Coach's Corner - Beavs need to bounce back

For just the second time in eight years the Arizona State Sun Devils invade Corvallis for the 2005 Pac-10 opener for both teams. The Sun Devils are on a roll setting a school record in points, averaging 48.7 points through the first three games, and total offense after racking up 773 yards in a 52-21 victory over Northwestern last Saturday. With a high powered offense, a 2-1 record that could have easily been 3-0 and a No. 18 ranking the Beavers have their work cut out for them.

"Arizona State’s a great looking team," Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said. "They have been impressive even in their loss to LSU, that was a great game and a hard fought, evenly matched game. But they’re playing very aggressive defensively. They are very productive at putting up a lot of points offensively, so it’s the third week in a row that we’re seeing a very good football team."

Luckily the Beavers have been in this situation before in 2003. The last time the Sun Devils visited the Mid Valley they brought a No. 24 ranking, a seven game winning streak over OSU and a high powered offense led by the talented Andrew Walter. Oregon State dominated the game scoring 45 points tying the record for the most points scored in the 31 game series. Unfortunately, the Beavers have not defeated a ranked opponent at home or on the road since that contest.

ASU has dominated the series with a 22-8-1 record, but the good news is the Beavers are 5-5-1 in Corvallis as opposed to Tempe where ASU has won 15 straight. Another piece of good news is the Men in Black are at home where they have a 18-6 record against PAC-10 foes since 1999, a fact that ASU head coach Dirk Koetter knows will play a factor.

"I am looking forward to Oregon State. They are a good football team and are well coached," said Koetter who is 28-24 at ASU. "They have the best record in the PAC-10 at home over the last five years, because logistically, you can't stay there. There is not place to stay in Corvallis. The crowd gets loud there and it's the first time we've been there since they've redone the stadium. I heard it is really nice."

The offense and defense, particularly the lines, have already put the Louisville game behind them and are working on refocusing. The Arizona State game is another chance for the team to form their identity and as a result the team has focused on getting back to the basics.

"Two things that are important are assignments and technique, those things will always bring you back to the reality of playing football," Riley said. "I would want to say that this team is resilient, we’re ready to go, and they put that behind them, but you can only really prove that in practice and in the game."

One person that is proving it game after game is receiver Mike Hass who is second in the nation in receptions (9.7) and receiving yards per game (165.3). Quarterback Matt Moore is also proving it completing 62% of his passes for almost 1,000 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. The offensive line proved it early against the Cardinals but will need to step up their game against a defense that is giving up 144 yards per game on the grown and 227 through the air.

"It’s a group that I think has been progressing," said the 52-year old coach. "And then last week, obviously we took our knocks, so to speak. Those kinds of things bring you back to earth."

The Oregon State defense also took their lumps as they yielded 553 yards of offense and 63 points. The pass rush was almost nonexistent resulting in the young OSU corners being beat down field time and time again. Once again the defense will have their work cut out for them as they face a unit that has given up just one sack this year and is averaging 630.7 yards per game.

Junior quarterback Sam Keller is a big part of the ASU's success passing for 1,078 passing yards and 12 touchdowns including a school record 669 yards in the first two games. Keller is throwing to one of the Pac-10's best in wide out Derek Haggan who is just 27 yards away from breaking Arizona State's career receiving yard record. The running attack hasn't been bad either as the team has put up over 200 yards twice and has scored six touchdowns on the ground, tying last year's season total.

"They are balanced. Their running game is good. And I think it helps their passing game, and their play action game is a highlight now," Riley said. "They’ve gotten a lot of big hits running play action passes. That all fits together, so we have to be very disciplined."

Historically the Beavers have responded well after receiving a butt kicking and Riley sees similarities to last year's situation after Oregon State lost 49-7 to California.

"I hope it’s exactly like that," Riley said, "I feel confident in how we will respond, and we need to respond very well because we’re playing a very good football team."

Both coaches are excited about facing each other at night on national television and getting the conference season underway.

"Our guys are excited to start the PAC-10 season," Koetter said. "This game is going to be a challenge that we are looking forward to. The PAC-10 is very strong this year."

Riley agrees.

"I think it could be a very exciting game, so I’m kind of looking forward to it actually," Riley said. "The home record, the home crowd, those are good things, but they’re not guarantees."

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and will be televised live on TBS. Wear orange and Go Beavs!


Additional notes:

  • The starting long snapper has not been set, it could be Darrick Bruns, Jason Vandiver, Daniel Weis or Aaron Carlson.
    "We will be making a change in the long snapper, but I’m not ready to say who that is. We have a number of options there – Darrick Bruns, Jason Vandiver, Daniel Weis and a young man named Aaron Carlson who we were intending to redshirt, but who we think is a very good long snapper. We might throw him into the mix this week and see where that comes out later on."

  • Gerard Lawson and Keenan Lewis will continue to be the team's starting corners.
    "Corners have to be resilient people, that’s got to be one of the characteristics that they own in order to play that spot. And these are young guys that I think are very tough minded, so we’ll continue to help them learn how to play, and then mentally they’ve got to be very confident and competitive."

  • Every week Riley is asked about the offense and every week he says balance is the key.
    "I think you have to play an overall game against them, there’s no doubt about it. And you will be challenged continually with what they do. So one of the best ways to keep them from doing that is to keep the ball."

  • Koetter was excited about watching the Boise State and Louisville games since the team's have similar offense's to ASU's, but he was disappointed.
    "I was excited to watch Louisville and Boise State film because I like to watch offensives that are similar to ours. But after watching the games, I realized that they weren't as similar as I thought. It is nice going into games being as prepared as we can be."

  • Koetter is looking for his team to cut down on penalties as they are averaging 91.3 per game.
    "Penalties are a concern, especially after last game. We also need to try to not put the ball on the ground as much. There are always things we need to improve on. We'll try to work out these kinks in practice. I know this team has talent."

  • No Beavers were nominated for PAC-10 Player of the Week honors

  • DT Pernell Booth, TE Joe Newton and LS Joel Cohen all are out with injuries.

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