Up Next: Will Buffs exploit disarray at Oregon State with win on Saturday?

Scott Hood, Staff Writer
CU Sports Nation
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AP

Mainly because of a lowly 1-5 record and a sieve-like defense allowing 45 points and nearly 500 yards per game, Oregon State was already is disarray prior to Monday’s surprising announcement head coach Gary Andersen and the school had “mutually agreed” to immediately terminate his tenure midway through the season.

Now the responsibility falls on Beavers interim head coach Cory Hall to clean up the mess starting with Saturday afternoon’s battle of winless Pac-12 teams between Colorado and Oregon State at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Network.

Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes described Andersen’s unexpected departure as a “reset” for the Beavers football program.

Ten months ago, Oregon State halted an 8-game losing streak to Civil War rival Oregon with a 34-24 win in Corvallis. Because of that win, many analysts viewed the Beavers as an ‘up and coming’ program in the Pac-12 ready to take the next step towards respectability.

However, scan the updated Pac-12 statistics following Week 6 and you get some clarification of how Oregon State quickly descended from preseason media darling to its coach suddenly resigning or getting the boot, whichever you prefer, at midseason.

“It was obvious to see we had taken a step back,” Barnes said Monday at a news conference. “The ultimate decision had many factors. It wasn’t just wins and losses.”

Oregon State is last or next-to-last in the Pac-12 in most major defensive categories, including scoring defense (45.0), total defense (493.8 ypg), rushing defense (199.2), pass defense (294.7), pass defense efficiency (167.0 rating) and third down conversion defense (53.2 pct.) Offensively, the Beavers haven’t fared much better, ranking last in the conference in points per game (19.3 ppg), total offense (321.2 ypg) and first downs (16.7).

The Beavers have lost three Pac-12 games by an average margin of 30.7 points, including Saturday’s 38-10 loss at USC. In their only win of the season, Oregon State slipped past Portland State, 35-32, by scoring a last-minute touchdown.

“The most important thing right now is the players and we all stick together,” Hall said. “We have our eyes set on the target. We have a game Saturday against Colorado, a worthy opponent we have to prepare for. Amidst all this, we still have to regroup and we have to focus. It’s my job to keep everybody together. We’re going to go out, celebrate Coach Andersen and we’re going to have fun. We have our eyes on the prize and that’s to compete and win a game this Saturday.”

An important question Hall and the OSU coaching staff must contemplate is how and why things unraveled so quickly in Corvallis.

“That’s the first thing we’re going to look at as a staff,” Hall said. “Right now, we have to get our players ready. But that’s something we will talk about as a staff.”

Certainly, the Beavers have plenty of shortcomings right now, and the key question going into Saturday’s game is whether the Buffs are able to exploit those weaknesses and pick up their first Pac-12 win of the season.

“We have six upcoming opponents who care nothing about this,” Hall said. “So, we just need to stay focused and play one game at a time. Colorado is first.”

A key reason Andersen is no longer coaching the Beavers is he couldn’t settle on a starting quarterback. Whether injury or ineffective play, about a half dozen different QBs started under center during Andersen’s 2-1/2 year tenure. Sean Mannion, currently the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer (Washington State’s Luke Falk is closing in on the record), left after the 2014 season and OSU has been unable to find a reliable successor.

After starter Jake Luton suffered a season-ending spinal injury at Washington State more than two week ago, Darell Garretson has regained the starting job he held for a time last season. He has completed 54.7 percent (29-53) of his passes for 291 yards and 1 TD with 1 interception.

Senior running back Ryan Nall is arguably Oregon State’s top offensive threat with 341 rushing yards and four TDs on 62 carries, and 15 receptions for 120 yards. Nall has scored four touchdowns in the first six games. No other Beaver player has more than two TDs, a definite sign of the Beavers’ lack of firepower on that side of the ball.

“There is tremendous support from the players to finish the season on a high note for Coach Andersen and themselves,” Hall said.

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