As everyone knows by now, the Oregon State defense gave up just seven points to Wisconsin in their upset two weeks ago. They limited Heisman trophy finalist Montee Ball to just 61 yards on 15 carries and kept the touchdown machine out of the endzone. How did they do it?
The strength of the Beavers defense, which returns 8 starters from 2011, is their defensive backs. Both corners return, as well as senior safety Anthony Watkins, who led the team in tackles last season. At the other safety spot, Ryan Murphy is quickly making an impression and has Pac-12 postseason honors in his future, maybe sooner than expected.
The linebacker core is not as strong, but may have even more potential than the DB’s. The Beavers run a 4-3 and have two very fast, athletic OLB’s in Michael Doctor and D.J. Welch. Manning the middle is Feti Unga who has great instincts and is strong against the run.
In 2011, the defensive line struggled to get consistent pressure on the QB and any push in the running game. A year after being blown off the ball all season, OSU’s defensive line is ready to make a dramatic improvement. Returning three starters on the DL, OSU will certainly improve on the 118th ranked rushing defense from 2011, but in order to do so, they will rely heavily on sophomore defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn, who both started as freshman last year.
Against Wisconsin, Coach Mike Riley saw the improvement he was hoping for. After the dominating performance that the defense put on, Wisconsin’s offensive line coach was fired a few days later. Now I don’t expect to see Adrian Klemm get fired any time soon, but the Oregon State defense is on a mission. They proved they are a tough, hard-nosed, run-stuffing team against Wisconsin. Their next test is speed. UCLA’s offense has playmakers galore and it may be too much for Oregon State to handle.
We will see Saturday.