Know the Enemy 2022: Oregon State Beavers Football
A dear friend answers our questions
We asked our friends over at the Building the Dam to answer some questions about the Beavers for us. Marcus Russell graciously answered the call to be our interviewee!
After Chance Nolan's injury it seems as if Coach Smith gave Ben Gulbranson the keys for the game against Washington? Did you agree with that choice and who you think should be the starter going forward?
I think Ben Gulbranson might close out the season as the starter. Chance injured his neck pretty good against Utah. He’s finally back at practice, but Gulbranson has been a solid game manager as a starter. He has more remaining eligibility than Chance and most importantly he’s limited turnovers. As frustrating as the Washington loss was in windy conditions, I don’t think that loss is all on Gulbranson. Some Beaver fans will argue to give Chance the job again, but I think it should be Gulbranson.
If you could compare the freshman phenoms of Jaydn Ott and Damien Martinez, how would you rate them? How specifically has Martinez became more comfortable in the offense in becoming a bellcow over Fenwick and Griffin?
Jaydn Ott got off to a hot start, while Martinez was not getting a lot of opportunities early in the season. Lately it’s been the Damien Martinez show as he’s topped 100+ yards the last three games. I haven’t seen enough of Jaydn Ott to give a fair comparison, but boy I am excited to watch the top two Pac-12 freshman running backs square off on Saturday. I do expect Deshaun Fenwick and Jam Griffin to get carries against Cal. Griffin as been playing the role of 3rd down back and doing it well. Fenwick is a really good running back, but Martinez has that special ‘IT’ factor, it was just a matter of time until he seized the #1 RB role.
What do you think are Jonathan Smith's biggest strengths as a coach, and what attributes of his give you eternal heartburn?
He’s a really good, humble football head coach. A student of the game, fantastic offensive-minded head coach and has done a heck of a job with rebuilding this program from a 1 win season to back-to-back bowl eligibility seasons. Fans do question his aggressive decision making at times. Sometimes it works out (2-point conversion for the win against Fresno State); other times it backfires (passing on two FG opportunities against Washington).
What do you think is the biggest force behind Oregon State's defensive resurrection? Is Trent Bray really that much of an upgrade, or have some of the personnel really made a difference?
It’s been a long time since Oregon State fans rooted for a team with an impressive defense, but they have been fantastic this season. Trent Bray deserves a ton of credit; the defense improved almost immediately when he took over for Tim Tibesar midseason last year. The players feed off his energy and he’s done an excellent job putting them in positions to succeed. The personnel hasn’t changed dramatically, but the increased experience and extra time learning the scheme has been huge.
How does realignment make you feel, just as Oregon State seems to be ready to start competing seriously again for conference titles?
I think all Oregon State fans hate realignment and all the rumors. A scenario where the Big Ten and Big 12 pick off teams would likely leave Oregon State and WSU out of the power conferences and effectively out of any national relevance. The Beavs are spending big on stadium renovations and Jonathan Smith has this program ready for that next step. Hopefully things stabilize for the Pac-10 (plus SDSU?) and realignment talk doesn’t keep ending long time rivalries.
Which player on offense should Cal fans know about?
Damien Martinez. I thought about switching it up and mentioning a few of the Beavs receiving options, but Oregon State is extremely run-oriented. Martinez will be the main focus offensively on Saturday.
Which player on defense should Cal fans know about?
Omar Speights (#1) is a tackling machine at middle linebacker. Oregon State has a fantastic secondary, so I’m interested to see if Jack Plummer is asked to sling it around 30+ times or not. If Cal keeps it on the ground, look for Speights to be involved in a lot of plays.
Who’s one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for you?
Tight end Jack Velling (#84). The true freshman has had some big moments since Luke Musgrave went down with an injury. Velling is great passing-option for Ben Gulbranson and he could swing the game if Cal loads up to stop the run.
What does Oregon State need to do to win the game?
Establish Damien Martinez and company on the ground. Not turn the ball over too much and feed off the crowds energy to frustrate Jack Plummer, Jaydn Ott and the rest of Cal’s offensive weapons.
What does Cal need to do to win the game?
Shut down the Beavers rushing attack and force Ben Gulbranson to try and win the game. Oregon State struggled to stop Washington on third-and-long last week, if Jack Plummer has a game like he did against USC last week (406 yards & 3 TDs) Cal will win.
How do you see the game going?
Unlike last season, I think this game will be more of a defensive struggle. Both teams will give their freshman running backs plenty of carries and a few explosive plays or turnovers could be the difference. The Beavers are almost two touchdown favorites and that seems a little wild to me. I’m predicting a close Oregon State victory, 20-13.
Whom do you most want to punch in the face?
CFP chair Boo Corrigan. I don’t envy whoever has to answer questions for the College Football Playoff Committee’s rankings. But every year they trot out someone out who spews out contradictory cliches and they never really provide any sort of transparency.