Beavers Beat Down ‘Cats 42-17
Oregon State made football fun again Saturday night, rolling to a 42-17 win that was easily the Beavers best game of the Gary Andersen era. Everything has to be taken in context, and the win was over an overmatched Arizona team that has now lost 8 games in a row. The ‘Cats are no where near what they were as little as 2 years ago, whey they played in the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Fiesta Bowl.
But Saturday night’s Dad’s Night beat down was more about what the Beavers did right than what the ‘Cats couldn’t do.
For the first time, everyone saw what having a healthy Ryan Nall AND competent quarterbacking play AT THE SAME TIME looks like. Beaver fans liked it, and opposing defenses won’t.
After nearly 3 years in Corvallis, red-shirt sophomore Marcus McMaryion had a breakout night, throwing 5 touchdown passes to 5 different receivers, one shy of Sean Mannion’s team record. We saw an inkling of what was to come last week, when McMaryion had his previous best night of his career in completing 2/3 of his passes, and was a bright spot despite tossing a loss sealing pick 6 late in the 38-24 defeat at UCLA. But no one expected what we saw Saturday night.
It hasn’t been since Mannion was setting the Pac-12 yardage record that the Beavers have had accurate quarterback play, and it hasn’t been since early in the Mannion era that Oregon State has had a quarterback have a career best night and back it up with a better one the following game.
McMaryion put the ball up 20 times, and completed 16 of them, for 265 yards. 2 more were also accurate throws, intentional throw-aways in situations where forcing the ball or taking a sack would have been unnecessary mistakes. One pass was tipped, and only once did McMaryion miss an open receiver badly, on an early deep route. It wouldn’t have counted anyway though, and didn’t go on the books, after an illegal high-low blocking penalty was called.
To be consistently competitive in the Pac-12, you must have an accurate quarterback, and Oregon State hasn’t at any time in the Gary Andersen era until now. And while all the other issues we’ve discussed here and elsewhere matter, they don’t really matter that much until quarterback problems are resolved.
“We stuck with the plan, and Marcus was masterful, Andersen said. “He threw the ball and guys made plays. When you can throw it, run it and catch it, offense becomes a lot cleaner.”
The other thing a Pac-12 quarterback simply cannot do under any circumstances is chuck up a sky-ball and hope your guy comes down with it. Arizona’s Brandon Dawkins tried that, and Xavier Crawford, left, did what usually happens in those cases; he picked off the ball to erase a scoring threat.
McMaryion didn’t do that. He also didn’t do something else that’s been a frequent problem for Oregon State during their recent downturn; take sacks. Last night the ‘Cats only got to McMaryion once.
Meanwhile, Nall was healthy, and stayed so throughout the game, and should be headed into next week’s Civil War showdown with Oregon.
The result was 124 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, and a pair of catches for another 15 yards, and another score. Only a late game drop on a 4th down conversion attempt blemished an otherwise dominating effort.
And importantly, Oregon State didn’t have to wear Nall out to get the win, as Artavis Pierce picked up 71 more yards on 15 carries, as well as adding 41 yards, and the Beavers’ final score, above, on 3 catches.
Oregon State, playing without WR Seth Collins, who is recovering from a bout with meningococcal disease, also got good news, and good play, with the return from the shadows of WR Jordan Villamin. Villamin was expected to be an integral portion of the passing attack this season, but stared slowly, and disappeared from there.
But he reappeared just in time to catch a 53 yard touchdown pass just over 2 minutes into the game, right, after the Oregon State defense had started the evening with a 3 and punt shutdown of the Arizona offense. Welcome back Jordan!
It was the longest play of the game, and Villamin was headed for being the game’s leading receiver, finishing with 6 catches for 124 yards.
“Jordan took advantage of opportunities that came his way,” Andersen said. “When he continues to play like that he’s a tremendous player. That’s what we expect from him, week-in and week-out.”
McMaryion would also connect with Tim Hernandez for an acrobatic 27 yard touchdown catch behind great coverage in the 2nd quarter that reopened a 2 score lead after Arizona had pulled within 14-7. The score capped an impressive 96 yard drive, and was a great effort by Hernandez, but also required precise ball placement on a mid-range throw that any of the Beavers’ 5 quarterbacks who have played in this year or last haven’t been able to make.
Oregon State freshman Trevon Bradford also got his first collegiate career touchdown catch early in the third quarter, a 35 yard strike from McMaryion the likes of which have often been missed in the last couple of years.
Bradford’s 3 catches for 51 yards was especially helpful given the absence for most of the second half of Victor Bolden, who got a shot to the jaw while trying to field a punt. The hit drew a penalty, but also sent Bolden to the locker room for a closer look.
The good news is Bolden returned to the sideline in the 4th quarter, and even found his helmet. But by then Nall had capped a 73 yard drive with a touchdown run that opened the lead to 35-10, and the Oregon State coaching staff decided to hold Bolden out for “precautionary reasons”, ensuring he would be ready to go against the Ducks.
McMaryion, Nall, above, and Pierce, all benefited from the Oregon State offensive line dominating the undersized Arizona defensive front. Senior center Gavin Andrews in particular simply obliterated sub-250 lb. Wildcat nose tackle Parker Zellers on several of the game’s biggest plays. The Beavers got the best guard play they have enjoyed all season as well.
“The offensive line was very solid,” aided by the return of freshman guard Gus Lavaka from injury”, Andersen said. “When those five guys are going well and with Ryan and AP [Pierce] back there, that’s a pretty solid punch, with two physical backs.”
Meanwhile, Arizona was not getting similar productivity from their quarterbacks. Anu Soloman started, the game, and though he threw for 82 yards early, he completed only 6 of 11 passes, was sacked twice, once by Caleb Saulo for 19 yards, which turned what had looked like a sure scoring drive for the ‘Cats into a punt, and couldn’t spark the Arizona offense.
Dawkins took over, and did complete 10 of 17 passes, for 106 yards. But it was his running that compromised most of Arizona’s effective offense. Dawkins, left, demonstrated why despite not even playing in 2 games, he entered the contest as the Pac-12’s 4th leading rusher, sprinting around for 88 yards.
But the Beaver defense held converted wide receiver turned surprisingly dangerous running back Samajie Grant to just 31 yards, and Arizona’s second touchdown, though not until almost the middle of the 4th quarter. This a week after he ran through Pac-12 South leading Colorado for 113 yards and 2 scores.
Manase Hungalu had another big evening for the Oregon State defense, with 10 tackles, 8 of which were solo. The Beaver defense also got a boost, especially early, from the return of CB Dwayne Williams, who had missed the last 5 games in a row, and 7 of the last 8. Williams had 3 tackles, including a sack of Soloman, and was a disruptive element in the secondary that precluded the ball even coming in his direction very often.
It was a perfect evening for a November night game, with temperatures in the 50’s, and no wind or rain. And with the Beavers able to run the ball, and run the clock with the lead, the #Pac12AfterDark game even got over in just under 3 hours.
Oregon State picked up their second conference win of the season, and of the Andersen era, to go to 2-6 in conference, and improved to 3-8 overall, which also insures this will be only the 2nd season, along with the Alamo Bowl year, that the Beavers will see an improvement in win production over the previous year in a decade, since the 10 win 2006 Sun Bowl season, and that was a 14 game year.
The Beavers will host Oregon (4-7, 2-6) next Saturday at 1 PM in the 120th Civil War, looking to snap an 8 game losing streak against the Ducks, who pulled out an upset win over Utah earlier in the day in Salt Lake City, scoring with 2 seconds left to beat the Utes 30-28.
Cue the Fight Song!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)