The 116th Civil War will be played Saturday at noon at Reeser Stadium in Corvallis, OR and while the last two Civil Wars haven’t matched two elite teams this year’s game does. The Beavers are ranked 16th in the nation and look vastly improved from last season. The No. 4 ranked Ducks will once again have their hands full on defense and offense. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly says the Beavers will present a similar match up to a team that might surprise you.
Oregon's defensive unit will have their hands full with Oregon State this weekend.
Kelly says Oregon State’s receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks remind him of USC’s star receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and will be a major concern.
“Both have outstanding speed and not only are they great route runners to catch the ball they really are extremely dynamic after the catch,” says Kelly. “They can gain a lot of yards after. You have to make sure to gang up and tackle them. They are similar to Marqise Lee in that aspect.”
Cooks has gone over 1,000 yards receiving after last week and on the year has 59 catches for 1,048 yards and five touchdowns. Wheaton has been equally as deadly as the senior has 68 catches for 977 yards and 10 touchdowns. Kelly says both players will stretch the field and present match-up problems for the Oregon defense.
“It’s not a catch and that's what you get, it’s a catch and they can turn six into 60 real quick. Its difficult when you face a group like that. It's the same situation when you had Lee and Woods. You have two great ones and you can't roll coverage one way, if you do Cooks will beat you, if you roll to Cooks Wheaton will beat you. You have to be really aware of them. It makes your defense spread out when you have to great ones on the outside.”
Kelly was also quick to point out that Oregon State’s renewed success isn't strictly due to the performances done by Cooks and Wheaton. Kelly says the Beavers have seen improvement in multiple areas and maybe even more importantly are now healthy in spots where they weren't last season.
“It would be kind of silly to think two receivers changed them from a 3-9 team to an 8-2 team,” Kelly said. “I think they have great contributions from the defensive side of the ball, they are running the ball a lot better right now. Their offensive line is probably playing better than they were last year. The defense I don't think is as banged up as it was a year ago. They are a lot healthier than they have been in a long time. There are a lot of components on why that team has won as many games as they have so far.”
Oregon State's tight ends and receivers are also viable options in the passing game for quarterback Sean Mannion. Tight ends Connor Hamlett and Colby Prince have combined for 38 catches, 406 yards, and four touchdowns. Running back Storm Woods is also an option out of the backfield with 28 catches and 218 yards.
“We've faced some good tight ends so far. We faced two good ones last week. Washington has a real good tight end. It's not like you can say 'hey we take care of Cooks and Wheaton we are fine,' their tight ends pose a threat, their running backs pose a threat, it looks like Sean Mannion is back in the form like he was earlier in the season,” says Kelly. “Its an offense that has more than one weapon and when you have that it makes it more difficult the defend cause you just can't concentrate on one guy.”