Heading into Friday’s matchup against ninth-ranked Oregon, the Oregon State offense knows that they’ll have to revive their dormant passing attack to have a chance at offensive success against an aggressive and talented Duck defense.
While the Beavers’ ground game with running back Jermar Jefferson has been about as good as it gets, averaging almost 150 yards per game, the passing attack led by quarterback Tristan Gebbia has been subpar at best.
Last season, with quarterback Jake Luton and wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins in the fold, OSU averaged 255 passing yards per game, which was seventh in the Pac-12.
This year, with Gebbia in place of Luton and a crop of receivers filling the void left by Hodgins, the Beavers are averaging just 189 passing yards per game, which places them 11th, only ahead of Arizona State who’s only played one game.
That’s a difference of 66 yards per game and it shows just how steep of a fall the passing attack has suffered in the first three games of the season.
“We need a lot of work and still aren’t there,” offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. “We’ve been leaning on Jermar in our ground game and opponents are going to start loading up against that, so we’ve got to be able to beat them with the pass and we’re not doing that at a high level right now.
And it’s not like the Beavers have made up the difference on the ground, as they’re averaging 164.7 yards per game as a team, up from 156 a season ago. Simply put, the offense has been missing that explosive passing play that often breaks open a defense.
“To have a chance to move the ball against a defense like Oregon’s, we’re going to have to hit some things in the passing game,” Lindgren said. “If we’re one dimensional against these guys, we’re going to struggle.”
It’s also worth noting that perhaps the offensive line hasn’t quite reached the level of pass blocking that we’d come to expect over the past few seasons. Gebbia has been sacked seven times this season, the second-most in the conference, and if you study his style of play, he’s a guy who typically struggles when he’s knocked off his spot due to pressure.
The new-look line has had its moments this year, but replacing the likes of Blake Brandel, Gus Lavaka, and even Clay Cordasco is never easy and you have to imagine that the pass blocking ability of this new group isn’t quite up to speed.
Given that Oregon’s hyper-aggressive defense is going to likely be loading the box and bringing the pressure on Gebbia, it’ll be up to him to react calmly, stand in the pocket, read the defense, and make the accurate throw.
“It would be awesome to see (Gebbia) hit some things early, get into a rhythm, and get some confidence going.”
While Oregon’s defense was exposed by UCLA to the tune of 35 points and over 450 yards of total offense, the Beavers were quick to point out that the Bruins systematically do things a lot different on offense and that the Ducks will be motivated to get back on course.
The consensus heading into this all-important rivalry is that Mario Cristobal and defensive coordinator Andy Avalos will be daring Oregon State’s passing attack and Gebbia to beat them by loading the box and taking away the Beavers’ best option in Jefferson.
If that’s indeed the case on gameday, the responsibility for moving the offense down the field will fall squarely on Gebbia’s shoulders and he’ll need to have the best game of his football playing career to lead the Beavers to their first win in the series since 2016…