Side by side: OSU (2-1) at ASU (3-0)

For the fourth time in five years Oregon State and Arizona State will square off in the Pac-10 opener for both teams. Arizona State is looking to keep their perfect 3-0 record intact while Oregon State is looking to snap a 15-game losing streak in Tempe.

LAST WEEK: The Oregon State offense cranked out 607 yards of offense and the defense picked off four passes as OSU crushed Idaho State 61-10 in the friendly confines of Reser Stadium.

LAST WEEK:  The Sun Devils handled the visiting Aztecs of San Diego State 34-13. Backup running back Keegan Herring ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter was 15-21 for 200 yards and two scores.


WHEN OREGON STATE IS ON OFFENSE: The passing game finally got going last week, albeit against a lesser opponent, as Sean Canfield completed 21 of 30 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns.

He got rid of the ball quickly, made great reads as he went through his progressions and looked the most comfortable he has all year long. His performance locked him into the starting role as he beat out Lyle Moevao.

Canfield was helped by the reemergence of split end Sammie Stroughter who hauled in nine passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, one on a 48-yard bomb. Stroughter missed most of fall camp due to personal issues and struggled in his first game back at Cincinnati, but looked like the old Stroughter last week.

Senior flanker Anthony Brown had a career day hauling in eight passes for a career high 156 yards and one touchdown. Brown, who has 32 starts under his belt, will be the x-factor Saturday with Stroughter receiving the bulk of the attention.

Rounding out the starting receivers is Brandon Powers in the slot who is mainly used to block, but does have great hands with eight receptions for 92 yards on the season. Backing up the three are true freshman James Rodgers and Darrell Catchings with junior Shane Morales in the slot.

Rodgers, who is small at 5-7, has speed to burn, is tough and is used on end arounds where he has been extremely effective. Almost every time he touches the ball he picks up a first down. He has 4 catches for 60 yards and five carries for 101 yards. Catchings has great hands catching seven passes for 66 yards and one touchdown.

The Beavers often use a two tight end set with Howard Croom and Brady Camp as the starters with Gabe Miller and John Reese rotating in.

Each of the above mentioned players are young, in their first season at tight end, and have not worked their way into passing offense yet with the four combining for just seven catches for 82 yards.

One of the main focuses for the Sun Devils will be stopping Yvenson Bernard, who has been held in check the last two weeks running for just 84 yards in the last two weeks, although he carried the ball just 14 times against Idaho State as the team worked on their passing attack.

Bernard doesn't have breakaway speed, and prefers to stay in between the tackles where does a great job of keeping his feet moving and bouncing off defenders. While his running is superb, he pass catching is excellent as well, he leads the team in receptions, and his pass blocking ability is often overlooked.

Backing up Bernard is Matt Sieverson, a hard nosed, tough running player, and Clinton Polk, who played his first game last week after gaining academic clearance.

The offensive line is supposed to be one of the top units in the country, but have struggled early this year. They received an early blow in the season opener when All-American Jeremy Perry hurt his foot and has missed the last two games and will sit out this one as well.

The squad failed to give Bernard any running room against Cincinnati and didn't particularly fair well against Idaho State as they should have, but didn't, dominate a lesser opponent.

Starting last week offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh put a muzzle on his players talking to the media due to their poor play and hopes that their performance on the field will do the talking.

The right side of the line is the strongest side right with guard Roy Schuening, who has a team high 40 straight starts, and guard Andy Levitre, one of the top technical blockers on the team.

Senior Kyle DeVan is a post season honors candidate at center.

The left side of the line is where ASU may try to overwhelm newcomer Tavita Thompson at tackle and Adam Speer at guard.

Thompson has played well though in his first year as a starter and Speer has plenty of experience, but blocking for the run is where they both have struggled.

WHEN ARIZONA STATE IS ON OFFENSE:  It’s vanilla, it’s effective and it looks a whole bunch like Oregon State’s offense. Pound the ball on the ground often, and stretch the field when the WR’s will have single coverage.

QB Rudy Carpenter’s mobility and comfort level in the shotgun formation, compliments the athletic Sun Devil WR’s who as a group are leaps and bound better than last year.

RB’s senior Ryan Torain (assuming he’s healthy) and junior Keegan Herring are one of the best 1-2 punches at running back in the league.

WR’s junior Mike Jones (ASU’s leading receiver) and sophomore Kyle Williams have already proved in this short season that they are dependable go-to guys and playmakers. Senior Rudy Burgess is finally healthy and last week showed that he can still be a viable weapon in his team’s aerial attack.

Senior TE Brent Miller hasn’t been as effective in the passing game, but certainly has the ability to be a potent weapon.

WHEN ARIZONA STATE HAS THE BALL:  In the past the Beaver defense has almost exclusively used a 4-3 set, but have increasingly used a 3-4 with the many experienced players on the team. The defense routinely plays 10 defensive linemen, eight linebackers and nine defensive backs.

Entering Saturday's game the unit is second in the nation in scoring defense (22.0), 13th for total defense (253.3) and second for rush defense (27.7).

A large part of the Men in Black's success against the run can be directly attributed to the defensive line where seniors Curtis Coker and Gerard Lee along with William 'Akau'ola Vea and Pernell Booth do a great job of clogging up the middle.

On the ends are Jeff Van Orsow and Dorian Smith, who have both had quiet years thus far. Van Orsow doesn't get to the quarterback much, but is always around the ball. Smith led the team in sacks last year, but has just one this year.

Juniors Slade Norris, who leads the conference in sacks with 3.5, and Victor Butler, who leads the team with 3.5 tackles for loss, are pass rushing specialists used in passing situations.

The senior linebacking trio of Joey LaRocque, Alan Darlin and Derrick Doggett roam the middle of the field. LaRocque is always around the ball and is third on the team in tackles with 14, including three for loss.

Darlin does a great job stopping the run. He has 11 tackles and one pass breakup. Doggett is the fastest and most athletic of the bunch with great range. He has 14 tackles, including three for loss and one safety.

Spelling those three are Bryant Cornell at middle linebacker and Keaton Kristick, a native Arizonian and future standout.

In the secondary is free safety Al Afalava, who leads the team with 19 tackles and a team high three pass breakups, and strong safety Daniel Drayton who has 18 tackles, including three for loss.

Both are solid tacklers and can really punishing blows. They have also done a great job of coming up and stopping the run.

Giving Afalava and Drayton a spell are Bryan Payton, who is used when the Beavers are in a nickel package, and Greg Laybourn, who picked off his first career pass last week.

At the corners are longtime starters Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis. Hughes bulked up over the summer and has been very physical with the receivers. He has 13 tackles, including three for loss and one pass breakup.

Lewis grabbed the first interception of his career last week returning it 16 yards. Sophomore Tim Clark is the first off of the bench, although he is seldom used.

WHEN OREGON STATE HAS THE BALL: The Sun Devils will defend in the same manner as probably all of Beavers’ opponents this year – contain Yvenson Bernard and take your chances with Sean Canfield beating you with his arm.

As it is, and the stats may not really show it, ASU’s rush defense is stronger than its pass defense, so this strategy actually plays into the hands of its personnel. Defensive tackles Michael Marquardt and David Smith, along with outside linebacker and leading tackler Robert James will be asked to successfully contain Oregon State’s running game.

Sammie Stroughter is likely to see cornerback Justin Tryon shadowing him. The secondary has its question marks and it will be worth noting if the Beavers can exploit it.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Alexis Serna, for now, performs all of OSU's kicking needs. He has made 2 of 3 field goals on the year, with a long of 37. Serna has also made a school record 114 consecutive extra points.

After the punter quit in August, Serna assumed punting duties where he has struggled averaging a conference worst 34.6 yards per kick, with one block.

Serna handles kickoffs as well averaging 61 yards per boot although Justin Kahut may take over to help rest Serna's leg.

Stroughter returns punts, although most teams kick away from him now. He has four returns for 36 yards.

Gerard Lawson primarily handles the kickoff returns averaging 24.1 yards per return. He does a nice job of running north-south and has the speed to take it to the house.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Redshirt freshman Kicker Thomas Weber is so far having a fine inaugural season His strong leg has helped him convert all three of his field goal attempts – two of them from 40-yards plus.

He has two touchbacks on the season and his other kickoffs are pinning returners deep and allowing opponents just over 24 yards per kick return.

Senior punter Jonathan Johnson is struggling this year and is averaging 39 yards a punt.

OREGON STATE CAN WIN IF: They establish the running game. If the Beavers establish the running game, they will control the clock and open up the passing game.

Get Bernard his 100-yards and the Beavers will come away from Tempe with a "W."

ARIZONA STATE CAN WIN IF: A balanced attack on offense and a strong run defense are a sure recipe for success and a home victory.

OREGON STATE CAN LOSE IF: It was the same last game and it is the same this game - the Beavers will lose if they turn the ball over early giving ASU a short field and easy scoring opportunities.

ARIZONA STATE CAN LOSE IF: Penalties come back to haunt the team, lose the time of possession battle and punter Jonathan Johnson continues to turn in sub-par performances.
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