DEFENSE

A predominantly young and inexperienced Oregon State defense is giving up an average of 34 points and 453 yards per game, 108th and 110th in the FBS, respectively. While improved from 2018, they will need to continue to grow if Smith wants to have a winning season.

Defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, in his first season with the Beavers, will mostly run a base 3-4 defense against a 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends). Against more wide receivers he employs a few variations of 2-4-5 nickel, rotating between adding in an extra safety or cornerback depending on match-ups.

In nickel, the Beavers will rotate between cover 3, cover 4 and cover 1, with the corners pressing on the outside. They vary the look of their front, regularly mixing in both odd and 4-man alignments.

Tibesar will dial up pressure consistently; he loves to bring his free safety up the middle and off the edge. Last season against Oregon, they used the “cat blitz” and brought the corner of the edge.

The Beaver defense is led by its linebacking corps. Sophomore inside linebacker Avery Roberts (34) leads the team in tackles with 78; he also has 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 4 QB hurries.

Next to him is freshman Omar Speights (36), who has burst on the scene this year with 63 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He has also forced 2 turnovers with 1 interception and 1 fumble recovery.

Senior Shemar Smith (41) will start next to Roberts. In his last campaign as a Beaver, he has amassed 40 total tackles, 1 sack and 3.5 tackles for loss.

Junior outside linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (9) is likely to be a first-team all-Pac-12 performer. He leads OSU in tackles for loss and sacks, with 22.5 and 14 respectively, and he has 60 tackles, 1 fumble recovery and 2 forced fumbles.

Rashed is a beast off the edge who will need to be effective putting pressure on Justin Herbert if the OSU defense is to have a good day.

Sophomore OLB John McCartan (6) has been solid opposite Rashed. He has 32 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, as well as 1 interception.

Reserve inside linebacker Doug Taumoelau (42) has been very solid in a backup role. He has 40 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1 sack.

The Beaver secondary has been tested often this season, and it has not always passed the exam. They yield an average of 286 yards per game, 119th out of 130 FBS programs.

Senior safety Jalen Moore (33) brings experience and leadership and will look to end his Oregon State career on a high note. He has 37 tackles and 1 tackle for loss and has recovered 1 fumble.

Sophomore David Morris (24) has stepped into the strong safety role this season and played fairly well. He has 36 tackles and has forced 2 fumbles. Morris is big for a safety at 6-3 and 210 pounds, and he is particularly effective against the run.

Junior cornerback Isaiah Dunn (23) leads the way on the outside. He has totaled 41 tackles and 7 pass break-ups.

Dunn's counterpart is 6-4 sophomore Nahshon Wright (21). Wright leads the team in interceptions with 3 to go along with 2 pass break-ups and 32 total tackles.

Sophomore nickel back Jaydon Grant (3) has done well in a starting role. He returned a Jacob Eason pass for a touchdown on 1 of his 2 interceptions and has been utilized as the blitzing corner. With 36 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack on the season, Grant is unafraid to come up and make a tackle.

Senior Shawn Wilson (2) is the Swiss Army knife of the secondary. Splitting his time between nickel and safety, Wilson has 52 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1 interception.

The defensive line is led by senior defensive tackle Elu Aydon (99), who is simply a load inside at 6-3 and 377 pounds. With 26 tackles and 3 tackles for loss, Aydon plugs the middle and allows the linebackers to make plays.

Sophomore Isaac Hodgins (90) mans one defensive end spot, while junior Simon Sandberg (45) handles the other side. Between them they have 6.5 tackles for loss.

The special teams unit is led by senior punter Daniel Rodriguez (39). Rodriguez has 52 punts this season for a 43.5 yard average, and he has placed 15 inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

The place-kicking duties have been split between senior Jordan Choukair (46) and freshman Everett Hayes (35). Choukair is 2 for 6 on field goals and 23/24 on PATs, while Hayes is 1 for 2 on field goals and 24/24 on PATs.

Flemings has handled the kick return duties again this season. He is averaging almost 24 yards per return, with a long of 66 yards.

 
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