Oregon State's much maligned defense took a big step forward last Saturday on Oahu. The 31-points they allowed was the fewest since they gave up 25 points last September at home against Southern Utah (48-25 the final).
When you think about the week two improvement on defense, there are reasons to be optimistic about the rest of the season. Hawaii was just 2 of 12 on third down conversions. The Rainbow Warriors also had two big turnovers that were sorely needed by Tim Tibesar's defense. However, the Beavers did give up a not so great stat: Hawaii 3 for 3 on fourth-down conversions.
For me, working the sidelines at Aloha Stadium for the Beaver Sports Newtork, I was impressed with the defense. Their enthusiasm and focus was outstanding. Now Hawaii did drive the field for a score just before halftime that featured a couple of defensive breakdowns. But holding Hawaii to just ten points in the seocnd half was a sign that Jonathan Smith's team is better than the one in 2018.
Now can they break through and get a win Saturday against an FCS team from the Big Sky Conference?
Cal Poly runs a classic old-school offense. The Mustangs are among just a few schools in FBS AND FCS still running the triple option. A run-heavy offense that keeps defenses guessing with the use of the fullback, tailback, and quarterback. They could run the ball 40 or more times in the game Saturday.
I had a chance to talk to Tim Tibesar, the Beavers Defensive Coordinator. You can see that conversation on tonight's version of "Talking Beavers" on NBCSportsNW. I also recorded Tim speaking to reporters about the Hawaii game and what is next!
The players on the Beavers roster played with a ton of emotion last Saturday. The vast majority of them kept their emotion in check. However, Gus Lavaka and Caleb Hayes didn't. Hayes got into a scuffle with a teammate. Lavaka was hounded by Hawaii players at the end of the game and threw some punches. Both players will sit for the first half against the Mustangs. Elu Aydon, the senior defensive lineman says the Hawaii loss still stings because of the fact they lost such a close game but he feels excited about the progression of the Oregon State defense.
There is no doubt Oregon State is expected to win Saturday despite an 0-2 record. Their first two opponents were bowl teams last year. This visit by a Big Sky Conference team this weekend is a chance to improve and dominate with a BYE week coming up before conference play against Stanford at Reser September 28.
Beaver fans do remember a couple of debacles against Big Sky teams. 2011....a 29-28 OT loss to Sacramento State. 2013....a 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington.
They did rebound to beat Portland State 29-14 in 2014. Weber State 26-7 in 2015. In 2016, Idaho State was perhaps the easiest Big Sky game in the last decade...37-7. In 2017, Portland State as a field goal away from sending the game to OT before the Beavs survived 35-32. And last season the win over Southern Utah.
Cal Poly is treating this game like the Super Bowl!! Their coach Tim Walsh (14 years at Portland State) says that their team knows this is a huge opportunity for them. For the Beavs, a chance to get that much needed victory and then get two weeks to prepare for the Pac-12!