Oregon State Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Oregon State Beavers
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Oregon State Beavers Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – “Shh, it’ll be our little secret” – Last year, the Beaver running game had some explaining to do after having one of the worst units in the nation in 2004.  Some author made the following claim last year:

Last year, the Beavers were 117th in the nation in rushing.  From one of the best to one of the worst in one year.  Whoa, and they still went 7 and 5?!?  However, to get back to seven wins this year, they’re going to need a whole heck of a lot more out of the running back position.  Uh, obviously.

Well, obviously, Beaver RB Yvenson Bernard got the point and then he got the ball.  And, then he got it again and again and again and again.  Before long, the ineptitude of 2004 was a distant memory.  By the end of the season, Bernard averaged 120 yards per game and was the ninth leading rusher in the nation.  Wow, talk about answering the bell, Bernard did that and then some with his performance last season.  No one really knew what he was doing because of the tremendous backs that dominated the conference last season – Reggie Bush, Jerome Harrison, Maurice Drew and Marshawn Lynch.  However, Bernard came through for the Beavers when they needed him most.  With former WR Mike Hass the focus for most defenses, Bernard had to make teams pay for leaving six or even five in the box, and he did.  With Hass gone, though, the focus of stopping the Beavers will turn to stopping #26 and the running game.  But, with an offensive line that returns all five starters, slowing him down might be more aberration than reality.

2nd and Seven – The Achilles Heel? – There’s no question that offenses in the Pac-10 can put points up on the board.  Whether by run or pass or both, teams can put a hurting on the lights on the scoreboard nearly every week that teams from the Left coast take the field.  As such, the Beavers shouldn’t be a team outside the norm, and that should keep them competitive in games throughout the season.  But, what could separate them from five wins and being home for the holidays and seven or eight wins and a visit to maybe, say, El Paso or Phoenix or Las Vegas is the ability of the defense to keep teams out of the end zone.  Simple game, right?  Well, sure, if your defense keeps teams from scoring, you should win games, but that’s the rub.  This defense has some big-time holes to fill, especially at the linebacker position and the interior of the defensive line.  As strong as the Beaver offense is, if the defense consistently gives up points, then the Beavers may have to abandon the powerful running game, taking away the team’s biggest strength.  However, even if the Beavers bend but don’t break, in other words giving up yards but not points, the offense has the entire playbook at its disposal.

3rd and Three – Newton’s Laws of Motion – If you would’ve told the Oregon State staff three or four years ago that the loss of Mike Hass would be devastating after he graduated, they’d probably have had a chuckle or three.  But, that’s what the loss of Hass has turned into after he matured into the most productive receiver in Beaver history.  Even though the perimeter threats are experienced and solid replacements for Hass, the one guy who may turn into the go-to threat for QB Matt Moore is tight end Joe Newton.  After missing the entire 2005 season, Newton is back for his senior season and is a big, really big target for Moore.  In 2004, he caught 56 passes from Derek Anderson and his return could force a change in philosophies to try to get the ball to Newton in the intermediate areas of the field and down the seam.  He won’t be the downfield threat that Hass was, but he can exploit areas of the field off of play action that might actually make him a bigger target for Moore, considering how effective the running game should be.

4th and One – How to turn a negative into a positive – There’s perception.  Then, there’s reality.  The perception that most people around the nation have of Beaver kicker Alexis Serna is the one they carry forward from the 2004 LSU game when Serna, then a freshmen, missed key extra points against the defending BCS national champions.  The reality of the situation, as it pertains to Serna, is that he might just be the best kicker in the nation in 2006 as a junior.  Last year as a sophomore, Serna banged home 23 of 28 field goals, using the misses in the 2004 opener as motivation to be the best kicker in the nation.  Coaches won’t admit it, but they hate to see their kicker come onto the field because they’re giving up 7 points for 3, but with Serna, the Beavers know that the 3 is almost a guaranteed lock.

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