DAY 19: A defensive avalanche

CORVALLIS--The defense came to play on Thursday. Boy, did they ever. The secondary in particular went all microwave, with Keenan Lewis making like a ball-hawking ball magnet in the back forty. Suaesi Tuimaunei, Keaton Kristick, Al Afalava and a host of others all got in on the action, there's audio from Mike Riley and more in this free practice report.

It was almost a perfect day for football. Practice was at Reser stadium and held under a pleasant Oregon sun. And the conditions seemed to suit the Beaver defense just fine.

Subscribers can listen to Oregon State head man Mike Riley talk post-practice on the status of James Dockery, a key special-teamer for the Beavs, Sean Canfield, and more, here:

Special teams
Ever since the coaches mentioned some potential starters on special teams, the units' play has come together well. Both the punting and kicking went very smoothly today.

The second team kicks were split between Matt Barker and Ryan Allen, both of whom are expected to redshirt this year.

Offense: 11 vs. none
Riley seemed to be extremely pleased with the proceedings in the drill. They also ran through a few red zone and goal line drills.

Keaton Kristick and Keenan Lewis makes good defensive stops to start the skeleton drills. Kristick knocked away a near completion from the waiting hands of a tight end. Jacquizz Rodgers caught a short one and was looking for room to roam, but Keith Pankey was right there to stop him from further gain.

The next pass from Lyle Moevao was bobbled by Chris Johnson and Lewis jumped on it, picking it off. Round one goes to the defense, hands down, and they were just getting warmed up.


Justin Engstrom found Damola Adeniji and Jeremy Francis (pictured) for his two completions.

Moevao on his second set of reps hit Sammie Stroughter and Darrell Catchings for good gains.

But just when the offense seemed to get the upper hand, Lewis, who was praised by Riley in yesterday's audio clip, intercepts Moevao again with a great leap and grab. On the play, Lewis ran stride for stride with Stroughter and timed to perfection his jump. That was one pretty pick.

11 vs. 11 scrimmage
Suaesi Tuimaunei knocked down the first pass in the drill and then a couple of plays later, intercepts Moevao for a pick-6. The intended receiver on the play, Howard Croom, slipped and fell down, almost guaranteeing trouble for the offense.


Tuimaunei is building a strong case for that starting spot at Stanford -- starter Al Afalava will sit the game out. Speaking of whom, on the next play, Afalava bats down a pass intended for James Rodgers (pictured).

Good play both ways, Afalava on the break up and Rodgers turning in to a DB and making sure the pass wasn't picked off.

Engstrom completed a couple of nice passes to Aaron Nichols and Shane Morales. Nichols gained some good yards after the catch.

On the final play of the scrimmage action, James Rodgers makes a sliding catch to at least slightly stem the tide.

Still, the defense wins the scrimmage battle too.

Two-minute drill
The drill went ok offensively for the most part, but Afalava maintained the defensive roll with a great pick. The defense was simply booming with confidence at this point.

The offense did manage to complete passes to Chris Johnson and Shane Morales.

Patrick Henderson joined the defensive surge with a nice bat down, Damola Adeniji was the intended receiver on the play.

Moevao comes back with completions to Howard Croom, Chris Johnson and Ryan McCants. McCants, who can make yards after contact look like an art form, was stopped right after the line of scrimmage by an alert Dwight Roberson.

Engstrom's pass was low to Aaron Nichols but the receiver dived headlong and managed to reel it in just before the pigskin hit the ground. Gabe Miller made a nice catch on the run.

Then Jeremy Francis, who has spent a decent amount of the camp healing up, showcases one of his moves in making one of the backup linebackers look like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.

That was one heck of a move by Francis and served to remind the spectators at practice that the Beavs have three running backs, McCants, Quizz and Francis, who could give Pac-10 defenses trouble this year.

Scout teams
The offense and defense against spent a good amount of time with their scout teams, with the bulk of the scrimmaging now in the rear view mirror as the coaches try to keep everyone healthy headed into Stanford -- the season opener for the Beavs is less than a week away.

On the offensive side, McCants put together some good runs. The defense was loud, as loud as they have been in a while, and made some nice stops. It was difficult to tell for sure but it looked like Lewis made yet another pick.


Play of the day
Keenan Lewis' interception of Moevao's pass in the latter half of the skelly. Stroughter has given the defense fits throughout camp, deftly using both his speed and moves to create separation but on this play, Lewis was stuck to him like glue all the way. And the timing on his leap was pristine.(pictured).

Wow. What a difference out there on Thursday. After the defense opened strong to begin the camp, the offense has held the upper hand for quite a while here -- but the D sure came to play on Thursday.

Not sure what got into them -- whether defensive coordinator Mark Banker lit a fire under his charges, they were tired of reading about offensive supremacy or seeing average grades assigned by this correspondent to the various defensive units this past week or what. But...

Whatever it was, they dominated the offense today.

And no, the offense wasn't playing badly, it was more a matter of an avalanche of great defensive plays, many resulting in turnovers and sudden stops.

It's only one practice, the defense has been less than stellar over a stretch of time and it's important not to read too much into Thursday, but this also must be said -- from this chair, there were flashes of the last year's stop corps out on the field Thursday.

They seemed to feed off one another's energy and it was more and more contagious as the session went on. The backups were buying in, getting involved in some nice stops. Tuimaunei on Thursday was making a strong case for that starting safety spot when the Beavs travel to Palo Alto.

The coaches will be hoping the defense can carry this kind of momentum though to the Stanford tilt. With the season getting underway next Thursday night, the Beavers on both offense and defense look to be steadily coming together.

Thursday's outing also serves as a reminder that this defense is capable of some big things -- there is no question as to their potential. What can also be projected of the '08 Beavs on defense, if the whole of fall camp is any indication, is that it can be a thin line indeed between great and average play for the stop corps. But whatever they did before Thursday's practice, they should bottle it.


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