What to watch out for during the Washington, Oregon test drive, plus Mike Vorel’s prediction
Washington (2-2) at Oregon State (3-1)
6 p.m. Saturday, Corvallis, Ore.
TV: Pac-12 network. Radio: SportsRadio 950 KJR.
Last row: Huskies by 3.
UW key players
QB Dylan Morris: 1,120 passing yards, 57.8% completed passes, six TD passes, 5 INTs, 1 TD rush
RB Sean McGrew: 84 rushing yards, 3.8 yards per carry, 4 TD
CB Kyler Gordon: 21 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakages, 1 tackle for loss
ILB Edefuan Ulofoshio: 25 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 PBU
Key players in the State of Oregon
QB Chance Nolan: 847 passing yards, 72.29% of passes completed, 9 TD passes, 2 INTs, 128 rushing yards
RB BJ Baylor: 422 rushing yards, 6.9 YPC, 7 TD
ILB Avery Roberts: 35 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 SEB, 1 forced fumble
OLB Andrzej Hughes-Murray: 14 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 sacks
Four quarter offenses
Is it too much to ask? In six of John Donovan’s eight games as offensive coordinator, UW failed to score a touchdown in an entire half – three points in the second half against Oregon State (2020), zero points in the first half vs Utah (2020), three points in the first half against Stanford (2020), zero points in the second half against Montana, zero points in the first half against Michigan and three points in the second half against Cal. Donovan was either forced to abandon his game plan or his opponent made halftime adjustments to set it aside. And last weekend, Washington only managed 62 total yards in its last five practices before beating Cal in overtime. That won’t work against an Oregon State team that racked up 45 points in an impressive road win over USC last week. The Husky offense must set up a full performance, otherwise.
Stuff the race
If this seems like the key to winning every week, there’s a reason for it. UW’s result often depends on its ability to stop the race. And last weekend, Oregon State ran for 322 yards, 6.3 yards per carry, hitting the Trojans to subdue them. The Beavs have apparently replaced Jamar Jefferson with another returning star, as red jersey junior BJ Baylor rushed for 422 yards, 6.9 yards per carry and seven touchdowns in his first four games. A UW defense that struggles to contain double-threat quarterbacks will also be tasked with mustering Chance Nolan (129 rushing yards and 7.2 yards per carry). While the UW has largely held off against Cal, it is still a unit that gave up 343 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry and four rushing scores in a 31-10 loss to the Michigan. There is still a lot to prove.
UW head coach Jimmy Lake has said repeatedly that if the Huskies can score points, stop the race and force opponents to pass in passing situations, turnovers will come. And in the last two games, they did. UW forced two turnovers each in their back-to-back wins over Arkansas State and Cal. Despite this, Washington ranks 91st at the national level in terms of overall turnover (-2). The Beavs, meanwhile, rank 16e nationally in this category (+4) – after forcing nine impressive turnovers while committing five to four games. That includes eight mind-blowing interceptions for an opportunistic secondary in Oregon State. As Lake said, UW must limit running play and force Oregon State into obvious pitching situations on Saturday – in which case an inconsistent pass rush must manifest itself. And on the other side, quarterback Dylan Morris – who has thrown five interceptions in four games – needs to lead the UW offense effectively while avoiding the big mistake.
Don’t expect the Huskies to establish much of a racing game against a 22-ranked Oregon State teamsd nationwide in running defense (89.25 yards per game) and 23rd in opposing yards per carry (3). Even so, UW’s offense becomes more dynamic as its main playmakers recover. Although tight end Cade Otton may not be available due to the program’s COVID protocol, wide receivers Taj Davis, Jalen McMillan, Terrell Bynum and Rome Odunze, and tight end Devin Culp have all appeared in recent weeks. In its only loss of the season, Oregon State was knocked out by Purdue in the passing game. Expect Morris and Co. to see some success as well. The Huskies certainly won’t stop Oregon State’s ongoing offense, but they will force a turnaround or two – and it will make a difference. UW’s winning streak against the Beavs hits the 10-game mark on Saturday night.
Final score: Huskies 28, Beavs 24