Oregon State had a long list of the walking wounded for last Saturday’s game against Cal Poly, and those players who missed the game did so because they had to and not just to rest because the Beavers were facing an FCS team in Cal Poly.
Of note, star sophomore running back Jermar Jefferson was out after tweaking his foot in the loss at Hawaii. Also a surprise scratch was starting receiver Tyjon Lindsey, who coach Jonathan Smith said was closer to being able to play with a leg injury, and defensive lineman Jordan Whittley (knee).
“There was no, 'hey, we’re playing these guys so let’s rest,'” Smith said after a 45-7 win over the Mustangs.
The Beavers (1-2) won’t have to worry about who can or can’t play this weekend as they have a bye before opening Pac-12 play at home against Stanford on Sept. 28.
That game will kick at 4 p.m. and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks, it was announced Monday.
senior running back Artavis Pierce said the break comes at a good time for the Beavers.
“I think the bye week’s going to be good for us because a lot of people are banged up and stuff like that so it’s going to give us a chance to get off our feet, relax then come back the next week and be 100 percent,” said Pierce, who started in place of Jefferson and rushed for 90 yards on 12 carries and set the tone with 45 yards on the opening drive.
Will the added rest be enough for those key players to return?
“We hope so,” Smith said Saturday.
Tight DB rotation
Facing the Mustangs’ run-oriented triple option meant the Beavers mostly played their base defense and did not need to go to the nickel package in the secondary.
And with the return of Jalen Moore at safety, that meant Omar Hick-Onu’s plays were limited after starting the first two games. Isaiah Dunn and Jaydon Grant were the main corners with Shawn Wilson holding down the other safety spot.
JoJo Forrest and Nashon Wright saw limited action.
“Defensively we didn’t play much nickel, we played base most of the time so you only had four DBs out there,” Smith said. “When you have five you get a little more rotation going.”
It’s apparent that quarterback Jake Luton and receiver Isaiah Hodgins have developed some pretty good chemistry and a strong comfort level.
Hodgins has already caught 23 passes for 347 yards and five touchdowns through the first three games. Lindsey, in two games, is next with nine receptions for 50 yards.
Luton’s first five passes Saturday went to Hodgins and he had six catches for 73 yards with two touchdowns in the first quarter alone.
But after that Luton was able to spread the ball around as Hodgins only had one more catch after the quarter. Champ Flemings finished with five receptions for 142 yards and two long touchdowns.
“(Luton) should be sticking to some progressions and we’re definitely going to call some plays where (Hodgins) is first in the progression,” Smith said. “We want to throw him the ball. I did think he did a couple later in the quarter when he came off of Hodge and went to others which was nice. We definitely want to have more than one guy to throw it to which played out (Saturday).”
Penalties were an issue in a 31-28 loss to Hawaii on Sept. 7 as the Beavers committed nine for 92 yards. In the opener against Oklahoma State on Aug. 30, the Beavers had eight for 85 yards.
This past game, that number was just three for 30, with two coming on special teams. All three came in the first quarter.
“I’ll take a three-penalty game,” Smith said. “I think that’s improvement. We have been higher in the first two games than we would like.”
The Beavers have been balanced on offense through the first three games, rushing for 229.3 yards per game and passing for 247.
Defensively, Oregon State is allowing 207.3 yards per game on the ground and 245.3 through the air.