Saturday’s opponent is not what the Oregon State football team needs to get its confidence back.
The Beavers have a daunting task of fixing their many issues with a road trip to No. 11 Wisconsin on Saturday morning.
After being upset by Football Championship Subdivision team Sacramento State on Saturday, a Big Ten Conference power means a long shot at victory.
The Beavers (1-0) are 20-point underdogs, and the Badgers (1-0) don’t lose many home or nonconference games.
Wisconsin has won 29 straight nonconference games, the second longest active streak in the nation to LSU’s 33. The last loss was Sept. 12, 2003, to UNLV.
“They are a really good looking team,” coach Mike Riley said. “They looked like they picked up where they left off in the Rose Bowl (last season).”
Wisconsin’s offense poses a major problem. Mobile quarterbacks have historically hurt the Beavers, and the Badgers have a good one.
North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson produced 317 total yards and three touchdowns to be named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
“They are a good running team and their play-action passes are nice,” Riley said. “They added an athletic quarterback who can pull the ball down and run the ball. They have all the problems to cover. There will be a special note to deal with the quarterback.”
How OSU’s defensive linemen and linebackers perform will be crucial. The secondary had a rough outing against Sacramento State, and the Badgers are more athletic.
“I think there were some positive things with the interior guys with interior runs,” Riley said. “We’ll build on that and get ready for what Wisconsin does. It will take a much better game all-around to slow these guys down.”
Wisconsin’s defensive players are sound in their approach to the game and aggressive. The special teams are consistent.
The Beavers will need to continue to work on the offensive line. Whoever quarterbacks the team, Ryan Katz or Sean Mannion, needs time to make decisions.
“We have our hands full and we’ll have to improve to be competitive,” Riley said.
Running back Malcolm Agnew had a stellar first game but against slower and smaller players than what he will will see against Wisconsin.
“We need to run the ball and we need to be balanced,” Riley said. “And we can’t sputter around for two quarters. It was nice to run the ball, and run in efficiently. To be productive in the first game was a good start.”
The Beavers must decide on a quarterback. Riley says Katz is still the starter, for now, but Mannion played well in practice and the first game to warrant more game opportunities.
Katz wasn’t as sharp as expected for a returning starter against a lower-division team; Mannion was comfortable for someone in his first career game.
Do the Beavers go with what they know, or build for the future at the position? They’ve already played a record number of true freshmen (eight).
“A lot of young guys got their feet wet already this season and that will help us (down the road),” Riley said.
The receivers were inconsistent getting open. True freshman Brandon Cooks was nervous, Riley said.
OSU now goes into its second game with more questions than it started with.
And they have to figure them out in an imposing 80,321-seat Camp Randall Stadium.
“Football will have your ups and down,” receiver Markus Wheaton said. “It’s like any other season and loss, you have to come back and work.”