September 12, 2008

Here come the Warriors

Saturday's game is a must-win one for the Oregon State Beavers. But how much can they and Beaver Nation take away from the Hawaii game? Sure a win would get OSU headed in the right direction and give it some much-needed confidence. The Warriors, however, are a drastically different team than the one the Beavers defeated in 2006.

Gone are quarterback Colt Brennan and wide receivers Devin Bess and Jason Rivers who combined to wreak havoc on opposing defenses the past two seasons, as well as longtime head coach June Junes who left during the offseason for Southern Methodist.

And while Hawaii still runs the same offense under first-year coach Greg McMackin, it has resembled the one from last season which the Warriors displayed in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. In fact, they went through two quarterbacks until a third one finally stepped up and helped lead them to a comeback victory over Weber State last week.

Even so, Hawaii is a team the Beavers should be able to handle and that's why it could be hard to gauge how much they have improved if they win. The Warriors have an inexperienced QB and their running game has been nonexistent, Leon-Wright Jackson is their rushing this season with 67 yards on 13 carries. So the Beavers' beleaguered run defense should be able to stop Hawaii's ground attack, but what exactly does it prove?

Make no mistake, the coaching staff and players are determined to improve on their performance the past two weeks, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

"I think it's a matter of getting things down assignment-wise," OSU coach Mike Riley said on Tuesday. "Everybody has to fit on a running play. Everybody has a responsibility on that run, whether it's the corner way on the backside of a run that's going over here (the other direction). Everybody has a responsibility on that play and I think it's a matter of 11 guys doing it"

That's why a loss on Saturday would be devastating for OSU. Not that there wasn't already concerns about Beavers' ability to stop the run, but this would be the final blow. More than that, a loss would mean they will likely start the season 0-5, because they play USC and Utah the following weeks. And that would seriously derail the team's postseason hopes and kill any buzz around the program.

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