Gina Mizell, Oregon State football writer for The Oregonian, gives WSU fans an idea of what they should look out for against the Beavers on Saturday night

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Washington State (5-2 overall, 4-0 Pac-12) heads to Corvallis, Ore. this weekend to play an Oregon State team (2-5, 1-3) that knocked off Cal this season, but has yet to find its footing in the Pac-12.

We talk to Gina Mizell, who covers Oregon State football for The Oregonian, to get an idea of what the Beavers will have waiting for the Cougars in Corvallis.

How much of the Beavers’ pass game issues stem from their misfortune at QB, where they’re down to their third-string guy?

Gina Mizell: Two quarterbacks going down in the span of about 15 minutes of real time against Utah was obviously unexpected. The quarterback issues started long before the injuries, frankly. The Beavers went nearly five full games without a passing touchdown and rank dead last nationally in passer rating. Darell Garretson struggled with downfield accuracy and failed to reach 100 passing yards in his final four games. He started 1 of 16 for one yard and one interception against Utah. Conor Blount, a walk-on true freshman, replaced Garretson twice — against Boise State due to injury and against Colorado due to performance — before hurting his knee a few minutes after Garretson went down with the season-ending ankle injury against Utah. So now Marcus McMaryion is up, a guy who has played in 10 games but journeyed up and down the depth chart throughout his early career.

What can we expect from QB Marcus McMaryion in his second consecutive start?  What does he do well, and what ways can he hurt an opposing defense?

Mizell: The biggest thing coaches and teammates talk about with McMaryion is his steady (and clearly likable) demeanor, which made it easy for the Beavers to rally behind him when he was tossed into action against Utah and then made his first start of the season against one of the nation’s best teams and most dominant defenses. He’s also actually the quarterback who has been in the program the longest. He’s not quite the dynamic athlete like Seth Collins or a prototypical pro-style passer like Sean Mannion, but he’s got a mix of running and throwing ability. I’m most curious to see how McMaryion and the receivers have taken advantage of building on-field chemistry and timing, as this is the first time in his career that McMaryion has been able to settle in and work solely with the starters for two consecutive weeks.

Defensively, why have the Beavers had problems against the run?

Part of that is who the Beavers have played so far this season, with Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols, Utah’s Joe Williams and Washington’s Myles Gaskin already matching up against that defense. And part of it was schematic, as OSU deliberately played the pass against California a few weeks ago (and it worked, as Davis Webb’s 113 yards was the lowest total during Sonny Dykes’ tenure) and sacrificed part of its run defense as a result. But the Beavers have also been banged up at their “B” linebacker spot—four true freshmen have played there so far this season, and at one point against Washington, they were down to their fifth-stringer.

What is Oregon State’s biggest strength at the moment? What is its biggest weakness?

Their strength is their ability to run the football and stop the pass. The Beavers overhauled their offensive line for the start of Pac-12 play and it’s led to some big performances, most notably a 474-yard outburst in the win against Cal and better-than-average totals against Utah’s and Washington’s stout defensive fronts. We’ll see if starter Ryan Nall is able to play Saturday, but backup Artavis Pierce should be back against the Cougars and fellow reserve Tim Cook went for 108 yards and a score against the Huskies. Meanwhile, the Beavers’ passing game ranks 28th nationally with 196.7 yards allowed per game, though it allowed both Colorado and Washington to pop big plays over the top. Still, the number is impressive given the Beavers are also thin depth-wise in the secondary, and safety/nickelback Devin Chappell and cornerbacks Treston Decoud and Xavier Crawford have all had strong seasons.

Complete the sentence, Oregon State will beat Washington State if _______________.

It starts fast (OSU has been outscored 90-23 in the first half of Pac-12 games, including an 80-6 mark in the three losses), continues to run the ball effectively, finds something resembling a passing attack and gets pressure on Luke Falk. Easier said than done, obviously.