I don't think many of us thought we'd be in November saying, "can we please just beat SOMEONE?!?!?!", but here we are. UCLA's next opponent is Oregon State at home this Saturday, which is exactly seven days before what is basically going to be this season's bowl game. The Beavers are sorely lacking a passing game right now, and are still feeling the loss of Sean Mannion (who happens to be across town from the Bruins). Mannion's back up, Luke Del Rio, now starts for the Florida Gators. Gary Andersen, now in his second year as OSU's coach, has brought in a system that wouldn't fit Mannion or Del Rio, which puts a premium on dual-threat quarterbacks. But according to an October 4 article in The Oregonian, Gina Mizell writes that rather find one or two glaring issues with regards to the Beavers' offensive woes, co-offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven says, "it's something different on every single play." I guess we might actually have a good match up this weekend.
Oregon State has one of the worst passing offenses in the Pac 12 (shockingly, Stanford is the worst according to the NCAA). They are ranked 112 out of 128 teams in the FBS, averaging 165 yards per game (fun fact: UCLA is #14, so rankings aren't everything). Their starting quarterback, Darell Garretson, is out for the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury sustained in their October 15 loss to then No.19 Utah. Freshman Conor Blount was also out with an injury, which means #3 man, Marcus McMaryion, is now starting for the Beavers. Last weekend against Stanford, he was 10 for 24 with two interceptions, one touchdown, and 137 total yards. He had 12 yards rushing, but had negative yards against both Washington and Washington State. Obviously, Oregon State is in a worse position than we are with their quarterbacks. At least our #2 man had some (albeit very little) in-game experience before he was thrown to the wolves. They are now forced to make a bad situation work, and it the OSU offensive line is no exception.
There isn't an offensive line in football that has had the devastating circumstances that have followed Oregon State around for the last two years. Tackle Robert Olson had hip surgery which caused an infection in his vocal chords back in 2014, and then in 2015 when he finally returned to football, he tripped over a fellow teammate at his third practice and broke his arm. It was after all of this that he received his cancer diagnosis. In June, Olson was diagnosed with testicular cancer, the same cancer that fellow lineman and roommate Drew Clarkson had in high school. Due to the chemotherapy treatments, Clarkson's body was susceptible to injury, which ended up including multiple torn hamstrings, foot and ankle sprains, and a concussion. Clarkson also had another tumor removed in February, and he finally decided to retire from football this summer.
As if that wasn't enough, their other roommate, offensive lineman Mason Johnson, retired from football in the spring because of head injuries. Fellow offensive lineman Leo Fuimaono, a potential starter at center, announced his retirement this summer after he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that could lead to paralysis if he continued playing. On top of that, center Brayden Kearsley has spent the past six months helping his girlfriend in her recovery from a car accident that caused brain trauma. Kearsley was able to return for camp this year and is listed as a back up center.
Redshirt senior Gavin Andrews has assumed the duties at center after moving to this position from right guard. Fred Lauina and Sean Harlow should see the start on the left, and Dustin Stanton and Blake Brandel will be on the right. Seven offensive lineman return with experience, and all but Brandel are upperclassmen. We thought we had the injury bug last year, but this is more than exceptional. You can't help but look at this group and imagine the mental exhaustion they must be feeling at this point in the season with all of the issues they've experienced. First and foremost, we wish all of the injured members of OSU's line the best and hope they can continue their lives, whether on the field or off, in a healthy manner.
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Nall was pushed to the top of the depth chart when things at the running back position went sideways. All four players that were ahead of Nall on the opening day last year are gone. Storm Barrs-Woods used up his eligibility, Chris Brown and Damien Haskins both medically retired and Deltron Sands was dismissed for a violation of team rules. So now, he is considered an "every-down running back" according to his bio, even though he spent 2015 camp as a tight end and even bulked up for the position. But once injuries thinned the depth chart, Nall moved over and hasn't looked back. He had a career high day on October 8 with 221 yards, and put up 77 last week against Stanford. His back up, true freshman Artavis Pierce, is 307 yards on the season with two touchdowns.
The Beavers don't exactly have anyone on their roster that has had an explosive season, but Senior Victor Bolden is one of the more experienced receivers for Oregon State. He has 38 receptions for 477 yards, with a career long 75 yard reception against Stanford last week. Junior Jordan Villamin has 10 receptions for 90 yards and, quarterback turned wide receiver Seth Collins joined the group this year and has contributed 15 catches for 30 yards. He also has 374 yards receiving, all after not participating in spring camp and making the adjustment from quarterback this fall.
Oregon State, like UCLA, has struggled to find an identity on offense and it is showing. They have had injuries that have contributed to their problems and although there is talent in individuals, OSU has had trouble bringing it all together. This may be the first (and possibly last) time that UCLA sees an opponent with a similar level of issues, but a lower level of talent. Since we're at home, I see this one breaking our streak of losses.