Coming off a 17-7 win in the season opener against Buffalo, the University of Minnesota (1-0) will head west for a non-conference showdown with Oregon State.
The Beavers head into Saturday night’s matchup 1-1 after managing to escape an FCS upset-bid brought by in-state foe Portland State 35-32. In the season opener on Aug.26, Oregon State suffered from second half woes, leading to a 58-27 loss to Colorado State.
After watching the first two games, there are quite a few things that stand out on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. If the Gophers are to extend their season mark to 2-0, they will have to establish the running game. Luckily for Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck, the Beavers defensive woes the first two games could help open up the offense.
In two games, the Beavers have been less than stellar defensively. Despite keeping it a 24-20 contest in the first half against Colorado State, the Beavers defense backtracked, allowing 34 points while the Rams recorded 525 yards of total offense. Against the Vikings, Oregon State battled down to the wire, but it wasn’t due to the defensive performance. The Beavers allowed nearly 300 yards (291) on the ground.
Despite running with a sub-packaged that featured just two starting defensive tackles, the defensive front seven is undisciplined.
Strengthening this claim is that defensive coordinator Kevin Klune has implemented various movements up front. It’s not a rarity to see slants or twists within the defensive line on a handful of occasions. It is a rarity however, when it becomes a natural movement within the scheme, virtually making run fits cemented. The defensive front also fails to set the edge on a consistent basis, often being washed or turned out from run action. With only a pair of defensive tackles, there are also times when they are blown three to four yards off the ball on deuce blocks.
However, the biggest killer is missed opportunities.
While the defensive has managed to record five turnovers in the first two games, missed tackles turned one-yard gains to 15 yard gains. Within the secondary, the defensive backs for the Beavers are aggressive and sometimes too aggressive when playing the ball, often being called for pass interference due to grabby hands. It will be a rarity to see OSU play press coverage, opting to sit in the zone.
Offensively, the Beavers have the weapons to become a consistently potent attack. First-year starting quarterback Jake Luton is the third starter at the position in as many years for head coach Gary Anderson. At 6-foot-7 and 234 pounds, the redshirt junior from Washington has great arm strength. With ample protection, he quickly goes through his progressions and delivers a good strike. He has confidence in his arm to makes all the throws and takes few risks. However, there are times where he seems to have too much confidence in his arm strength, often throwing into double coverage or small windows.
Up front, Oregon State has experience that shows early on, showing good communication on picking up pressures and line games. They also show good feet, being able to cleanly escape on pulls and traps. They do show struggles however, holding deuce blocks or scoops when attempting to climb to the second level.
Prospect to watch
The catalyst of the offense is running back junior Ryan Nall.
The 6-foot-2, 237-pound back has a lot of traits that NFL front office personnel want from a running back. In 2016, Nall averaged 6.4 yards a carry while rushing for 951 yards and 13 touchdowns, good enough to land him a Pac-12 All-Conference Honorable Mention nod. He has good patience for his size. His running style is similar to former South Dakota State standout and current Detroit Lions running back Zach Zenner.
He runs fairly tall, but does a good job of changing his levels when hitting the hole or preparing for contact. Nall also has underrated speed, being more than capable to break the long one if provided the space. A reliable receiver out of the backfield, what is intriguing about his game the most is the willingness to pick up the blitz, being a capable three-down back at the next level. He still needs some develop running inside, but if he were to declare after this season, could be a solid value pick in the middle rounds.
Kickoff at Reser Stadium is set for 9 p.m. central time.
Josh Zimmer is the Big Ten and Lead NFL Draft analyst for NGSC Sports.
- Josh Zimmer is the Lead NFL Draft analyst for NGSC Sports as well as serving as a contributor for NHL coverage.
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