BF.C KEYS TO THE GAME: WSU

THERE ARE NO gimmies in the Pac 10 this season, period. Washington State walks into town this Saturday, as opposed to the shuffling, head down gait of the prior two years. And while they're not all the way back by any stretch, and while it's been a pretty long time since WSU has won a conference game, this year's version of the Cougars have some teeth.

This isn't the same version of the hapless Cougs that fell to the Beavers in their last visit to Corvallis, 66-13. And WSU has been downright awful the last two years. But this season has been a little different.

They look like a Pac-10 team again -- yes, a bad Pac-10 team, but one who at least looks like they belong in the conference. That wasn't the case in 2009 and 2008.

QB Jeff Tuel can move a little. WSU actually led Cal at halftime last week, made Oregon uncomfortable late in the third quarter, and gave Arizona and Stanford a game of it. And on offense, the reason why has been the air attack.

Until last week, Tuel was the only Pac-10 quarterback who had thrown for 200 or more yards each week. Jared Karstetter and Marquess Wilson are a pair of wide receivers who can make DB's, not on their A-Game, pay. They've each rolled up 50 receptions this season.

Aside from being blasted, and shut out, by ASU two weeks ago, WSU has shown improvement at generating some offense compared to the previous two seasons, with only Arizona's stellar defense finding a way to keep Wazzu under double digits in scoring. And it's virtually all been through the air, because WSU's running game has been abysmal all season.

If any further reminder is necessary that WSU should be taken seriously, cue up the highlights from the Oregon game – the Cougars showed a lot of heart in that contest. They were on the verge of cutting the lead to six with seconds left in the third quarter but Tuel threw a pick in the end zone – eerily similar to what Ryan Katz has done a couple times this year. WSU also showed against UO they have some lumber to bring, as evidenced by the frightening (but clean) hit on Oregon RB/KR Kenjon Barner during a kickoff return by Anthony Carpenter.

Defensively, the Cougs are hitting harder, and it's the freshmen and redshirt freshmen playing who are bringing the heat. But in the good news department for the Beavers, they're catching WSU now rather than about four weeks ago, and WSU is much more banged up now, with this being the 11th straight week for WSU without a bye.

And all that said, the Beavers should be able to put this game in the win column and it shouldn't be close -- and here are the keys to doing just that:

1 – Get After The QB: While Jeff Tuel has shown he can move around some when the pocket breaks down, he was absolutely battered by Cal and sacked 6 times. On the season up front, the Cougars have not been able to run, and they've done a poor job in pass protection in allowing 42 sacks – although to be fair, some of that is because Tuel holds the ball too long, trying to let his receivers get open. The big reveal here: The Beavers should be able to pin their ears back and come after him, much like they did to Cal.

2 – Find Some Balance: The OSU offense is at its' best when they are able to balance the run and the pass. Penalties, negative plays, missed blocking assignments – those all make for situations where the Beavers are forced to throw the ball more than they would like. If the Beavers are balanced, that means they are executing, and that means good things for Oregon State. Not shooting themselves in the foot is the first step towards getting this key established. WSU seems tailor made for this – while they've played better defensively, they have been woeful against the run.

3 – Keep the Defense On The Sidelines: Quite frankly, the DL is working overtime playing Little Dutch Boy plugging leaks everywhere, and it shows. Key injuries at the DT position – these guys simply need a rest. The offense needs to grind up some clock and play some ball control offense, find some of that blue collar, bare knuckle aesthetic that Oregon State has been known for much of the last decade. Again, WSU has allowed several long, clock eating drives this season, and this game, on paper, looks to set up OSU punter Johnny Hekker for a whole lot of time on the sidelines.

Grading last week's Keys:

1 – Slow Down The Running Game. Allowing 210 rushing yards isn't as horrendous when you look at the 3.8 ypc that the Beavers allowed. Jonathan Franklin managed 100 yards despite his longest run being just 13 yards. But UCLA was able to just grind all game long, much of it on a nearly 10 minute long drive in the 3rd Q. The Bruins rushed the ball a whopping 55 times. Grade: C-

2 – Get The Tank Involved. Halahuni was the leading receiver for the Beavers, with five catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. And that helped the offense out a lot, but unfortunately OSU simply didn't capitalize on Big Joe's production. Grade: A-

3 – Come Out Hot. Oregon State's first drive was stalled and stopped on a failed fourth-and-long incompletion, and while the Beavers rebounded and scored on their second possession, one couldn't help but feel that the Beavers were just flat all game long. Things just weren't clicking, and it was highlighted by Brennan Olander's sideline outburst, pleading with the O-line to find some fire. Grade: D

Bonus Key: Rattle the QB. The Beavers were able to sack Richard Brehaut three times and hurry him on several other occasions -- but at the expense of lane integrity. Oregon State allowed Brehaut to gallop for 61 yards including a long of 21. And that was big. And U-g-l-y. Grade: D-

Get well, James Rodgers. Comments, questions, Chip Kelly voodoo dolls for sale? Hit me: orangeattack@beaverfootball.com


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