By T.J. Mathewson
Contributor, 750 The Game
So often when we talk about the Oregon State passing game and the steps it needs to go through to improve, we talk more about the guys who throw the ball instead of the ones who catch it.
Silas Bolden’s performance on Friday gives us a reason to talk about those pesky OSU wide receivers.
Pesky? actually, that’s the wrong word.
Jonathan Smith and Brian Lindgren need to get the ball to the junior wide receiver as much as possible going forward. Even with offensive imperfections, the results we saw from Bolden Friday can cover those up.
The Beavers’ passing game Friday wasn’t good and wasn’t expected to be good either. Utah’s defense was ferocious, sacking DJ Uiagalelei three times, racking up 13 tackles for loss, and picking off the Beavers’ QB in the fourth quarter.
When Oregon State needed someone to step up and bail themselves out of an offense funk, Bolden was there to do just that.
Need to convert a crucial 4th and 1 in Utah territory in the fourth quarter? Just line up in the backfield, take a pitch, and run it 45 yards for a touchdown to put the game away.
If there was ever a worry that running a play they haven’t run yet this season in a big spot wouldn’t work, it didn’t come from No. 7.
“I play out there with confidence,” Bolden said after the game. “Every time I go out there, I want to make a big play for my team. I went out there, and I did that.”
You think about what the Beavers normally line up in the backfield: A bigger, bruising runner that’s going to run over you more often than running past you, not somebody that is smaller, twitchy, and quick like Bolden. A change of pace that is sorely missed from the departure of Jam Griffin right before fall camp, and it worked to perfection.
At this point of the game, Bolden had already made a highlight-reel catch on a go-ball from DJ Uiagalelei right before the half, and then put a nasty juke move on Utah safety Sione Vaki to score his first touchdown on Oregon State’s second drive of the first half. When a guy has as many explosive plays in his pocket as the entire Utah team does (3) and can do this when the play breaks down, you have to find a way to get the ball in his hands.
The gamble worked out, the Beavers scored a touchdown and put Utah in an insurmountable 21-0 hole.
“We knew we weren’t going to be able to put together 12/14-play drives to go down there and score, so we had to take some chances,” Jonathan Smith said.
We’ve now seen Bolden operate on all three levels both in space and in tight coverage; nothing really seems to phase him. He and Anthony Gould each have the capability to break off a big play every time they touch the ball. That’s especially important when your quarterback continues to have spurts of inaccuracy. As Smith said, if you’re not going to execute 14 plays in a row, you’re going to need to take some chances.
The Beavers haven’t had a true No. 1 target at WR since Isaiah Hodgins left following the 2019 season. The way Silas Bolden is playing right now, he might just as well earn himself No. 1 treatment if he keeps this up.