Oregon State established itself as one of the Pac-12’s best running teams in 2021, something the Beavers seemed capable of continuing in 2022.
OSU hasn’t been bad this season. But ranking sixth in the conference in average rushing yards doesn’t mean the Beavers have been great, either.
Oregon State is averaging 190 rushing yards a game, which hardly sets off alarm bells. The Beavers have been consistent, too, finishing with 178 yards against Fresno State and Boise State, and 214 against Montana State.
But if OSU wants to reach the level it thinks it can, the running game must lead the way. It’s why Offensive Coordinator Brian Lindgren, when asked about the offense as a whole, has an attitude that begs: “Show me more.”
“I feel like we just haven’t put together that full game where we’ve got a number of things that we can do,” Lindgren said.
Lindgren is all about consistency, and it’s not there yet. He thought the Montana State performance, during which the offense produced nine touchdowns and 540 yards, was the Beavers’ best of the season.
What’s been just a bit off are the explosive running plays that have been a staple of Coach Jonathan Smith and Lindgren’s offenses. The Beavers have 16 plays of 10 or more rushing yards this season. Again, not terrible. But eight came against Montana State, a defense OSU won’t face again this season. The Beavers combined for eight 10-plus yard rushing plays against Fresno State and Boise State, but only two were longer than 15 yards.
In 2020 and 2021, Oregon State ranked second in the Pac-12 in rushing plays of 10 or more yards.
Lindgren said the big plays only happen when all 11 Offensive players click.
“Some of it comes down to downfield blocking, or making a guy miss,” Lindgren said. “If we can clean up and be a little bit more consistent with our execution and technique, those things will pop for us.”
Juggling tight ends: With fourth-year junior Luke Musgrave sidelined indefinitely, Oregon State must lean on its depth. The Beavers have invested heavily in recruiting tight ends the past few years. It’s a group led by third-year sophomore Jake Overman, but others will get plenty of work.
Because Oregon State often uses two — and sometimes three — tight end sets, the Beavers will turn to redshirt freshmen JT Byrne and Gabe Milbourn, and perhaps freshman Jack Velling, in upcoming games.
Overman is easily the veteran among the group, having played in 23 games during his OSU career. Overman caught a pass against Montana State, his first since the 2020 season. The only other OSU tight end to catch a pass this season, outside of Musgrave, is Velling.
“He’s a veteran guy who knows what we’re trying to do, and I look for him to be one of the leaders in that room right now,” Lindgren said of Overman.
This season, Byrne has played in three games, Velling one, while Milbourn has yet to see action.
There is some buzz about Velling’s potential.
“I think you’ll see him grow and be a major part of what we do as the season moves forward,” Lindgren said.
Fight is: The sounds of “Tribune to Troy” played throughout Tuesday’s practice as the Beavers prepared for USC. The Trojans’ fight song is well known throughout the Pac-12 as it’s played constantly during USC games, both home and away.
“I think the guys kind of had fun hearing it,” Lindgren said.
By Saturday, though, it’ll just be empty noise.
“I love it. It’s great motivation,” center Jake Levengood said. “When we get out there and they bring their band, it’s nothing new to us.”
Receiver Anthony Gould said he never heard the fight song, which could be heard from a couple hundred yards outside the practice field Tuesday.
“I don’t even really notice it,” Gould said. “When you’re locked in and trying to focus on the details and stuff, it’s just outside noise. Not bad for me.”
Sound Improvements: Oregon State is installing a temporary sound system at Reser Stadium, which will be ready for Saturday’s game against USC.
The school is upgrading the sound system after complaints following the season opener against Boise State. Six clusters with some 40 speakers placed at various points of the west side’s lower Bowl will direct sound towards the end zones and east side of Reser Stadium.
Oregon State is examining permanent sound solutions for Reser prior to the outset of the 2023 season, when the $161 million west side remodel is completed.