PAC-10 SHOWDOWN: Another high scoring affair

Oregon State's secondary just can't catch a break. After being battered and abused by the nation's highest flying offense in 2004, the Beavers (2-1) get precious little reprieve before staring down the astronomical offense of the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1) this week.

Oregon State Defensive Coordinator Mark Banker must be spending sleepless nights as Saturday approaches. ASU sports the ninth best passing efficiency in a passer with first-year starter Sam Keller, and a legitimate deep threat in speedy flanker Derek Hagan. Keller has been razor sharp with both his reads and his passes, and Hagan counts himself as one of the most polished and prolific wideouts in the country.

Though Hagan may be the Sun Devils' premier playmaker, he is far from the only one. Sophomore tight end Zach Miller made an immediate impact last season as a true freshman with six touchdowns, and the Sun Devils have found a game-breaker in true freshman running back Keegan Herring. Herring isn't a big back, checking in at 5-10 and 180-pounds, but he touts a sub 4.4 - 40 yard time and it's probably safe to bet that the Northwestern players wished they had some of his speed as he rolled up 197 yards on 23 carries. The dynamic freshman is averaging an eye-popping 9.2 yards per carry on 40 attempts through three games.

The Beavers are no slouch on offense either, boasting the number two wide receiver in the country, senior wideout Mike Hass. Through three games, Hass totaled up 29 receptions and a freakish 496 yards, and three touchdowns while averaging 17.1 yards per catch. Hass also boasts a seven game streak of 100 yard games. Quarterback Matt Moore has Beaver fans believing in the UCLA transfer, passing for 963 yards with six touchdowns touchdowns and two interceptions in three games, with a 63% completion ratio to boot.

The most underrated player on Oregon State's offense may well be tailback Yvenson Bernard. Bernard has been a jack-of-all trades for the Beavers so far, carrying 45 times for 214 yards and three scores, and also featuring as the offense's number two receiver, with 16 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown through three contests. Bernard is working hard to dispel the notion that Oregon State can't run the ball, averaging a very respectable 4.8 yards per carry.

After struggling for a few years with the quirky 4-2-5 defense that head coach Dirk Koetter brought with him from Boise State, the Sun Devils have settled into running a 4-3 scheme that installed last season. But the staff doesn't seem reluctant to tweak the 4-3, rolling over Northwestern while using two linebackers and a rover. Arizona State hopes to add some depth to their defense, welcoming back cornerback Chad Green and defensive end Kyle Caldwell this week from injuries. The guy to watch out for is Butkus Award Candidate Dale Robinson. The 6-foot-1, 236-pound senior linebacker from St. Albans, New York plays sideline to sideline and is averaging just a shade under 10 tackles per game.

Oregon State typically boasts a stout defense - and the Beavers are no doubt eager to prove that last week's route was an aberration for a proud bunch with a recent history of success in the Pac 10. Led by middle linebacker Trent Bray, the linebackers are the strength of the defense, and so far this year have been a productive bunch. The secondary was downright porous against the pass at Louisville last week and no doubt that unit has spent a hard week trying to get ready for Pac 10 play.

There are a lot of new faces in the Beaver secondary, but the breakout player has been sophomore free safety Lamar Herron. A corner's speed with a safety's body, Herron has only been the fourth-leading tackler with 16 stops and two interceptions, but he has become an explosive punt returner with a 56-yard return a week ago, and a 96-yarder called back because of a penalty.

This is an evening game, so after a long afternoon of tailgating the fans should be plenty prepared for some football and this has the potential to be the loudest game played in Reser Stadium since the 1998 Civil War. We'll find out who the contenders are - and who the pretenders are, this Saturday night.

Chad Luther can be reached at orangeattack@beaverfootball.com.


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