Side by side: Washington St. at Oregon St.

The Beavers and Cougars square off for the 91st time Saturday, Oct. 7 on FoxSports NW at 4:07 p.m. Oregon State has won the last three against Washington State in Corvallis, but WSU is coming off of a hard fought game against No. 3 USC where they pushed the Trojans to the limit.

LAST WEEK:
Stomped.  Throttled.  Dominated.  All are appropriate adjectives to describe Oregon State's 41-13 loss to California last Saturday.  The Golden Bears rattled off 31 unanswered points and finished with 483 yards of total offense as the Beaver defense had no answer for QB Nate Longshore and company.  Longshore threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns on 22 of 31 passing while RB Marshawn Lynch accounted for three touchdowns.  Cal punted just once the entire game. 

QB Matt Moore completed an efficient 18 of 27 for 187 yards, but missed several open receivers that would have resulted in big gains.  RB Yvenson Bernard rushed just 17 times for 74 yards and one touchdown.  PK Alexis Serna hit both of his field goal attempts, including a 58-yard boot tying a school record.

LAST WEEK:  
Washington State played outstanding football for four quarters against USC. The Cougs had more first downs, rushing yards, and total yards than the Trojans and gave up fewer sacks and turnovers. The issue was getting touchdowns rather than field goals. While the Trojans proved to be superior in the red zone, the Cougs still had the ball with a chance to win at the end of the game. A hail mary pass from Alex Brink fell short of the end zone and was intercepted as time expired. The outcome was disappointing, but the team played above and beyond expectations and have the fans optimistic that a bowl game is still in the cards.

KEY INJURIES:

KEY INJURIES:

Out - Fevaea'i Ahmu (9/30 stress fracture), Chris Baltzer (9/20 knee ACL), Chris Jordan (9/22 knee surgery), Andy Mattingly (9/30 concussion), Jesse Taylor (9/16 knee MCL sprain), Michael Willis (9/30 shoulder sprain)

Questionable Markus Dawes (9/2 high ankle sprain), Josh Duin (9/23 knee MCL), Ansley Jean-Jacques (9/9 thumb surgery),

WHEN OREGON STATE IS ON OFFENSE: 
The big play has been the missing ingredient in the OSU offensive attack as QB Matt Moore has not completed a pass longer than 24 yards and RB Yvenson Bernard has yet to run for more than 19 yards on a single rushing play.  Moore has completed a respectable 53 of 89 (59%) and has thrown just two interceptions, but has yet to top the 200 yard mark in a single game and has just four touchdowns in as many games.  As a result, Beaver Nation is clamoring for redshirt freshman Sean Canfield, who has looked very good in mop up time, to play.  It seems when Canfield takes the field, the entire team's energy level rises.  Coach Mike Riley is close to implementing a rotation between the two and if Moore struggles again, look for Canfield to get some early playing time.

With well over 100 combined starts an experienced offensive line was supposed to be the strength of the offense, but the unit has yet to dominate an opponent.  RT Josh Linehan hurt his knee against Idaho in Sept., but the versatile Andy Levitre took his place.  C Kyle DeVan is playing at a high level along with LG Jeremy Perry, but RB Yvenson Bernard, despite averaging 4.9 ypc, has had little room to run.  He is averaging seven less carries from a year ago and is underutilized due to the Beavers being blown out twice already.  Bernard has also had some problems holding onto the ball fumbling three times.

TE Joe Newton has been a welcome return with 15 catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns.  WR Sammie Stroughter is the team's leading receiver with 16 grabs for 205 yards, while Brandon Powers (14/181), Bernard (12/55) and the underused, but athletic Anthony Wheat-Brown (7/127/2) round out the top five.  The receiving corp lacks a person who can stretch the field although Stroughter, Wheat-Brown and Ruben Jackson have all showed promise.

Occasionally the Beavs line up in the I-formation with FB Micah Strickland leading the charge.  He has also proved to be a valuable asset in the passing game catching four passes for 37 yards.

WHEN WASHINGTON STATE IS ON OFFENSE:  
The Cougs still run the same spread offense they've operated for years. Quarterback Alex Brink is a veteran who lacks arm strength, but has shown experience and excellent command of the system. The fans have been itching to see more of backup QB Gary Rogers who is a 6'6 rocket launcher in the Drew Bledsoe mold. The coaches may give him a series in the first half, and especially if the Cougar offense stalls.

WSU's receiver corps is outstanding, featuring All-America candidate Jason Hill, one of the nation's premiere deep threats. Slot end Michael Bumpus has become an excellent "chain-mover" receiver who makes great moves after the catch. 6'8 tight end Cody Boyd is mismatch for shorter defenders, and is utilized primarily as a deep threat on seam routes.

The WSU offensive line has suffered numerous injuries but has held together remarkably well. Through four games they've surrendered only seven sacks, including none allowed against USC. They've also paved the way for a running game averaging 4.9 yards per attempt and 178 yards per game. Even against USC, they managed to gain 131 yards on the ground. The primary running back at the beginning of the season was DeMaundray Woolridge, a 234 pound bowling ball, who has averaged over 5.5 yards per carry. But a deep thigh bruise has limited him since the Auburn game and he is sharing more of the load with Dwight Tardy, and also Derrell Hutsona, who are smaller and faster.
WHEN WASHINGTON STATE HAS THE BALL:
Just like it says to the right, the Beavers run a 4-3 defense, but a 4-3 defense that is struggling.  The largest weakness is at defensive end where Joe Lemma and Jeff Van Orsow have been mediocre at best.  The energetic and improving Dorian Smith is also in the mix at defensive end.  The tackles are manned by Ben Siegert, who has had a disappointing senior year grabbing just five tackles, and the boisterous Curtis Coker who demands a double team.  William Vea, Pernell Booth and Gerard Lee all see plenty of time at tackle.

Middle linebacker Alan Darlin, who is a run stopping specialist, but perhaps a little slow, and outside linebacker Derrick Doggett, who is the team's best cover linebacker, lead the team in tackles with 23 stops a piece.  Weakside linebacker Joey LaRocque was exploited by Cal last week as he cannot guard speedy receivers and this week does not bode well for the JC transfer unless Mark Banker changes the defensive scheme.

The secondary is led by senior safety Sabby Piscitelli who leads the team with three interceptions.  Free safety Al Afalava has had a quite year as opponents have exploited his aggressiveness to lay a big hit.  Kennan Lewis, Brandon Hughes, who missed the first two games with a knee injury, and Coye Francies man the cornerback positions.  None have been outstanding, but they have not been horrible either.

Much of the discussion around the defense centers around the defensive scheme as the team does not have the personnel to run a 4-3 defense effectively.  But the coaches have been reluctant to insert a nickel or 3-4 defense.

WHEN OREGON STATE HAS THE BALL:  
The Cougs use a base 4-3 defense that is fairly similar to OSU. They've got some outstanding talent on the defensive line, but are very banged up. Defensive end Mkristo Bruce is the emotional leader and brings tremendous speed off the edge. He currently leads the nation in sacks with eight. Defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua is a 6'8 giant who is a force against the run and pass. The other starting slots have been devastated with injuries and have occasionally forced the Cougs to switch to 3-4 formation due to lack of depth.

The linebackers are led by senior Scott Davis, a heady three-year starter. Middle linebacker Greg Trent was thrown into the fire as a freshman last year after Will Derting got hurt and struggled. So far this season, he looks to have improved significantly with a year under his belt.

The secondary has been generally sound but has been exploited by fast receivers. They were able to put the camps down on pass heavy Baylor, but they couldn't find an answer for USC's Steve Smith, who torched them for 186 yards. They only have two interceptions between the group so Matt Moore should get to test them early.
SPECIAL TEAMS:
After missing his first two attempts of the season PK Alexis Serna got back on track against Cal hitting a 58 and 40 yard boot upping his success rate to 60% (3 of 5).

Freshman punter Kyle Loomis is steadily improving averaging 40.5 yards per kick in the last three games after starting off the season with a 28.0 average.

Sammie Stroughter still leads the nation in punt returns with a 22.9 average but only received one opportunity against Cal to do any damage.  Coye Francies has done a good job returning kickoffs with a 21.2 average.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Kicker Loren Langley went 3-for-3 last week, but had looked dreadful in the games preceding. He has below average leg strength, but it has been his lack of accuracy that has prevented the coaches from attempting field goals beyond 40 yards this year. Langley is also the kickoff specialist and sparsely gets the ball to the end zone. Punter Darryl Blunt is solid, averaging over 40 yards per punt, although the long snapping has been iffy. Punt returner Michael Bumpus has game breaking ability, but has been well contained this season.
OREGON STATE CAN WIN IF: 
They pressure Brink and force him to make poor throws.  Zero pressure on Brink allows him to pick apart the defense just like Longshore did seven days ago. 

Offensively, Oregon State has to find the big play and stretch the field.  Without big plays it requires the offense to execute for a longer period of time making it harder to score once inside the red zone.

WASHINGTON STATE CAN WIN IF:
They avoid turnovers and execute anywhere near as good as they did last week. Offensive weaponry abounds, but it all hinges on the decisions of Alex Brink. If he makes poor reads, the OSU defense can seize the day and generate as many points for the opposition as he does for Wazzu.

Defensively the Cougs have to display the same intensity they brought to the USC game and avoid giving up the big plays. They also have to do a better job getting off the field on third and long.
OREGON STATE WILL LOSE IF: 
They don't bring any emotion and intensity.  The season is in the balance and it has come to the point where the players must leave it all on the field.

Anything less than 100% effort by the players will not be tolerated by the coaches, the leaders of the team and the fans.  This is a must win if the Beavers want to play in the postseason.

WASHINGTON STATE WILL LOSE IF:
They suffer a letdown in focus after the close loss to USC. OSU has the capacity to put up a lot of points and there enough holes in the Cougar defense to allow them to do it. The secondary consistently shut down good tight ends in the middle of the field the last two seasons so Joe Newton could give them trouble.

If WSU doesn't bring their A game, they will find themselves trying to come from behind on the road.

OREGON STATE LINKS:
Two-deeps | Roster | Schedule | Message Boards
WASHINGTON STATE LINKS:
Two-deeps | Roster | Schedule | Message Boards
Dan Norz is the publisher of BeaverFootball.com.  Wear orange and Go Beavs! Matt Moore is a staff writer and analyst for Cougfan.com.

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