Oregon State’s defense hasn’t had much to hang its hat on the last season-plus.
But if the past couple games are any indication, that might be changing.
The Beavers’ defense was really one big play away from pitching a shutout in Saturday’s 45-7 thrashing of Cal Poly, an FCS school out of the Big Sky Conference.
The Mustangs’ only touchdown came on their opening possession. A 53-yard pass play, of all things, was the big play that set them up at the 10.
“Minus the long big play, which was on me, we could have held those guys to zero points,” senior safety Jalen Moore said.
Moore, seeing his first action of the season after dealing with a hamstring issue, was the one who allowed J.J. Koski to get behind the defense.
“That was me because my eyes were bad,” he said.
That was the only play of more than 17 yards the Beavers gave up. Only 10 plays went for 10 or more yards.
The Mustangs did make three more trips into the red zone, but the Beavers forced two missed field goals and Shawn Wilson had an interception near the goal line to end the other.’
Oregon State’s defense allowed 75 yards on the opening possession, then just 240 the rest of the way. The 315 yards were a season-low for Cal Poly.
“Today we finished as a defense,” Moore said. “That’s a step going forward for the season because we finished strong and that’s all we have been preaching all week.”
It was the second straight mostly solid performance by the defense against two polar opposite offenses.
While the Beavers gave up 421 yards through the air against Hawaii’s pass-heavy run and shoot offense in a tough 31-28 loss on Sept. 7, the defense still kept them in the game throughout the second half.
The much-maligned run defense held Hawaii to 67 yards on the ground on 25 attempts (2.68 yards per attempt).
Then on Saturday against the trip option of Cal Poly, the Beavers gave up 203 yards on the ground but the Mustangs needed 58 attempts. That’s an average of only 3.5 yards per attempt.
That after the Beavers allowed 352 rushing yards on 52 rushes (6.8) against Oklahoma State in the opener.
Coach Jonathan Smith, on Saturday, credited defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar and the defensive staff for the steady improvement.
“They have been dramatically different (offenses) and I think we’ve put good plans together and we’ve continued to improve and we keep executing those plans,” Smith said.
Moore also credited the coaches, saying they made it easy for the players to have success against the triple-option of the Mustangs.
“We just trusted in each other and stayed disciplined,” Moore said. “Cal Poly had a tough offensive scheme but it really was staying disciplined and listening to what the coaches are coaching because they did a really good job preparing us and basically gave us the answers for the test and the game was the test and we aced the test.”
The success over the past two games has been aided by the Beavers’ ability to get more pressure in the backfield. OSU had three sacks (loss of 16 yards) and 10 tackles for loss (35 yards) against the Mustangs.
In the loss to Hawaii, OSU had five tackles for loss (35 yards) with three sacks (24 yards).
The Beavers now have 24 tackles for loss this season for a loss of 96 yards. They also have seven sacks for a loss of 42 yards.
Last season, OSU had 53 TFLs for a loss of 217 yards and 15 sacks for a loss of 90 yards.
“I think it’s going to be a thing we continue to practice every day and that’s helping,” outside linebacker John McCartan said of getting pressure in the backfield. McCartan, who had 12 tackles against Cal Poly, was in for the injured Matthew Tago, who missed the game with a knee injury. “We’ve still got a lot of strides to make but we’re doing good.”
The Beavers now have a week off to prepare for the Pasc-12 opener at home against Stanford on Sept. 28.
They will take plenty of confidence into the bye week.
“We knew going into this game we had to stay disciplined and do our assignments,” McCartan said. “We have some confidence but we’ve got play every team week by week so just getting ready for Stanford.”
Junior safety Kee Whetzel has not been with the program for a while now and took to Twitter to post a note about his absence.
He did not go into specifics but did say an injury is not the issue.
“I’m going through a situation where the football portion of my life could be put on pause,” he wrote. “… Hopefully I will be back sooner rather than later but at this time it’s really up in the air.”