One of the many pitfalls of beating a good team is overlooking the next opponent. Every year in college football we see a team come out flat a week after a huge upset win.
The Beavers must win two of their last five games to become bowl eligible and it is tempting to look ahead on the schedule. But coach Mike Riley has preached all year long to take the season one game at a time and focus on getting better each week.
“We started talking about that on Sunday,” Riley said who is 33-33 in Corvallis. “Whether you dwell on a loss for too long or you dwell on a win too long, you can’t get beaten by that game. It’s as much a mental thing as anything.
“The important thing will be attention to detail in practice and the speed with which we practice and the intent in which we practice. That will be huge.”
That speed and intensity at which the players practice has been pinpointed by several players as to why the Men in Black have won three straight and started to play good football on both sides of the ball. Players taking ownership, coaches and players staying the course and working hard, and paying attention to detail are several other things they have highlighted as helping turn around their season.
“The faster you practice the more focused you are because you have to keep paying attention,” center Kyle DeVan said. “Matt is always trying to get us to move faster, hustle up to the line and back to huddle. You could see it each week, we started working faster and harder.”
While there are many pitfalls coming off a big win, there are many positives as well and plenty of motivation to beat the Sun Devils. Similar to USC, ASU has dominated the series with Oregon State holding a 23-8-1 advantage. The Beavers have defeated Arizona State just twice since 1971. Plus, ASU humiliated OSU last year at Reser.
“They did beat us badly last year physically. They really took it to us,” Riley said. “There are a lot of reasons for motivation and their history is one of them.”
History has also shown that Arizona State likes to air it out, but this year they bring a more balanced offense then in the past with the number two rushing attack in the conference at 172.6 yards per game. The Sun Devils are putting up 28.4 points per game while adding 190.6 yards per game through the air.
“We’re playing a team that is not unlike ourselves in many ways,” Riley said. “They started out and had some struggles a little bit early on with a couple of games but have rebounded, won games and kind of found an identity with what they are doing on offense and have continued to play very physical, aggressive defense.
“I anticipate a very hungry team coming in here and one we will have to match and even be hungrier than they are.”
A large part of Arizona State’s success can be attributed to an offensive line that has been hurt by injuries, but keeps on performing at a high level, a tailback, Ryan Torain, who is third in conference in rushing averaging 89.0 yards per game, and a deadly tight end, Zach Miller, who leads the team with 27 receptions for 243 yards and three touchdowns.
Just like every game, the Beavers must prevent the big play and pay special attention to Miller and Torain.
“We know going into the game we can’t give up any big plays,” said safety Sabby Piscitelli who has 37 tackles in the last five games. “They are going to go for them, and as a defense we have to be sound. It is going to come down in the secondary and making big plays this week.”
Big plays on offense will also be needed, but it will be facing a defense that has been playing just as well as the Beavers’. The ASU defense has 24 sacks, 15 by different players, has given up just 120.7 yards in the air in the last three games and just three touchdowns in the last 10 quarters of play.
“We are going to have to be versatile in the passing game to handle the rush,” Riley said. “Even if it is a four man rush those guys are pretty active up front. You are going to have to beat very physical man coverage too. It is a very difficult task for our offense this week."
And the difficult task is complicated by injuries to several players on offense. Wide receiver Ruben Jackson and running back Yvenson Bernard both sat out USC with ankle injuries, but are expected to be back. RG Jeremy Perry injured his foot and is questionable while Moore is healing from a finger injury.
The good news is the team has depth with Clinton Polk filling in nicely for Bernard, Sammie Stroughter stepping up his game in Jackson’s absence and Adam Speer playing splendidly at right guard for Perry.
"It was a major deal for Clinton Polk to step up...to pass protect, gain 100 yards, that was a major factor,” Riley said. “It is comforting to know that he is capable of doing that because when he does he earns the respect of the coaching staff and team.”
The Beavers were in a similar situation last year. They needed two wins to become bowl eligible, but did not finish losing four of their last five. And despite the team pulling off one of the biggest upsets in school history and a bowl game within their grasp, they will not be satisfied to get seven wins then relax.
“We don’t just want to win seven games and go to a bowl,” DeVan said. “We want to win 10 now. That is what we are striving for and we aren’t going to stop working until we get there and the work starts today.”
If the Beavers do win their final five games of the season, or the majority of their final games, it will be a special year for the Orange and Black of the gridiron.
“We’ve just scratched the surface on what we would like to accomplish in a season,” Riley said. “We’ve got a lot of football left. It’s certainly no time for complacency. We’ve got to get better. That’s got to be the way we approach each day.”
- For full quotes from Riley, Piscitelli, DeVan, and Moore visit the premium
- RB Yvenson Bernard is expected to play against Arizona
State, but in a limited role. Clinton Polk will receive the
- WR Ruben Jackson is expected to return and has been practicing.
- RG Jeremy Perry has been taking it easy at practice. He
is not on crutches and it is still up in the air if he will start or not.
If he is not available, Adam Speer will take his place in
- C Kyle DeVan's knee held up well against USC and will start.
He did cut his hand against USC though.
- QB Matt Moore's finger is healing nicely after banging
it on a helmet against USC.
- RT Josh Linehan, who was originally scheduled to be back for the USC game, is still out for several more weeks and may not be back until the Civil War or lateri.