Sophomore quarterback has prepared for a situation like this one
By Cliff Kirkpatrick
Lyle Moevao didn’t pout when he lost the quarterback competition earlier this season.
He kept telling himself a point may come when he would be needed, and he was right.
The Oregon State football team will call on the sophomore Saturday night to guide the offense to a victory over Washington in a Pacific-10 Conference game, which is also the final home contest of the season.
Oh, and bowl eligibility is on the line, too.
“It’s nothing to be nervous about,” Moevao said. “I constantly reminded myself to be ready.”
The Beavers (5-4, 3-3) must win at least one game in the last three to earn a postseason berth. With road games at the other two northwest rivals, this might be their best shot.
Moevao is filling in for sophomore Sean Canfield, who suffered a strained throwing shoulder last Saturday at Southern California. Moevao hasn’t played a significant amount since the Sept. 15 Idaho State game.
“It will be interesting to see how he does,” Canfield said. “I have all the confidence in the world in him. He did some great things earlier when he got in. It’s just a matter of experience, things he has to experience. Coaches can tell you what you are going to see but you have to see it.”
The two were in a quarterback competition last spring, during training camp and into the first three games. After the two rotated time to start the season, Canfield took control of the position with his strong arm and knowledge of the system.
Coach Mike Riley, however, said it was close until the end.
“Our goal was to develop two guys we felt were semi starters and can both play in the game,” Riley said. “This is his opportunity to see what he can do in a starting role. I know our coaching staff and our whole team will have confidence in him.”
Moevao has played in five games, three for a significant length of time. He has competed 27 of 51 for 280 yards with four interception and no touchdowns.
He’s noted for his leadership and mobility. While Canfield is quiet, Moevao is much more vocal and upbeat.
Command of the huddle also comes from his experience playing in junior college.
“There’s no question he has more mobility,” Riley said. “He has a fast twitch in him to make some plays. I don’t think he’ll blink. He’ll be competitive. Lyle has to run the offense effectively, manage the game and play with confidence. He’s very capable. I’m glad he’s gotten the work through the year.”
Moevao spent his first season at El Camino College in the Los Angeles area, where he threw for 2,652 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Game pressure is nothing new, but he admitted earlier in the season that more people come out to OSU scrimmages than ever watched him at El Camino.
“I think there has to be a lot of emotion this week for him,” Riley said. “The good thing is Lyle played at a high-level junior college and was very successful. It’s not his first go-around in that respect. But there will be a lot of extra stuff going into this start.”
Once the Pac-10 season began, Moevao was relegated to backup. He played against Arizona in a mop-up role and filled in at the end of USC when Canfield went down.
The time on the sidelines allowed Moevao to watch the good and bad Canfield did, and learn from him.
His practice opportunities lessened, but he paid attention to how the offense evolved during the course of the season.
“I’m a lot more comfortable than in the beginning of the season,” Moevao said. “It’s tough sometimes not getting all the reps, but that’s just how it is. It’s not a big deal to me. If anything, mental reps are more important, being able to stay focused. The few reps I did get in, I was making the right reads. I feel I’m ready.”
Riley’s confidence in Moevao comes from seeing how he didn’t give up trying to improve and being ready as the backup. Moevao was just as involved as Canfield in the video study after games and leading up to the next one.
That’s why Riley won’t alter the offense to ease Moevao in.
“He has been on top of this from the beginning,” Riley said. “The key to success is that long-term preparation. It doesn’t happen in one week. It’s not getting him ready to play now. It has to have happened the whole time.”