By Steve Gress

Corvallis Gazette-Times

Next up

Stanford at Oregon State

When: 4 p.m. Sept. 28

TV: Pac-12

CORVALLIS — Oregon State’s defense has not had much to hang its hat on in the last season-plus.

But if the past couple of games are any indication, that might be changing.

The Beavers’ defense was one big play away from a shutout in Saturday’s 45-7 thrashing of Cal Poly, an FCS program out of the Big Sky Conference.

The Mustangs’ only touchdown came on their opening possession. A 53-yard pass play set them up at the OSU 10-yard line.

“Minus the long big play, which was on me, we could have held those guys to zero points,” senior safety Jalen Moore said.

Moore, seeing his first action of the season after dealing with a hamstring issue, was the one who allowed Cal Poly receiver J.J. Koski to get behind the defense.

That was the only play of more than 17 yards the Beavers gave up all game. Only 10 Cal Poly plays went for 10 or more yards.

The Mustangs did make three more trips into the red zone, but they missed two field goals, and Shawn Wilson had an interception near the goal line to end the other drive.

Oregon State’s defense allowed 75 yards on the opening possession, then just 240 the rest of the way. The 315 yards were a season-low total for Cal Poly.

It was the second straight mostly solid performance by the defense against two polar-opposite offenses.

While the Beavers gave up 421 yards through the air against Hawaii’s pass-heavy run-and-shoot offense in a tough 31-28 loss on Sept. 7, the defense still kept them in the game throughout the second half.

The much-maligned run defense held Hawaii to 67 yards on the ground on 25 attempts (2.68 yards per attempt).

Then on Saturday against the triple option of Cal Poly, the Beavers gave up 203 yards on the ground but the Mustangs needed 58 attempts — an average of just 3.5 yards per attempt.

That after the Beavers allowed 352 rushing yards on 52 rushes (6.8 yards per carry) against Oklahoma State in the opener.

Coach Jonathan Smith on Saturday credited defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar and the defensive staff for the steady improvement.

“They have been dramatically different (offenses) and I think we’ve put good plans together and we’ve continued to improve and we keep executing those plans,” Smith said.

The success over the past two games has been aided by the Beavers’ ability to get more pressure in the backfield. OSU had three sacks (loss of 16 yards) and 10 tackles for loss (35 yards) against the Mustangs.

“I think it’s going to be a thing we continue to practice every day, and that’s helping,” outside linebacker John Mc­Cartan said of getting pressure in the backfield. McCartan, who had 12 tackles against Cal Poly, was in for the injured Matthew Tago, who missed the game with a knee injury. “We’ve still got a lot of strides to make but we’re doing good.”

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