The Beaver Beat (September 22, 2007)

Well, look at that. One poorly attended game against an inferior opponent, and Beaver Nation feels a little better. And why not? Idaho State may be Idaho State, but ask Michigan, Texas and Louisville if an FCS team can give an FBS team fits. Heck, ask the 2000 and 2005 Beavers if you can walk out of a gimme win still concerned about your team. A 51-point win is ALWAYS a 51-point win

LET'S GET THIS OUT OF THE WAY

Sean Canfield is a good quarterback. And barring some kind of weird, cataclysmic event, like the Duck running him over on that stupid motorcycle during the Civil War, he's probably going to be a great quarterback. Better than Derek Anderson (who threw too many picks), better than Matt Moore (who took too long to adjust) and possibly better than Jonathan Smith (who somehow managed to have an arm good enough to complement his knowledge of the game).

This week, people are a little more hesitant about calling Jake Locker from up the road the messiah, but for a few weeks there it looked like the Huskies were well on their way to renaming Husky Stadium after their freshman quarterback, and superimposing his smiling face over every TV broadcast the same way they do the yellow first-down line. Three picks and one touchdown later, maybe he really was mortal (The jury's still out on that one – Husky fans will know by Sunday morning).

Canfield will be in the same league as Locker. As the only two non-senior quarterbacks in the conference, they represent the future of the Pac-10 – and the future for both teams is extremely bright.

Why would I make that prediction, after a lackluster first two games, and a blowout against a glorified high school team? Because I'm not afraid of watching him throw a football.

Let me explain: Derek Anderson, Seattle, 2002. Matt Moore, Stanford, 2005. Shuddering yet?

But there hasn't been that game for Canfield – and I don't think it's coming. For one, the picks he's thrown have largely been examples of being a little slow on the release, being hit while he throws (which is also a result of being slow on the release), or just not getting enough air under a pass thrown into the win. He's not throwing up Ryan Gunderson (God bless him) flutterballs, or direct passes to opposing corners. The mistakes he's made are easily fixed with time and experience.

For another, I think Sean is "just that good". There was one play against Idaho State that illustrated that for me. Canfield, the lefty, rolled out to his right. Sammie Stroughter started cutting toward the sideline at about the one. Throwing across his body, Canfield threw a perfect pass right where only Stroughter could catch it – about five feet up, and one foot out of bounds. Stroughter dragged his feet, first and goal Beavers at the one-yard line.

That's the kind of play that, as someone on the Pure-Orange boards pointed out, is completely independent of the opponent. That kind of play is impressive against Idaho State or against Ohio State. And it's the kind of play your intrepid reporter believes Canfield can (and will) produce for the next three seasons.

THE ERICKSON VS. RILEY DEBATE

Everyone's favorite hack rabble rouser was at it again this week. I won't give him the pleasure of his name being written in yet another place, but let's just say that the worst sportswriter in the state has an article in the paper today talking about the Erickson vs. Riley era. As Hack Rabble Rouser argues it, deep down, we all really wish that Denny would come back and lead us to the promised land again. C'mon, he says – just admit you miss the penalties and the lawlessness and the Fiesta Bowl.

Judging from his analysis, you would think that Oregon State is the girlfriend who's five years out of an abusive relationship and now married to a really nice guy, but who misses all the "excitement" from the days with the jerk boyfriend.

First of all, as I emailed to someone today, "Jerk Boyfriend" wasn't that great:

What (Hack Rabble Rouser) won't tell you:

*The year that the Beavers went to the Fiesta Bowl, the best three teams in the league were Oregon, OSU and U-Dub. Wazzu was good, too. USC, Cal and UCLA were all mediocre to terrible. That makes winning the league just a little bit easier.

*Do YOU remember the 5-6 season in 2001? Me, too. And that was with a four-year starter at quarterback and a four-year starter at running back. Riley's only losing season came with a first-year starter at quarterback...oh yeah, and they managed to beat Boise State that year, along with Cal on the road.

*Not surprisingly, in 2002, when Oregon State had players like Derek Anderson, Steven Jackson, James Newson, Bill Swancutt and every other talented Beaver in the last ten years, Oregon State started out 4-0. Then they met USC - and Pete Carroll. 22-0 later, the Beavers lost the first of what would be three straight losses. That '02 team had more talent than probably any Beaver team in the past 30 years, including the Fiesta Bowl, and Erickson turned out an 8-5 season because USC was good, UCLA was better, and California just hired a coach by the name of Jeff Tedford.

*When Erickson left, the team was in absolute shambles. The offensive line was a mess of about 8 underperforming players, the only talent on the D-line was Swancutt, the secondary was atrocious and our premiere quarterback recruit was Ryan Gunderson.

Call it lightning in a bottle, but Riley's at least building a program - as opposed to throwing one together while the conference is having a down year.

Second of all, Hack Rabble Rouser thoughts aside, nobody misses 150 yards of celebration penalties and recruits flunking out. Sorry, the abuse is over.

EXPECTATIONS

If Oregon State wins on Saturday, the future looks bright for the Beavers. Beat the Devils, and the next four games are UCLA (who looked awful against Utah) and Arizona (who IS awful) at home, Cal in Berkeley (history says we have a winning streak in Berkeley – reality says that won't matter much this year), and then Stanford at home following a bye week. If this Beaver team is putting it together early enough to take down the Sun Devils in Tempe, which last happened during the Hoover Administration, they probably have enough talent to compete, and possibly win all of those games. Certainly it wouldn't appear as difficult as it did preseason, or following the Cincy game.

If there IS a meltdown? Well, four wins are going to be hard to come by. Stanford could jump up and bite someone, as could Arizona. Washington (unfortunately) doesn't suck as much anymore, and Wazzu is a late November game in Pullman.

PREDICTION TIME

There's a lot riding on this game in terms of fan expectations, and the outlook on the season. Arizona State the football team isn't terribly scary – none of their stats are that gaudy, they haven't played anyone, and their strength with Ryan Torrain and Keenan Herring is balanced out by OSU's strength at run defense.

That said, "Arizona State" the institution, as a Beaver fan, scares me. There's something about the Devils, particularly in Tempe, that always seems to get the Beavers. And that mental block itself will be a challenge to overcome.

If Oregon State comes out mentally prepared to play, I don't think there's any chance of a loss – the talent is too deep, and at all the right places to be outrun by ASU. If they struggle, or if they don't come out prepared at all, it WILL be a long night.

But hey, I'm an optimist. OSU 35-ASU 24.

Curtis Haley is 0-4 on getting this column in on time. At least he's consistent.

thebeaverbeat@beaverfootball.com

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