OA's keys to the Arizona game

What a difference a week makes. Last week a dark cloud hung over Beaver Nation, as questions about the direction of the program and identity of the team rained down on the Valley Football Center like cold Northwest rain on a November day. Mike Riley must love Husky Stadium.

The birthplace of Riley's "defining moment" could have been his Waterloo - but instead turned out to be his Rock of Gibraltar. Playmakers emerged and a handful of Junior College transfers seem to have breathed new life into Oregon State's defense.

Welcome to the party, Dorian Smith. Thanks for bringing the swagger with you.

This week brings the Arizona Wildcats - an opponent that for the last 7 years or so has been a welcome name on the Oregon State schedule, and yet another possibility for the Beavers to tag an opponent's venue as a "home away from home": The Beavers have won the last two games in Tucson (28-14 in 2004 and 33-9 in 2000), much like last week afforded the Beavers the opportunity to win 3 in a row in Seattle.

Good things come in threes. Let's look at the keys to the game:


1 – Give Matt Moore A Little Time, O-Line.
Arizona runs a zone blitz scheme. A quick primer on what the zone blitz means: Instead of a traditional blitz where you add a pass rusher from the back seven and the defensive secondary is left in man-to-man coverage, in the zone blitz scheme a defensive lineman will drop back and cover roughly a five-yard zone of the field. When you add the LB's and DB's who aren't blitzing, there could be up to seven manned zones across the field.

What OSU needs to do is move the pocket to cut down the ability of the defense to play the passing lanes, and give Moore enough time to find the seams in the zone.

2 – Keep Up The Pass Rush.
Only Washington State with the outstanding Mkristo Bruce in their arsenal has created the kind of pressure the Beavers have this year. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker deserves the "turnaround coach of the year" award for the defensive packages he has devised in the latter half of the year to create some pressure and limit teams from converting on third down.

After frustrating Beaver fans for a couple of years by refusing to play a nickel package, Banks is even talking about installing a dime package. Even if that remark was made in jest, if this Cowboy Mark is the new Beaver Defensive Coordinator, give that guy a raise because I LIKE him.

The DL rotation is working, the nickel is working, the secondary is playing better with the boost. And this week they get the third string QB in Kris Heavner at the controls, so they need to keep their ears pinned back and bring the heat. Good things will happen if they do.

Go get em, Dorian.

3 – Get A Couple Big Plays.
If Oregon State can manufacture two or three big plays in this game, it will break it wide open. Arizona's offense has been atrocious at times and if the running game is shut down, the potential to get some turnovers and a big play is there.

Put Sabby in position to play centerfield on third down, take the chain off D-Dog and let him run. Put the ball in Ruben and Sammie's hands a couple times on a reverse or a slip screen, hit Big Joe in a TE seam route. But most of all, feed the rock to Ev. When he rips off a big run late in the game, it will absolutely tear the defense's heart out.


Reviewing last week's keys:

  • Keep Stanback From Running Wild: Again Coach Banker gets big kudos for putting together an outstanding scheme. A review of the gametape showed Derrick Doggett shadowing Isaiah Stanback's every move when the pocket broke down, and D-Dog rewarded Coach Banker's faith in him by putting up a Pac 10 POW performance. Stanback rushed 11 times for 11 yards, and was sacked 3 times for a loss of 32 yards. Grade: A+.

  • Find Some Mojo: If Sammie Stroughter doesn't have a nickname yet, he should. And it should be, "Mojo," seven receptions, 225 yards. The punt team clearly worked to keep the ball out of his hands and put the ball on the sidelines - instead of working on pinning the Beavers deep. Sammie has emerged in the last two weeks as a true weapon, and not coincidentally Matt Moore had the best game of his collegiate career. Grade: A.

  • Win the Special Teams Battle: Lawson and Francies averaged nearly 25 yards per return, and though Sammie didn't notch any punt returns, UW focused on putting the ball on the sidelines where he didn't have the chance for a return. Serna was perfect on XP's and FG's yet AGAIN (I think Alexis may like Husky Stadium as much as Coach Riley). OSU maintained excellent field position, though Loomis' punt average dipped below 40 yards a touch. Grade: B+.

(OA's keys to the game appear sometime on or before gameday every week, depending on how long he has procrastinated on writing and how long he spends ironing his poofy shirts and dusting his Ryan Seacrest autographed photos.)

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