BF.C KEYS: Oregon State vs. WSU

MAKE NO MISTAKE about it, this isn't the pushover Washington State team that went nearly two years without winning a conference game. They can move the ball, have some real talent, plus a brash attitude exemplified by no-apology-offered sophomore MLB C.J. Mizell, who provided some Oregon State bulletin board material this week.

C.J. Mizell might have made a mistake earlier this week with his flip rehash of the personal foul directed at Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers in Reser Stadium last season. But it's up to the Beavs to make him and the Cougs pay for it.

There's no way to sugarcoat it - this season has been disappointing. Full of missed opportunities, plagued by injuries, hampered by inexperience and youth, and incomprehensibly inconsistent. The Beavers can catch fire and click, or they can struggle to find rhythm and get lost.

The big question is, can the Beavers summon up the emotion to do something about it? Because they need to come out and play like their collective hair is on fire this Saturday night, (TV: FSN/Root, 7:30 p.m.)

Last season, they didn't. Last week, in coming off the Arizona win against BYU, they didn't. In what Mike Riley described as the biggest roller coaster season of his entire career, the Beavers looked like they were sleepwalking through a nightmare as BYU summarily dismantled them at home in Corvallis.

Jeff Tuel didn't light up the Beaver secondary last year, only passing for 157 yards - but he didn't need to in the 31-14 win, because he also rushed for 79 hashes. But worse than being dismantled, the Beavers were lifeless in that game and it was exemplified on OSU's first play from scrimmage when Quizz was ridden 10 yards out of bounds, dumped on his facemask and the Beavers barely protested. The Beavers were shut out until midway into the third quarter - by a team that hadn't pitched a first half shutout in 3 years.

But then, inexplicably and improbably, the Beavers turned around and knocked off the ranked USC Trojans the very next week. The problem is, the 2010 Beavers were talented but underacheiving and lacking chemistry. The 2011 Beavers are woefully inexperienced and injured, especially on defense, and with three of the front seven out with injury, (LB Cameron Collins, LB Feti Unga, DT Castro Masaniai) and arguably their best defensive back, Lance Mitchell, hampered by injury, it looks ominous.

The Beavers have historically struggled against mobile quarterbacks and this season has been no different -- Riley Nelson of BYU was the latest to run roughshod over the Beaver D last week. Now the Beavers face an equally mobile Jeff Tuel, who is perhaps a better passer. And to make matters worse, OSU is now hobbled at ‘backer. Those are the players most likely to help out with preventing Tuel from scrambling to convert key third downs.

The Cougars aren't putting up points in bunches, but they are racking up the yards at 453 yards per game. The Beavers won't be able to stop WSU's offense and so the question is, can they slow it down enough, force enough field goal attempts and punts - and score enough points on offense - to win a shootout? Here's how they do it:

1 - Call The Doctor: To say that Oregon State has never stopped a mobile quarterback would be wildly inaccurate. They have at times been successful stuffing some electric running quarterbacks by spying the QB and punishing him for attempting to run. Speedster LB Michael Doctor will need to do his best Derrick Doggett QB-spy-extraordinaire impression, and make Tuel's life miserable every time he attempts to run.

2 - Shut Up Brent: Those who tuned in Thursday night and watched Tim Kish's Arizona Wildcats dismantle UCLA saw the Cats come out with a completely different defensive gameplan - dusting off the Bear Front made famous by the Desert Storm's Double Flex Eagle defense. It was fascinating to see an entirely different base set be so effective for the nothing-to-lose Wildcats. The Beavers are now 1-5. So why not shale some things up? As Dan Fouts continually says to Brent Musberger's chagrin in The Waterboy: "Can't hold anything back now." Get creative, Mark Banker. Break out a five man front. Disguise some run blitzes and pressures and let them loose. Something. Anything.

3 - The Oldest Axiom In The Book: OSU needs to be stingy with the turnovers. It's not as much that the Beavers need to force turnovers – they can get them against this WSU team. The problem comes when they waste the turnovers they get - like Jordan Poyer's 51 yard INT return for a touchdown last week - by returning the favor. The Beavers can't afford to hand out turnovers like it's Halloween candy. WSU hasn't gotten a lot of pressure on the QB so Mannion shouldn't be overly pressured. And the running backs need to hang on to the ball.

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