Side by side - ASU (5-3) at OSU (5-3)

One team will take a step closer to the post season Nov. 4 as the Oregon State Beavers face the Arizona State Sun Devils Nov. 4 in Corvallis. OSU is riding a three game winning streak and are looking for their fourth straight conference win. A task they have not achieved since 2000. ASU is on a two game winning streak and are looking for their first three game conference win streak since 2002.

LAST WEEK:  Oregon State (5-3, 3-2 Pac-10) pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year as they forced four turnovers and held on to defeat the No. 3 USC Trojans 33-31 in Reser Stadium.

The Beavers held a 23-point lead in the third quarter before QB John David Booty and company staged a furious comeback.  After scoring a touchdown with seven seconds to play the Trojans needed a two-point conversion to tie the game.  Booty dropped back and let a pass loose towards the corner of the end zone, but DE Jeff Van Orsow got his hands in the air knocking the pass into the turf and sending Beaver Nation into a frenzy.

QB Matt Moore completed 21 of 32 for 262 yards and one touchdown while WR Sammie Stroughter hauled in a team high eight catches for 127 yards.  Stroughter also added an electric 70-yard punt return for six points. 

RB Yvenson Bernard sat out with an ankle injury and in his place junior Clinton Polk ran for 100 yards on 22 carries.  TE Joe Newton had four grabs for 41 yards and his first touchdown in Pac-10 play this year.

PK Alexis Serna connected on 4 of 6 with one miss and one field goal being blocked due to a bad snap.

SS Sabby Piscitelli led the team with eight tackles while FS Bryan Payton continued to play well with five tackles and one interception in the end zone thwarting an early USC scoring drive.

 

LAST WEEK:  Arizona State (5-3, 2-3 Pac-10) won in dramatic fashion up in Seattle, as they edged Washington 26-23 in overtime. The Sun Devils led 20-6 going into the fourth quarter, but miscues and penalties allowed the host team to even the score late in the fourth. In the first overtime period, Washington only mustered a 47-yard field goal. When ASU took the ball, they scored on their second snap in the extra period when sophomore QB Rudy Carpenter found the streaking junior TE Brent Miller in the end zone on a 25-yard pass.

Last week, the maroon and gold were finally able to get a solid performance from both of its running backs in the same game. Sophomore Keegan Herring (six carries) and JC transfer Ryan Torain (23 carries) each had 98 yards apiece, with the former scoring twice from 19 and 65 yards out. ASU's aerial attack continued to be less flashy yet more efficient. Carpenter was sharp, albeit throwing mostly short to medium routes, and completed 16 of 22 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Herring paced all receivers with three catches and 43 yards. Senior TE Jamaal Lewis, who was an integral part of the offense in 2005, caught his first TD of the year, a 12-yard pass, which was also the first score in that game.

The ASU defense had nowhere to go but up from a dismal 2005 campaign. Nonetheless, for long stretches against Washington it did a solid job stopping the Huskies, especially in overtime where they limited Washington to a field goal and allowing the offense a chance to ultimately win the game with a touchdown. The safety tandem of senior Zach Catanese and junior Josh Barrett had nine total tackles each to lead all Sun Devil defenders. Barrett also had two interceptions which helped him nab the Pac-10 defensive player of the week honors. While ASU only had one sack during the contest, it limited both Udub QB's to just 13 of 31 passing and 107 yards.
KEY INJURIES: KEY INJURIES:

Stephen Berg, OL, Terry Richardson, WR, and Chris Blaoney, CB are all out. Rudy Burgess is doubtful.

WHEN OREGON STATE IS ON OFFENSE:  The offense finally looked like it turned a corner against USC as they put up 35 points and 351 yards of offense against a very good defense.

QB Matt Moore had his best game in a Beaver uniform almost playing a perfect game.  He was in control the entire time throwing the ball away when he needed to or running when he needed to.  Moore stood tall in the pocket taking several big hits, but delivering beautiful passes.  In short, Moore looked like a Pac-10 senior quarterback.

Moore's favorite target is junior Sammie Stroughter who has had over 100 receiving yards in four the last five games.  His 42 receptions and 770 yards lead the team.  Stroughter can stretch the field and is solid underneath.  Lining up with Stroughter are Anthony Wheat-Brown at flanker and Brandon Powers in the slot.  Wheat-Brown has had a quiet season with just 16 catches for 232 yards and one touchdown, but has the ability to have a big game.  He is a deadly downfield blocker and one of the stronger members on the squad.  Powers is the team's fourth leading receiver with 20 grabs for 203 yards.  He knows the system inside and out and does the little things to keep the offense running smoothly.  Flanker Ruben Jackson is expected to return after missing last week's game with an ankle injury.  Jackson averages a team high 27.8 yards per catch and was just getting into the rotation before his injury.

Tight end Joe Newton had his best conference game last week against the Men of Troy catching four passes for 41 yards and one touchdown.  He is the team's second leading receiver with 25 catches for 277 yards and a team high four touchdowns.  His big frame makes him difficult to defend in the red zone.  Newton's numbers are a little down this year do to coaches holding him in to block against blitzes.

RB Yvenson Bernard missed the USC game with an ankle injury and is questionable again this week.  Bernard is a well rounded player who is a fine runner, an excellent blocker and a decent receiver.  He is just one of two players in the conference averaging over 100 yards per game on the ground.  Bernard has 770 yards and seven touchdowns on 155 carries (4.8 ypc) and is the team's third leading receiver with 24 catches for 124 yards.  In Bernard's absence junior Clinton Polk started and did an excellent job of running between the tackles, picking up blitzes and holding onto the ball.  Polk rushed 22 times for 100 yards versus SC, doubling his season totals, and will most likely get the start this week.

Occasionally, the Beavers line up in the I-formation where true freshman Micah Strickland is used.  Strickland is  primarily there as a blocker, but sneaks out from time to time to catch the pigskin. He has five catches for 44 yards.

Despite officially yielding six sacks, their first sacks in three games, the offensive line did a beautiful job protecting Moore and blocking for Polk.  The line is currently battling some nagging injuries as RT Josh Linehan has been out since September with a knee injury, RG Jeremy Perry is battling a foot injury while C Kyle DeVan is working his way through a knee sprain. 

If there is any good news from the injuries it is the second stringers have filled in without skipping a beat.  Andy Levitre has filled in at right tackle while Adam Speer played well in Perry's absence.  As a unit they have well over 100 combined starts and pride themselves on being physical with their opponents.

WHEN ARIZONA STATE IS ON OFFENSE:  In a total 180 degree turn from last year, ASU has become a run-oriented offense, who is satisfied with a short-to-medium passing game, taking very few chances downfield. As a result, Carpenter has cut dramatically on his turnovers, and the offense is giving more rest to the defense with its long drives.

The duo of the physical Torain and the shifty Herring hit all cylinders last week, and could be an invaluable 1-2 RB punch, which could bode well in what should be a rainy Saturday in Corvallis. That pair of ball carriers are also very adept at catching screen passes and tacking on several yards after the catch. If the Beavers continue to be stingy on run defense, and cause fumbles like they did last week, the maroon and gold may be in for a long day this weekend.

After a rough start to the season, Carpenter and his receiving targets are showing signs of improvement. Junior tight end Zach Miller is by far the squad's best wide receiver, and has been Carpenter's favorite outlet for his passes. Sophomore wide receiver Nate Kimbrough has been the most consistent wide receiver the last few weeks, and along with Miller is also on the receiving end of many of Carpenter's passes. In the event that the Sun Devils will take a shot with a 20 plus yard route, look for redshirt freshman Brandon Smith and true freshman Kyle Williams to be on the other end of that pass. While the weather conditions won't be inviting for an aerial attack, Oregon State's less than average pass defense may be too tempting to pass on. Thus, it will have ASU taking more chances in the passing game, compared to recent weeks.

WHEN ARIZONA STATE HAS THE BALL:  Similar to Arizona State the OSU football team's turn around started with the stellar play on the defensive side of the ball.  The defense subs three to four players every play which has resulted in more players taking ownership which, in turn, has resulted in many players stepping up.

The defense has dominated on third downs allowing its opponents to convert just 25.3 percent (second in the conference).  In the second half of the year nobody has been able to run on them as they are giving up an average of  95.5 yards per game (second in the conference).  And the good statistics keep on coming.

The Beavers are second in the conference in sacks (28) and second in the nation in tackles for loss per game (8.5).  Fueling those numbers are the starting linebacking group that consists of MLB Alan Darlin, SLB Derrick Doggett and WLB Joey LaRocque.

Darlin specializes in stopping the run leading the team with 52 tackles, including nine for loss and four sacks, and a team high three fumble recoveries.  He usually toes the line in the nickel package.  Doggett is one of the most athletic players on the team and is capable of dominating a game.  He is second on the team with 48 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and three sacks, to go along with two interceptions.  LaRocque has really come on of late grabbing well over half of his 45 tackles in the last four contests.  LaRocque and Doggett will keep an eye on the dangerous ASU backfield.

Backups Bryant Cornell (15 tackles), Isaiah Cook (2 fumble recoveries) and Eric Liava'a Moala all (7 tackles) receive lots of time as well.

The most improved position from a year ago is the defensive line where DE Jeff Van Orsow has 30 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and two sacks.  The undersized Joe Lemma lines up at the other end spot where has 31 consecutive starts.  Lemma has nine tackles, including three sacks and is working through an ankle injury.  Junior college transfer Dorian Smith leads the team with five sacks.  Smith brings a lot of energy and threatens to take Lemma's starting spot every week.  The speedy Victor Butler is a pass rushing specialist and is used on third downs.  He has 3.5 sacks on the year.

One of the better players, yet unheralded players, on the defense is the fiery defensive tackle Curtis Coker who requires a double team.  Coker has 13 tackles, along with two sacks.  Senior Ben Siegert lines up at the other tackle position where he has 12 tackles.  William Vea (13 tackles/3 sacks), Pernell Booth (7 tackles) and Gerard Lee (12 tackles) all see time at tackle as well.

The secondary is led by strong safety Sabby Piscitelli who has a team high three interceptions to go along with 39 tackles.  Bryan Payton took over starting duties at free safety from Al Afalava three games ago and has played splendidly notching 27 tackles and one interception.  Payton is physical with an exceptional reach.  Afalava, who has 22 tackles, and Daniel Drayton (2 interceptions) split time with Payton at free safety and help out in the nickel package.

CB Keenan Lewis, who is struggling through a shoulder injury, leads the team in pass deflections with six.  Brandon Hughes, who has 20 tackles and four deflections, mans the other corner spot.  Coye Francies is the first off of the bench and is receiving more playing time as the year wears on.  Francies is a big time hitter who has caused a team high three fumbles.

WHEN OREGON STATE HAS THE BALL: The Beavers may be in the middle of the standings when it comes to Pac-10 offensive categories, but all that ultimately means is that they're a well-balanced team when they possess the pigskin. Even without star RB Yeverson Bernard, Oregon State was able to run effectively with Phoenix-area running back Clinton Polk.

ASU's front four, namely defensive tackles senior Jordan Hill and junior Michael Marquardt, will undoubtedly have their hands full with two of those RB's (assuming Bernard is healthy to play this week). However, ASU's eight-man rotation at this position could greatly aid them in Corvallis. The aforementioned weather, and a less than average ASU rushing defense, could all translate in many rushing attempts for the home team.

While ASU gave up 16 receiving TD's, it still ranks as one of the league leaders in pass defense.

Senior defensive Kyle Caldwell has played very well the last three games, and along with senior linebacker Derron Ware are the most dangerous pass rushers for the Sun Devils.

If OSU's Matt Moore is allowed time in the pocket, he certainly has a capable lineup of receiving targets to catch the ball, headed by the ever-dangerous Sammie Stroughter. JC transfer Justin Tryon will probably be the cornerback matching up with the Beavers' star.

With the injury to Rudy Burgess, the other corner will be senior Keno Walter-White. Expect to see Barrett and freshman phenom Ryan McFoy help out from their safety position on passing downs.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Alexis Serna was just announced a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award and rightly so.  The junior has connected on 12 of 17 field goals with a long of 58, tying a school record.  He has also hit 85 consecutive extra points, a school record.

True freshman punter Kyle Loomis is still growing into his role.  Sometimes he gets off a beautiful kick, at other times he shanks one.  He mishandled a snap near OSU's goal line late against USC resulting in a touchdown, but is generally good at fielding the ball.  Loomis is averaging a conference worst 39.3 yards per kick with a long of 62.

Snapper Joel Cohen struggled against USC as several of his snaps hit the turf while others sailed a little high.  Holder Jon Stowbridge does an excellent job of hauling in the wild snaps.

PR Sammie Stroughter is one of the best in the nation and a threat to return it for six every time he touches the ball.  He has three touchdowns on the year, tying a Pac-10 record, and is averaging 19.7 yards per return, good for second in the nation.

KR Coye Francies and Gerard Lawson have done a decent job of returning kickoffs as Francies is averaging a respectable 23.6 yards per return.

Lawson is one of the top gunners on the kickoff and punt team's while Sabby Piscitelli has delivered several bone jarring hits on punt coverage.

SPECIAL TEAMS: ASU's punting woes of 2005 are so far a thing of the past, thanks to solid play of JC transfer Jonathan Johnson who averages 40.2 yards a punt.

Kicker Jesse Ainsworth is 4-8 on field goals this season, but hasn't made a field goal of 40 or more yards in a couple of years. As always, the senior boots the majority of his kickoffs for touchbacks, but when he doesn't the Sun Devils have been somewhat shaky in their kickoff coverage.

Senior Terry Richardson is arguably the Pac-10's best kick and punt returner, averaging 33.6 and 11.2 yards respectively in those categories. Yet, other players will have to pick up the slack in his absence. Namely, Kyle Williams who's redshirt year was burned last week at Washington.

The jitters certainly showed for him in that game (11 yards of total returns and a fumble), and now that his baptism is a behind him, it will be interesting to see if can display his tremendous talent that caused coaches to play him for the first time this late in the year.

Kimbrough and redshirt freshman WR Chris McGaha are also potential return men for ASU. With already three TD's on punt returns and an average of 19.7 yards per return, the Sun Devil punt team will face its biggest challenge of the season in Stroughter.

OREGON STATE CAN WIN IF: With nasty weather forecasted for Saturday both teams will rely on the running game.  It will be wet.  It will be cold.  It will be slippery.  That means there may be a lot of turnovers.

The offense must take care of the ball and not give ASU a short field to work with as points may be few and far between.

On defense, the unit must wrap up the ball carriers and force third and long situations.

ARIZONA STATE CAN WIN IF: The Sun Devils' have been featuring in recent weeks a no-frills offense, predicated on a strong rushing attack and sure passing. Consequently, the plethora of turnovers in the beginning of Pac-10 play hasn't revealed its ugly head.

This scheme is also one that can aid them in gaining an advantage in time of possession, wearing down Oregon State's defense, and ultimately getting a precious conference road victory under tough weather conditions.

On defense, ASU can come away victorious if they can continue to cause turnovers and put pressure on the Beavers rushing attack and force Moore to win the game with his arm.

OREGON STATE 2-DEEPS:
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ARIZONA STATE 2-DEEPS:
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Dan Norz is the publisher of BeaverFootball.com.  And that's another... O ... S ... U ... first down! Hod Rabino is the publisher for DevilsDigest.com

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