As I look at today’s Hawaii-Oregon State football matchup 6 1/2 hours before kickoff, one key to the outcome stands out above all others:
The Beavers offensive front against Hawaii’s defense.
OSU’s O-line, coached by Mike Cavanaugh the former UH assistant, is young. And in OSU’s 29-14 season-opening victory over Portland State last week, it was fairly porous, allowing three sacks. The group’s leader, center Isaac Seumalo, is out with an injury and the Beavers five starting interior linemen are three sophomores and two juniors.
The Hawaii defense was excellent against Washington. It sacked the QB just once (LB Simon Poti), but also hurried Jeff Lindquist eight times. Keep in mind Lindquist is a second-stringer and OSU’s Sean Mannion is one of the best passers in the nation.
As anyone who watches football knows, though, even the finest passers cannot throw accurately with defenders hanging all over them.
Those hurries came from six different players, LB Julian Gener and NT Moses Samia with two apiece. Hawaii’s defense was unpredictable in the Washington game.
I believe this is where today’s game may be won or lost … Despite OSU’s strong running game, if Cavanaugh’s guys can’t keep the Rainbow Warriors — with direction coming from blitz-crazy defensive coordinator Kevin Clune — off Mannion early, the Beavers could be forced to become one-dimensional on offense. If that happens and Hawaii does even just a bit more on offense than against Washington, UH pulls off the upset.