One game at a time

One Northwest foe down, two to go. It has been awhile since Oregon State defeated both Washington and Washington State in the same season. In fact, three decades have passed since the Beavers defeated the Huskies and Cougars in the same year. 1974 was also the last time the Beavers defeated all of its Northwest rivals.

WSU comes to Corvallis on a two game conference losing streak fighting to stay above five hundred. Washington State's dreams of four consecutive 10-win seasons are out the door and a winning season is in jeopardy after starting quarterback Josh Swogger went down for the season with a right ankle injury.

The relatively inexperienced redshirt freshman Alex Brink is taking over the starting duties this weekend. Brink has just two games under his belt, both this year, in which he completed 13 of 15 passes for 278 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Fans are excited about his mobility but are nervous about his decision making process. In each game he has played he has fumbled while fighting for extra yards.

Bad decisions or not, the Beavers will be facing another quarterback that can hurt them on the ground. Washington's Isaiah Stanback got loose a few times for big gains last weekend, yet another sign that the defense has trouble containing a quarterback who can scramble.

"We did not do a good job at times with quarterback containment - we absolutely did not," head coach Mike Riley said of last week's game. "We made an inside move and he went outside one time just on a dropback pass and then we didn't handle the bootleg well. From our viewpoint, we've got to do better than that. From their viewpoint, that guy made plays."

And that is what the defense must prevent Brink from doing, making plays. But the youngster is surrounded by a couple talented players. The Pac-10's third leading receiver Jason Hill provides Brink with a deep threat and tight end Troy Bienemann is a solid receiver over the middle. Brink will also have the help of an offensive line that is starting to jell which in turn is improving the running game.

"I expect a very tough, physical football game," said Riley who is 0-1 versus WSU. "Washington State's defense is still out there creating havoc; I guess they've had more sacks than anybody in the league over the last three years and it appears that same frenzied style is still out there so we've got to deal with that."

Riley is talking about a defense that has 17 sacks this season, third best in the conference, has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter in 14 of the last 19 games and linebacker Scott Davis who is responsible for forcing and recovering three fumbles. The crimson and gray linebackers will try to force Derek Anderson out the pocket and pop the ball loose from the ball carriers as they seek to give their offense excellent field position.

And as always, field position and special teams will be one of the keys to the game. Kyle Basler, one of the better punters in the nation, takes the field with a conference best 45.1 average. The Cougs also place one the conference's youngest and best punt returners in freshman Michael Bumpus on the field with an 11.7 return average.

"Bumpus is a very good, talented young guy," Riley said. "Our work will be cut out for us on special teams, and it could sway the game, for sure, for either team. I'm looking for some returns from our team and think we're on the brink of something big."

Riley is talking about the Oregon State's own young and talented punt/kick returner Sammie Stroughter who has given the return game some needed life. Stroughter is averaging 21.5 yards on kick returns and has been a few steps away from breaking a big one the past two games.

Seven turnovers, several stops inside the redzone, two stops inside the five – plain and simple the Beaver defense had their best game of the season last weekend. Defensive end Bill Swancutt finally grabbed his first sack of the season, safety Mitch Meeuwsen broke the interception record, and the defense played with some fire.

"In the last ballgame, I thought one of the main differences was that we played our style, we played very fast," Riley said. "We didn't play perfectly - we lost containment on the quarterback, we lost some receivers down the field once in a while - but we played extremely fast and our physical part of the game, we hit very hard."

The offense didn't do too bad either as they put 29 points on the board and converted several big third downs. Anderson was in control the entire game and place kicker Alexis Serna paced the team with 17 points. The coaches stuck with the run and varied the playbook as the offensive line finally opened up some holes for Dwight Wright and Ryan Cole.

"We're not where we want to be in the running game, by any means. But if we can get that production and continue to improve then we're on the right track to being what we want to be overall," Riley said. "Even though a lot of the runs weren't pretty, the game went a lot better; it was a lot easier to manage as a play-caller because we could run the ball and get a little bit, then run a screen ... we mixed some things in so we managed third down a little easier, then we had our typical big plays that were good. The mixture, the managing, the efficiency were all pretty good."

Constant improvement from week to week and focusing on one game at a time is the key for the Beavers from here on out. A possible bowl game is not on the team's mind.

"We've got to deal with - I hate to use this cliché, you know it's coming - but we've really just got to play this game, get another win, and then maybe we can start talking about something like that later on." Riley said "We're still digging out of a hole; until we get out of it, there's no sense talking about it any more."

Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. The contest will not be televised live. The replay can be seen on FoxSports NW at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24.

BeaverBlitz Top Stories