Rotating DE not-so-quietly making an impact

HE HASN'T BEEN given an official start yet this season for Oregon State. But he's making a starter's type of impact for the Beavs, and did so again in Saturday's win that put the Beavs at 6-0 and No. 7 in the BCS rankings.

Rudolf Fifita has been getting it done this season.

BF.C's Drew Wilson-McGrath has been pointing Fifita out all season, mentioning him along with defensive line starters -- in part he gets a whole lot of turns. Mostly, it's because his play has been impactful.

The 6-3, 263-pound defensive end laid a picture-perfect stick on Utah QB Travis Wilson on the first play of the second quarter, forcing a fumble that Dylan Wynn gathered in. Storm Woods then punched it in and Oregon State took a 14-0 lead.

Fifita had already been getting a lot of turns but he played a whole lot more the rest of the way against Utah after that forced fumble.

In the fourth quarter in particular, and not just on passing downs, OSU liberally featured a four-man front comprised of DT Andrew Seumalo and d-ends Scott Crichton, Wynn and Fifita. In that grouping, Fifita lined up as the left defensive end, with Crichton and Wynn mostly rotating inside to line up alongside Seumalo -- and on the same side together.

Rusty Fernando and Devon Kell were sprinkled in here and there. And DT starter Castro Masaniai was still out there too but Utah was trying to double him – or Wynn/Crichton when lined up inside -- much of the game, and Fifita got most of the snaps in the final period out on one of the edges.

AND IT WORKED. Oregon State held Utah to 307 yards of total offense for the game and didn't allow a score after the second quarter. The Beaver stop corps forced two fumbles, picked off two passes and held the Utes to 3-of-16 third down conversions on Saturday.

Fifita was a big part of that, with four tackles (1.5) for loss, a sack and forced fumble. And there were other plays too, ones that don't show up in the box score – pressures, cutting off a route that forced a ball carrier into the waiting arms of another Beav for a modest gain, and more. And the Utah game wasn't an anomaly.

On the season, Fifita has 11 tackles and despite not starting a game, is second on the team in sacks (2.0) and third in tackles for loss (3.5).

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Mark Banker loves to rotate, as has been oft-mention over the years on BF.C. Some years he can't do much of it given what he has to work with. Some years he can.

This year is one of the latter.

And Beaver fans going forward should expect to see a whole lot more of Fifita in the second half of the season.

Especially if he continues to perform like he did Saturday night.

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