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7 Ways the Oregon State Beavers Can Save the Season

Kyle BidwellContributor IOctober 14, 2016

7 Ways the Oregon State Beavers Can Save the Season

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    The crowd at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore., has never been quieter than it was on Saturday September 3rd, 2011; that was the day the Beavers allowed 29 points in a loss to FCS Sacramento State. The team followed that loss by being blown out by Wisconsin and giving up 27 in a loss to a dismal UCLA team.

    The Oregon State defensive unit has been dealing with injuries and inexperience, but must step up its play if the Beavers hope to contend in the Pac-12 North and save this season. With suspension and injury sidelining standout Castro Masaniai, the young defensive line will have to learn how to stop the run.

    With Washington and Oregon still left on the schedule, Chris Polk and LaMichael James could create huge problems for the Beavers. Junior cornerback Jordan Poyer and senior safety Lance Mitchell have made big plays in both of the teams wins thus far. It will take their leadership on defense for the Beavers to contend in 2011.

James Rodgers Must Be a Leader

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    For the Beavers young offense to stand a chance in Pac-12 play, they need veteran leadership from James Rodgers. As he looks to make his mark during his senior season and elevate his game to play on Sundays, it is crucial for the program that he is the go-to guy in late game situations.

    With freshmen at both quarterback and running back, Riley will look to Rodgers as the big play guy at pivotal points. The question remains whether James is 100 percent after being sidelined much of last season and the beginning of this year.

    Rodgers needs to lead this team as he did in the 2007 Civil War Game, the last time OSU beat rival Oregon.

Improvments on Defense

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    The crowd at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore., has never been quieter than it was on Saturday September 3rd, 2011; that was the day the Beavers allowed 29 points in a loss to FCS Sacramento State. The team followed that loss by being blown out by Wisconsin and giving up 27 in a loss to a dismal UCLA team.

    The Oregon State defensive unit has been dealing with injuries and inexperience, but must step up its play if the Beavers hope to contend in the Pac-12 North and save this season. With suspension and injury sidelining standout Castro Masaniai, the young defensive line will have to learn how to stop the run.

    With Washington and Oregon still left on the schedule, Chris Polk and LaMichael James could create huge problems for the Beavers. Junior cornerback Jordan Poyer and senior safety Lance Mitchell have made big plays in both of the team's wins thus far. It will take their leadership on defense for the Beavers to contend in 2011.

Joe Halahuni Staying Healthy

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    Joe Halahuni, the 6'2" 255 lb. senior TE, is a big target for a young quarterback and one of the few players on this Oregon State team with experience in big games. For this year's team to have a fighting chance in the big games down the stretch it is imperative that freshman quarterback Sean Mannion has No. 87 to throw to.

    For a young passer under all kinds of pressure, having a tall target with good hands can be the difference in a ball game. If Mannion can find confidence in Halahuni, it will give him an option for check downs and in the red zone. Not to mention it will take pressure off of James Rodgers and Markus Wheaton.

The Offensive Line Has to Protect Its Young Playmakers

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    When you are starting two freshman in the backfield, they are under enough pressure mentally and emotionally; the offensive line needs to keep the physical pressure at bay.

    Quarterback Sean Mannion and running back Malcom Agnew have both shown glimpses of greatness early in the season. These two young playmakers need time in order to make decisions and read fast-paced Pac-12 defenses.

    If the offensive line can open up holes for the run game and give Mannion time in the pocket, the Beaver offense has explosive potential. Look for junior tackle Colin Kelly, who stands at 6'5" and weighs 300 lbs, to lead the charge on the offensive front.

Freshamn Need to Play Beyond Their Years

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    It is rare at Oregon State to see an all-freshmen backfield, but in the absence of Jaquizz Rodgers, that is exactly what coach Mike Riley has decided to go with.

    Malcom Agnew burst onto the scene in the season opener against Sacramento State with over 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Since that game he has been battling injury and seen only limited action. If Agnew can get back to full health he has the ability to take over a game and provide instant offense for the Beavs.

    A strong running game would also free up the receiving core and allow James Rodgers to be the big play threat he has been in past years.

    It was a surprise to most when Sean Mannion replaced Ryan Katz in the first game of the season, but Mannion has maintained his composure in the starting role and is earning the respect of fans and teammates alike. He had his best game of the season last Saturday against Washington State, throwing for 376 yards and four touchdowns. Mannion will only get better the more snaps he takes, and that could mean trouble for opposing Pac-12 teams.

Mike Riley Needs to Win Back His Locker Room

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    After benching his previously successful junior QB Ryan Katz in favor of a freshman and allowing Castro Masaniai to play in the season opener, the media and those close to Oregon State football began to call coach Riley into question for the first time in his tenure.

    These moves were uncharacteristic of the easygoing coach in Corvallis, but as the season has progressed they have paid dividends. It was well documented that a handful of players seemed uneasy about the change at quarterback, and the team did not seem to be playing cohesively early in the year.

    After two conference wins, Riley leads the Beavers into the most crucial part of the season as they round out Pac-12 play and prepare for Oregon. If Riley can use his blunt dialogue, witty charm and pragmatic style of coaching to rally the team, OSU could play spoiler to some highly ranked rival schools over the next couple of months.

Beat Oregon

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    The probability of the Beavers going into Autzen Stadium and upsetting the Oregon Ducks is very slim, but if there is one thing the Civil War has taught us, it is that anything can happen.

    The Beavers have not won the state bragging rights since 2007, and since that game, Oregon has elevated its program to new heights.

    While OSU is focused on rebuilding and developing its young core of players, the Ducks have their sights set on getting back to the national championship.

    If the Beavers could pull off the upset, it would be a defining moment for Oregon State. It would solidify Sean Mannion as the quarterback of the future. It would cap off an amazing career for James Rodgers, and it would make Mike Riley look like a genius.

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