Oregon State Football Preview: Week Two vs Washington

In this file photo from 2019, The Washington Huskies’ offense lines up against the Oregon State Beavers’ defense in their Friday night matchup in Reser on Nov. 8. On Nov. 14, 2020, Oregon State will get the chance to even the score against the Huskies after their 19-7 loss in 2019.

Brady Akins, Sports Chief

After falling short in their 2020 season opener, the Oregon State Beavers will be looking to bounce back on Saturday, Nov. 14 against the Washington Huskies– a new-look team that has yet to debut this year.

While the Beavers kicked off their first game of the 2020 schedule as planned, at home against Washington State in an eventual 38-28 loss, the Huskies were one of four teams across the PAC-12 to have their opening weeks canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests. 

The Huskies game was shut down by one positive test from their opponent, the California Golden Bears, while a game scheduled between the Utah Utes and the Arizona Wildcats was canceled due to multiple positives tests across the Utah roster. But while a member from the Beavers was recently tested positive, he was quarantined in time for the meeting between the two schools is expected to go on as planned.

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But when these two teams do meet, it will be a major shift from where they were last season, particularly on the Washington side. Longtime Huskies Head Coach Chris Petersen stepped away from the team following the 2019 season, along with leaders at key positions like offensive linemen Trey Adams and Nick Harris, along with quarterback Jacob Eason– three players who have since taken their talents to the NFL.

While Adams, Harris and Eason’s absences will be felt, they are not the only talented players who have left from the program since the Beavers’ last played Washington in 2019. According to Nick Mendro, a staff reporter for The Daily at the University of Washington, the biggest loss on the offensive side of the ball might not be along the offensive line or the quarterback position– but in the wide receiver group, especially in the departure of Third-Team All PAC-12 player Aaron Fuller. 

“I would probably say Aaron Fuller. Right now, the wide receiving corps is super raw,” Mendro said. “I think there are some good young receivers, but I would say probably Fuller is the biggest offensive loss.”

Beyond concerns of inexperience on the field, Mendro also expressed concerns with inexperience in the coaching staff– particularly at head coach and offensive coordinator. Jimmy Lake, the Huskies’ new man in charge, will be a first-time head coach in the 2020 season, while Washington’s new offensive coordinator John Donovan will be running an offense that might look a bit different than the one the Huskies ran in 2019.

“I think, basically, they’re [the Washington offense] going to completely change,” Mendro said. “There’s gonna be a lot of ‘run it down the throat, we’re gonna set the tone physically’ on offense.” 

Whether or not Lake, the coaching staff, and the newest contributors on the Huskies roster can step up to put together a season reminiscent of Petersen’s legacy remains up in the air. Regardless, however, with the game against Oregon State marking Washington’s first taste of live football since Dec. 21, 2019, the first few possessions of the Lake era might hold more shaking off the rust than scoring drives.

Across the PAC-12 conference, as each of the eight teams who played were adjusting to their first game of the season, only one team managed to score on their opening drive of the game– a field goal from Arizona State in an eventual 28-27 loss to the USC Trojans. Without the one game of experience that the Beavers have on offense, Washington may struggle in the early game to move the ball– like the struggles of many PAC-12 offenses in their first action of the year.

If the Huskies offense does not come out firing on all cylinders, they will hope that their defense can carry the team through the early quarters of the game, much like they did in 2019, when they held the Beavers offense in check throughout the contest, ending the game with a 19-7 win where Oregon State’s only points of the contest were on an interception returned for a touchdown by defensive back Jaydon Grant.

Washington’s defense will have the advantage of returning some talented players in the secondary, but Mendro is quick to point out that the defensive line lost a few key pieces, which could give Oregon State the advantage in the running game.

“We had [in 2019] Onwuzurike and Joe Tryon on the defensive line, those guys were All-Pro. They’re studs. And now the line is probably the biggest question mark on the defense,” Mendro said. “The line is kind of unknown… Ryan Bowman [outside linebacker], he probably will make an impact. I just don’t know if it’s enough to make up for the losses.”

If Washington’s run defense does prove to be a weakness, it could lead to a big game for junior running back Jermar Jefferson, who impressed in his 2020 debut with 170 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. In 2019, however, Jefferson’s performance against the Huskies was not quite at the level he played at last week.

Jefferson’s 50 total yards on 12 touches in last year’s meeting against Washington matched the tone of the offense as a whole, who managed 119 yards of offense on the night, and only eight net yards in the second half. But if Jefferson can break out against an inexperienced Huskies defensive front seven, Mendro believes there’s a chance it could lead Oregon State to success against what could be a struggling Washington offense.

“We have a lot of talented young guys, but we don’t have a lot of talented experienced guys,” Mendro said. “I know that the Oregon State defense was not necessarily that strong [against Washington State], but I think they make the Huskies one-dimensional… we only scored 19 points last year, and that was with Jacob Eason.”

Even with the possibility of a slow day for the Huskies on offense, Mendro still has Washington coming out on top– largely due to the defense.

“I think the Huskies win. I think they win but it’s not a blowout,” Mendro said. “And I think they win because of the defense. I think the defense hasn’t lost enough people to really lose any ground, and I think the people that are taking their place can hold their own.”

Whether the Beavers can avenge their 2019 loss, and their loss to start the 2020 season, will be settled on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. in Husky Stadium.