As we approach Fall Camp on the heels of the 2017 season, lets take a look back at the first two years of the Gary Andersen era and what we can reasonably expect from year three.
2015 Season (Year 1)
The 2015 season brought many changes to the Oregon State Football program, starting at the top with the head coach, as longtime HC Mike Riley departed for Nebraska. Followed by Beaver great and four year starter at QB, Sean Mannion, who was drafted by the Rams in the 2016 NFL Draft, following an excellent career with the Beavs. The Beavers best skill position player, WR Richard Mullaney transferred to Alabama prior to the season, and their two best defensive players LB D.J. Andersen, and CB Steven Nelson were drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Needless to say, Andersen had to retool an already under manned, underwhelming, and depleted squad from 2014 (5-7, 2-7), without the luxury of his own recruiting class for the 2015 season. The 2015 team had injuries along the Offensive Line, namely Sean Harlow, and RB Storm Woods looked like a shell of himself following a concussion. The lone bright spot of the team seemed to be Seth Collins at QB, whom prior to the season was a relatively unknown commodity; but the incredibly athletic Collins failed to show improvements as a pocket passer as the season progressed. The lack of improvement as a passer by Collins allowed for teams to stack the box and sell out for the run which in turn led to lots of three and outs and the Beaver defense having to be on the field constantly.
However, the Beavs finished the 2015 season with an exciting Civil War contest that ended as a shootout and saw the Ducks win 52-42. The final game of the 2015 season gave many Beaver fans some hope for the future; RB Ryan Nall had a great game and showed he could be a bell cow for the Beavs moving forward, Andersen made the decision to start Marcus McMaryion at QB and move the freakishly athletic and former starting QB, Seth Collins to WR/H-Back. McMaryion finished the day with 172 yards passing and a rushing TD, Nall finished the day with 174 yards on the ground and a TD, and Collins finished the day with 84 total yards and 3 TD’s on the ground.
The 2015 Season by the Numbers
Following the Beavers first 3 games of the 2015 Season, in which they defeated both Weber State and San Jose State, with a loss to Michigan sandwiched in between, the Beavs lost nine straight games to finish the season a disappointing 2-10 with no Pac-12 wins to boot. The Beavs had no 1,000 yard passer, runner, nor receiver in the 2015 Season, and they finished the season at the bottom of nearly every major offensive category as well. Oregon State finished the 2015 Season dead last in the Pac-12 in passing yards, receiving yards, and ninth in rushing. Which was good for dead last in the conference in total offense, with just over 4,000 total yard.The Beavs were also the worst in the conference on defense; in takeaways, sacks and total defense by a large margin.
2016 Season (Year 2)
Year two of the Gary Andersen era had plenty of question marks following a disappointing 2015 season. But after a very competitive Civil War game against arch rivals Oregon Ducks gave a young Beaver squad and it’s fans some hope moving forward.
The 2016 season brought in newly eligible transfer QB, Darell Garretson from Utah State who would immediately compete with returning QB Marcus McMaryion. Along with the QB competition, they had RB Ryan Nall returning to build off an impressive Civil War game from the year before. They had their two leading WRs back in Victor Bolden, and Jordan Villaman along with QB turned WR, Seth Collins back for the 2016 season as well.
In a constant back and forth with their starting QB situation, the Beavs looked competitive from their first snap of the 2016 Season to their last snap of the season. The opening Thursday of the 2016 season, the Beavers took on the Golden Gophers of Minnesota on the road, seeing the Beavs lose by a touchdown during the Gophers comeback win. Fast forward to game number five against the Cal Bears, that saw the Beavs win in OT, to give them their first Pac-12 win in the Gary Andersen era and OSU’s first conference win since November 2014. And what a game it was, here’s the game winner in Overtime:
The Beavers lost many close games between their first conference win against Cal in early October and their Civil War victory in season finale in late November. The Beavs finished the 2016 season 4-8, with 3 Pac-12 victories, including back-to-back wins to close out the season.
The Civil War produced one of my favorite gifs of all-time:
2016 Season by the Numbers
The 2016 season was one that saw the Beavers double their total wins and triple their Pac-12 victories from a season ago. Finishing the year 3-6 in Pac-12 play and 4-8 overall, showing many improvements in many areas. The Beavs moved from 12th in the Pac-12 in passing & Receiving to 11th, and from 9th in rushing to 8th in rushing in 2016. The Beavs upped their yards per attempt on the ground from 4.8 YDS/A to 5.2 YDS/A and from 159.1 YDS/G to 191.7 YDS/G. They also went from dead last in completion percentage at 46.9% to 54.7% good for 10th in the Pac-12, and from 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing TDs with 15 (only beating out the air raiding Washington State Cougars) to 6th with 24 TDs on the ground. The Beavs did finish last in total defense again in 2016, but they improved from last in takeaways to tied for 6th in the conference.
Overview and what to expect in 2017
From year one of the Andersen era to year two, the Beavers had many improvements, they may not have been all that drastic but they were definitley improvements. They improved on completion percentage, yards per game on the ground, rushing TD’s, and takeaways on defense. The Beavers at the very least have somewhat of an identity now; they want to pound the ball between the tackles, be balanced on offense, and play solid defense, with the ability to take the ball away from opposing offenses. The Beavers also have a solid recruiting class coming in this year, one of the best the program has had in the past decade, which will help a lot. However, the Beavers need to continue to build this program under Andersen, and to show even more improvements in year three to truly prove the Beavers are ready to compete. I think the biggest area for the Beavers to build on is their Pac-12 wins and their competitiveness within the conference. They took steps forward a year ago, but they need to continue on that trend. Coach Andersen expects the Beavers to take a big step forward, so why wouldn’t we?
So what can we reasonably expect from OSU this year? Well for one, Sporting News predicted the Beavers would be bowling this year. In order for that to happen though, the Beavs will have to win at least 6 games in 2017. Which means, to get to a bowl game, they are going to have to win two more games than they did in 2016, and as I said above, in order to truly show growth within the program will be to win more than three Pac-12 games and to show they can compete with the best in the conference of champions. It will be an interesting season for the Beavers, they can make an important jump in Gary Andersen’s third year, and I don’t think think it’s too early in his tenure to say that, in many ways, Andersen needs them to. .
Prediction: Sporting News says the Beavers will go 6-6. I’m unconvinced.
Stay with me as we get through the dog days of Summer together, and continue to dive deeper into the Beavers roster, schedule, and give some predictions as we approach the start of the season. Some may laugh, some may cry, but either way it’ll be a fun ride together as we rip through the 2017 Oregon State Beavers Team.
[It’s only July but if you need your Beaver fix, here are some Civil War highlights for you Beaver fans out there, or if you just like to see the Oregon Ducks suffer.]