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Oregon State Beavers football: Previewing the matchup with Hawaii

Last year, Oregon State pulled away from Hawaii in the 2nd half to win 33-14. But after OSU's slow start against Portland State, Hawaii's impressive 1-point loss to Washington, and the Beavers traveling to the hostile Aloha Stadium, 2014's game could look quite a bit different.

Sean Mannion didn't do much handing off against Hawaii last year.
Sean Mannion didn't do much handing off against Hawaii last year.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon State is 1-0. Hawaii is 0-1. If you were to guess the records based off confidence of the fan bases, however, you'd probably guess the opposites. Hawaii came dropped their game against Washington by a single point, no small feat for a team that was 1-11 last year, facing a Washington team ranked in the top 25, and expected by many to take a step forward in 2014.

In week 2 of last year, the Beavers were settling into the theme of an extremely pass-heavy offense, and picked up 57 yards on 33 rushing attempts. Sean Mannion, as per usual, picked up the slack, picking up 372 yards and 4 touchdowns against a Hawaii pass defense that ranked 118th nationally. Oregon State's defense, fresh off about as big an embarrassment imaginable, bounced back in an inspired performance. They outscored Hawaii in the 2nd half, not allowing a score and picking up a safety. In total, they forced six Hawaii 3-and-outs, though the Rainbow Warriors were without powerful running back Joey Iosefa. He'll be playing this time, and Hawaii's defense looked much improved under new defensive coordinator Kevin Clune's system. I think the Beavers win this game, but I don't think it's as easy as last year.

The first key to this game is the Beavers offense getting Hawaii's defense on its heels. Hawaii blitzed often and in many different ways against Washington, so I'd expect some screen passes early in the game from OSU. If the Beavers can give Mannion time in the pocket, he can easily pick apart Hawaii's secondary. Washington QB Jeff Lundquist was inaccurate all night, missing opportunities to punish Hawaii that Mannion can be expected to capitalize on. Of course, most of this is dependent on running back Storm Woods and the offensive line proving they can run the ball after an improved, but still at times underwhelming, performance against Portland State. Hawaii's pass defense may have been at times bailed out by inaccurate passes, but they held Washington to 3.6 yards/attempt on the ground, and for a Beavers team that's had major struggles with running the ball, Hawaii will be a good test. As much as I wish this weren't the case, I can see the Beaver offense continue to settle into a pass-first offense against Hawaii. A few failed rushing attempts early, combined with the secondary that showed holes against Washington, and this could turn into yet another episode of the Sean Mannion Show, for better or for worse.

On the offensive side of the ball, Hawaii looks different from what we've come to know from them. In 2013, Hawaii averaged the 8th most passing attempts per game in the nation (43.3), compared to 91st in rushing attempts (35.67). Against Washington, they had 43 pass attempts, and 54(!) rushing attempts. It's a logical change, as fifth-year senior running back Joey Iosefa is a force to reckon with, amassing over 1700 career yards and 14 touchdowns in his injury-riddled career in the (formerly?) pass-first Hawaii offense. Everything Iosefa offers in terms of experience is completely unmatched at quarterback and receiver, where sophomore Ikaika Woolsey won the starting job out of camp. Woolsey didn't throw an interception against Washington, but completed just 54% of his passes (23 of 42), which may be partially caused by the lack of experience in the Rainbow Warriors receiving corps. where just one of the top 6 receivers from 2013 returned. Utah transfer Quinton Pedroza had the most catches and yards against Washington, so they're not completely out on the outside, but certainly there's more trust in Joey Iosefa's hands.

Oregon State's secondary has the talent to cover Hawaii's receivers, but whether they can stop a rushing attack led by somebody as talented as Iosefa remains to be seen. Iosefa outweighs all 3 Beavers linebackers, so it could take some gang tackling for the Beavs to get him down. If Hawaii's offensive line creates holes and Iosefa begins to gash Oregon State for big gains, the game could get away from the Beavs in a hurry.

It's tough to say exactly what to expect out of any aspect of this game. The Oregon State defense lacks identity and the offense wants to run but can't escape the tyranny of Sean Mannion's powerful arm. The Hawaii defense has played one game under its new system, against a relatively unknown opponent, and looked strong. The Hawaii offense, possibly, has also found a new system. There was much to be seen from these two teams in week 1, and this week we get to find out what was an anomaly, and what is the new normal.