Anyone who follows the Pac-10 knows about the ups and downs of Derek Anderson (6-6, 240). One minute he is picking apart the defense with precision, the next he is rifling passes into the hands of the defense…again….and again…and again. And despite his troubles he has always managed to put up big numbers.
He is currently sixth on the Pac-10's career passing list (9,627), ninth on the career touchdown list (63), and just 54 yards from breaking Oregon State's school career passing record.
Anderson is currently playing his best ball of the season as he passed for 556 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception against Washington and Washington State. The Oregonian is going through his progressions, not forcing throws and still throwing a beautiful long ball. Through seven games he has completed 159 of 305 (45%) for 1,993 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Beaver fans are excited about his progress, but cautious as well as they ponder which Derek Anderson will show up in Tucson. His favorite receiver is the Pac-10's leading one in Mike Hass while a close second is Marcel Love and tight end Joe Newton.
He has completed a pass to ten different receivers throughout the season and regularly spreads the ball around to five or six different receivers each game. He still throws a gorgeous long ball and is always a threat to go deep to Hass and more often as the season progresses to Love.
Move Anderson out of the pocket or force him to move his feet and the Beavers are in trouble. The coaches have opened the playbook up a little more the past two games which has helped Anderson gain more confidence. He is a tremendous talent with a huge heart and the potential to pick apart or throw to any defense on any day.
Behind him is senior Adam Rothenfluh (6-3, 187) and redshirt freshman Ryan Gunderson (6-4, 220). Rothenfluh is smart and efficient, perhaps a little more mobile, but lacks the big play arm of Anderson. Gunderson is potentially the future of Oregon State football and only sees time in blowouts. He has a cannon for an arm and is mobile, but still learning the system. If Anderson gets injunred, Gunderson would surely play.
The Beavers are still last in the Pac-10 and 114th in the nation in rushing yards at 87.1 ypg, but things are improving. In the Beavers first four games of the season they rushed for 285 yards, in the last three games they have rushed for 384 yards.
The combination of senior Dwight Wright (5-9, 208) and sophomore Ryan Cole (6-0, 233) finally got the Beavers on the ground and running against Washington and Washington State. Wright led the way in Seattle running for 99 yards on 22 carries while Cole carried the ball 12 times for 102 yards against Washington State. Each had a touchdown run of over 40 yards that was beautifully blocked.
The increased success can be accredited to the coaching staff sticking with the run and the offensive line improving up front. The offensive lines best run blocking performance was against WSU last week as they got a good push up front and allowed Wright and Cole room to run for solid three to four yard gains.
The shifty and quick Wright gets the starting node. He prefers to stay between the tackles as he has rushed for 547 yards and five touchdowns. Wright also has good hands as he has caught 13 passes, mostly screens, for 169 yards and one touchdown.
Cole is the larger of the two backs and has seen his playing time increase as the year goes on He is used in short yardage situations and is a punishing rusher with good speed, although not as talented as Wright as a receiver. He has rushed for 211 yards on 52 carries in seven games.
The Oregon State offensive line's strength is pass protection. They have given Anderson plenty of time to throw in each game of the season. They have struggled with blocking for the run though, but are improving as the rushing statistics over the last several games have shown.
Standout seniors Matt Brock (6-2, 298) and Doug Nienhuis (6-6, 321) lead the young unit that starts three underclassmen. Brock is a three year starter who is quick, intelligent and one of the better centers in the conference. He has started 33 consecutive games and is on the Rimington Award watch list. Brock injured his knee last week against WSU and sat out the second half as a precautionary measure. He is expected to be 100% for the game this weekend.
Right tackle Nienhuis is also a three-year starter with great technique on both running and pass plays. He received all-conference honors last year and has started 33 consecutive games. Nienhuis is powerful and excellent at pushing the defender to the outside.
Right guard Roy Schuening (6-3, 302) fills in at right guard after redshirting last year. Schuening is mobile for his size and is responsible for pulling and blocking on some running plays. The past two weeks he has been one of the lead blockers clearing out defenders for Wright and Cole's long touchdown runs.
Sophomore Adam Koets holds down the left tackle position after grabbing the starting role during fall camp. Koets is in his first season as a starter and has had his ups and downs with false starts, but overall has been solid.
Left guard Josh Linehan (6-4, 284) has been impressive in his first year as a starter. He picked up the blocking schemes quickly and is very mobile. Linehan gets off the line swiftly and is improving with every snap.
The backups are thin as junior Jason Fyda recently transferred after being unsatisfied with his position on the depth chart. Talented freshman Jeremy Perry (6-2, 296) and Tavita Thompson (6-6, 290) could both see playing time if some of the starters become injured. Center Kyle DeVan (6-2, 293) received some valuable playing time when Brock went down last week and played well although he and Anderson struggled with the exchanges at times.
Believe it or not a former walk-on is one of the top receivers in the nation. Junior Mike Hass (6-1, 210) leads in the conference in catches per game (7.29) and yards per game (114 ypg) and is the only receiver in the conference averaging over 100 yards per game. Through seven contests he has caught 51 passes for 798 yards and four touchdowns.
The deceptively fast player is always a threat to go deep, but the long bombs have been limited lately due to double teams. Currently he is doing most of his damage on short slants and curls. Hass rarely drops a pass and is Anderson's favorite receiver.
Junior college transfer Marcel Love (6-0, 181) has taken advantage of the added attention being paid attention to Hass. In the past two games he has caught 14 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns and is quickly becoming one of Anderson's favorite targets.
Love will rarely beats anyone deep, but he is fearless over the middle and usually gets good separation from the defender in that part of the field. He has 23 catches for 326 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Wheat-Brown (6-0, 210) has performed well after switching from the defensive to the offensive side of the ball during the pre-season. He is athletic, motivated and can stretch the defense. Through seven he has 17 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
The men in black have one of the most talented groups of tight ends in the country. Sophomore Joe Newton (6-7, 244) is a big target and one of Anderson's favorite targets. He runs well and seems to make at least one spectacular catch each game Newton is second on the team with 29 receptions for 343 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior Dan Haines (6-4, 242) also receives plenty of playing time and is faster then Newton although he has been slowed by a bruised heel. Haines has caught 10 passes for 65 yards and is a threat to break a big one as he possesses outstanding speed. Senior Pay Loney also sees playing time and is mainly used as a blocker despite catching two touchdowns this year. He has caught eight passes for 56 yards.
Relentless, tough, talented – Bill Swancutt (6-4, 259) embodies those three words. As one of the top defensive ends in the nation he constantly receives double and triple teams, but still affects the game. Most teams devote at least two offensive linemen to the All-Pac-10 performer while other squads use their tailbacks to chop block him.
Swancutt picked up his first sacks of the season against Washington and added two more against Washington State. He is hungry for more as Arizona's offensive line will have their hands full come Saturday. He is the team's third leading tackler with 37 grabs, 10.0 for loss, a team high four sacks, and a team high six quarterback hurries.
On the left end of the line sits sophomore Joe Lemma (6-5, 252). Lemma is undersized and uses his quickness to beat the offensive lineman. Like Swancutt he has a motor that doesn't stop but has a hard time moving his opponents. Redshirt freshman Joe Rudulph (6-5, 218) is also a speed rusher and rotates time with Lemma. Rudulph has seven tackles and one sack this year.
Clogging up the middle is a trio of players – junior Sir Henry Anderson (6-3, 294), sophomore Ben Seigert (6-4 271), and junior Alvin Smith (6-2, 313). Anderson has a good blend of size and strength and is playing in his first full season at right tackle without being injured. Seigert and Smith rotate at the left tackle position. Seigert is a talented individual who has a good push and enough speed to bring down the quarterback. Smith is a large man at 313 who does a nice job of taking up space, but has limited movement.
Since Riley started coaching at Oregon State in 1997 the Beavers have had at least one, if not two, outstanding linebackers. This year is no different as senior Jonathan Pollard (6-1, 234), junior Trent Bray (6-1, 234), junior Keith Ellison (6-2, 224), and junior Chaz Scott (6-2, 222) provide the firepower to the OSU defense.
WILL backer Jonathan Pollard is the most experienced with three seasons under his belt. His 34 tackles are good for fifth on the team. He is a big hitter who plays with a lot of emotion and rarely misses a tackle. Middle linebacker Trent Bray leads the team in tackles with 78 (second in the conference) and seems to be everywhere on the field. He is not outspoken and is one of the better linebackers in the league.
Bray has registered double digit tackles in five of the seven games this year and is first in the conference in solo stops.
Sam backer Keith Ellison transferred from El Camino junior college in the spring and adjusted nicely to Division I ball. Ellison starts but Scott and he rotate throughout the game. Ellison is fourth on the team with 36 tackles while adding five pass breakups and a co-team high two forced fumbles.
Scott is one of the faster players and one of the emotional leaders of the team. Sometimes his emotions get the best of him as he has a knack for getting at least one late hit penalty a game. He has 19 tackles on the season.
The strength of the orange and black defense lies with the secondary. Corners Brandon Browner (6-4, 202) and Aric Williams (6-0, 172) are capable of playing almost any receiver one on one. Browner has the respect of all his opponents and is rarely thrown against.
Williams is underrated and tested often. He has good footwork and is usually in a position to make a play on the ball as his conference leading 12 passes defended proves. He has 32 tackles, a team leading four picks, and a team leading eight pass breakups.
Free safety Mitch Meeuwsen (6-3, 205) and strong safety Sabby Piscitelli (6-3, 217) form a deadly combination in the backfield. Meeuwsen became OSU's all-time interception leader against Washington with two picks and added another one against WSU. He is one of the better safeties in the country, is second in the NCAA for active interceptions (17) and has an excellent nose for the ball. The Oregonian is second on the team in tackles with 39.
Piscitelli is the fastest player on the team and has been quiet since starting out the season hot with a pick in each of the first three games. Despite not putting up big numbers the last few games he is second in the Pac-10 in passes defended with seven (seven breakups, three interceptions) The Flordia native has 31 tackles.
Freshman Sammie Stroughter fielded his first collegiate punt against Arizona State and took over kick and punt return duties following that contest. Stroughter makes good decisions on the field and is a threat to break a big one.
The coaches and players have been saying they are on the verge of something big in the return game and this week could the game he returns one for a touchdown. Stroughter has returned eight kicks for a 20.5 yard average. Fellow freshman Lamar Herron and redshirt freshman Yvenson Bernard also field kickoffs for the Beavers. Bernard also occasionally fields punts.
Junior Sam Paulescu came to OSU with a lot of hype and he has lived up to his billing. He is an excellent kicker with a powerful leg averaging 42.2 yards per kick, good for sixth in the conference. Paulescu is calm under pressure and accurate enough to angle his kicks towards the sidelines.
He has landed ten inside the twenty-yard line and a 69-yard blast against Washington State is his longest of the season.
Redshirt freshman Alexis Serna (5-7, 157) has not missed a kick, PAT or FG, since pushing three extra points to the right against LSU. He made all five of his attempts, including a 55-yard boot, against Washington two weeks ago and is eight of eight on point after touchdowns since LSU.
The Beavers have never won three conference games in a row under Mike Riley.
Oregon State has not won two consecutive road conference road games since the 2000 season.
OSU has defeated Arizona five straight times with the average score of the last four games being 40-10.
Oregon State has scored on its first possession in six of their seven games this year.
The Beavers have forced 10 turnovers in the last two games.
OSU is first in the Pac-10 and seventh nationally in passing offense at 295.3 yards per game.
Oregon State defeated Washington and Washington State in the same season for the first time since 1974.