When Oregon State takes the field on Friday, the Beavers will know that if they want to pull the upset, it’s going to have to come from the offense.
While their defense has been suspect at best throughout the entire season, the offense has more-than held their own, often giving the Beavers a chance to pull out the win.
Paving for the Oregon State’s success is running back Jermar Jefferson, one of the best and most explosive freshmen in the country. His 1,316 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns is not only the best number by a freshman in the nation, both stats rank second in the Pac-12.
"Obviously the back has garnered a lot of attention, and rightfully so," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. "As a freshman he's widely considered one of the best freshmen in the country — the offensive line has done a tremendous job for him."
Jefferson averages 6.04 yards per carry and 119.64 yards per game, showing off a unique blend of power and speed that has frustrated defensive coordinator’s all season long.
“They scheme you up pretty well… they understand where the holes are, they go after it. They've got a lot of talent,” Cristobal said. “From game one against Ohio State, coming back like they did against Colorado, they continue to churn out yards and points.”
Apart from Jefferson, the Beavers will throw out a multitude of wide receivers who are capable of making a difference.
Isaiah Hodgins is the best of the group, leading the Beavers with 743 receiving yards and 14.6 yards per catch. A big play threat every time he touches the ball, the sophomore’s 6-foot-4 height could make him difficult to defend against Oregon’s smaller defensive backs.
Senior Timmy Hernandez, who plays primarily out of the slot, leads the teams with 52 catches. He’s sturdy enough (6-foot, 198-pounds) to withstand the physicality it takes to go over the middle, often providing himself as an outlet or hot route option on opposing blitzes.
Trevon Bradford, the emerging sophomore, leads the team with six touchdowns. He has 51 catches for 578 yards on the season, almost tripling his stats from last year.
“This [is] probably the best passing attack when it comes to balancing out their offense… they have three receivers with 50 catches or more — that’s the most balance attack all year,” Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham said. “They have a big play receiver in Isaiah Hodgins — we have to make sure that we go out and watch film and know what’s coming, so we can react rather than think and react."
"They're very disciplined route-runners, No. 1. They understand their offense really well… they understand coverages… they set you up really well,” Cristobal added. “They're explosive, they're guys that have legitimate speed… they're good with run after a catch — it's no secret why they're scoring so many points.”
Despite the weapons on offense, quarterback Jake Luton is the key for the Beavers. Oregon will bring a strong pass rush but Luton must stay calm in the pocket and distribute the ball to his playmakers, understanding that a four-yard pass is still a positive play. If Luton panics and starts trying to force the ball into tight corridors, the Ducks will pick him apart on his mistakes.
Defensively, it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Beavers to stop Oregon’s offense, regardless of who’s catching or running the ball.
Oregon State is the worst statistical defense in the Pac-12 — giving up 539.2 yards, 44.8 points and 271.8 rushing yards per game. Despite the issues and youth, they defensive line does have size and potential, especially in an emotional game like the Civil War.
“They've got a very big defensive front, maybe the biggest that we've seen so far — when they're on point they hurt you, they can make a lot of plays,” Cristobal said.