Oregon State football: Running back shuttle, USC game ‘well officiated,’ Beavers at Stanford set for 8 p.m. k – OregonLive

  • September 27, 2022

Oregon State running back Deshaun Fenwick has the Beavers' lone 100-yard rushing performance this season. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian)Sean Meagher/The Oregonian
The Oregon State Beavers gave their fans a look at what a dominant running game can do for an offense last season.
It’s not like the Beavers running game has fallen off a cliff in 2022. OSU is averaging 180.8 yards a game, good for fifth in the Pac-12 and 50th in the country.
Good, but not great like 2021. A year ago, the Beavers were ranked among the top 20 nationally in rushing offense for most of the season. OSU ran for a season-low 153 yards in Saturday’s 17-14 loss to USC.
What’s missing, it seems, is electricity. A back who consistently hits for big plays and big performances.
Last season, the Beavers had six individual performances of 125 rushing yards or more, and five for at least 150 yards. The best from an OSU back so far this season is Deshaun Fenwick’s 102 yards against Fresno State.
Through four games in 2021, the Beavers had six running plays of at least 20 yards. This year, OSU has had only three, including just one from a running back (Fenwick).
Could it be the running back rotation? Fenwick, Jam Griffin and Damien Martinez frequently rotate during games. Against USC, the longest stay for any of the backs on the field was four plays. Some might say it’s hard to build rhythm standing on the sideline.
OSU coach Jonathan Smith said the frequent rotation is something they planned to do with the backs, at least early in the season. Fenwick, Martinez and Griffin didn’t separate themselves during camp, and each has a skill set that fits certain plays.
“Early in the game we do like to get a little rotation going so they cannot get worn out in the second half, if we get a guy with a hot hand,” Smith said. “I don’t think it’s a hindrance. If a guy continues to separate the next three, four games, then we have the one back. But we feel good with all three guys.”
Another way to spice up the running game is getting the ball in the hands of OSU’s small, quick receivers like Anthony Gould, Silas Bolden and Tyjon Lindsey on sweeps and reverses. The Beavers attempted only one against the Trojans, a 15-yard run by Gould.
Smith said in building the USC game plan, they didn’t see an advantage running sweeps because of what the Trojans had on defense.
Reviewing Nolan: After watching USC video, Smith came away feeling good in some respects about the play of quarterback Chance Nolan. But the turnovers cannot be overlooked. His four interceptions played a key role in the loss.
“You play quarterback and have a couple errors, those stand out,” Smith said. “We’ve got to be able to be smarter with the football.”
In review, it wasn’t all on Nolan. Smith said the OSU quarterback was hit on three of the four interceptions.
“We’ve got to protect him better,” Smith said. “Also need to understand the situation. Sometimes a sack is better than an interception.”
On a positive note, Smith liked that Nolan was effective on third down with several throws and one scramble to keep drives alive. He also thought Nolan did a good job getting OSU into the right running plays.
“Some good plays but obviously the turnovers stand out,” Smith said.
OK with officiating: There’s been plenty of buzz on social media about the fourth-and-6 play late in the fourth quarter where USC quarterback Caleb Williams ran seven yards to keep alive what proved to the game-winning drive. Williams was briefly stopped short of the first-down marker, but was pushed forward by several offensive linemen to get the first down.
Smith didn’t believe there was legitimate reason to call the play dead over lack of forward progress.
“These are bang-bang plays. The game is physical and going fast. You slow this thing on tape. Does his forward progress stop? Yeah, maybe. But I wasn’t totally hung up on it,” Smith said.
The OSU coach added that he thought the game “was well officiated. They let them play.”
Injury update: There were no significant injuries from the USC game. Smith is hopeful that left guard Marco Brewer, who has been on the field for one play since Fresno State on Sept. 10, can return to action. Tight end Luke Musgrave and running back Trey Lowe remain out.
As for safety Alton Julian, Smith said he’s getting closer but wouldn’t commit for Saturday’s game against Utah. Julian hasn’t played since sustaining a torn ACL last October against Utah. Oregon State isn’t lacking for capable players at safety, so there’s less urgency.
“When he’s prepared and ready to physically go and have enough practice time, we’ll get him in the game,” Smith said.
Another late one: Oregon State at Stanford will have an 8 p.m. start time, as Monday the Pac-12 released kickoff times for Oct. 8. It is the fifth time in six games that the Beavers have had a kickoff of 5 p.m. or later, and third starting at 7:30 or 8 p.m.
Oregon State-Stanford will be televised on ESPN.
Briefly: Oregon State at Utah kicks off at noon in Salt Lake City, the earliest start time for the Beavers this season by five hours. Smith doesn’t think it will be an adjustment, and could be a benefit, as the team practices late morning and should be familiar with the routine. … Many of OSU’s current starters, including Nolan, have experience with Rice-Eccles Stadium, having played Utah in 2020. Unfortunately, that was the COVID season, and the Beavers didn’t experience the crowd. It still helps, though, as they know the layout of the field and been to the locker room.
Nick Daschel reported from Corvallis
[email protected] | @nickdaschel
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