Sun gives Beaver D the chance to ‘measure'

THANK YOU BOWL game gods. Oh, you've certainly taken away more than you've given where the Pac-10 is concerned in recent years but the Sun Bowl opponent for the No. 24 Beavers, that's nice work. Oregon State gets a shot at a Top 25 team ranked higher. And they get a shot to measure up to their head coach's oft-repeated statement over the course of the season, plus a little redemption as well.

As much redemption as can be had in college football when you're not playing in a Rose or BCS bowl, that is. If the Beaver D rebounds on Dec. 31 in El Paso, however, if Oregon State comes out on top against No. 18 Pitt, the 2008 Beaver campaign suddenly takes on a different light than the filtered view presently seen in some quarters following the Civil War loss.

And that's because the Beaver D has a chance to go up against one of the top running backs in the nation. Only a sophomore, the Associated Press earlier this season opined LeSean McCoy could be the best crunch time Pitt running back since Tony Dorsett.

And McCoy has been a guy who gets stronger as the game goes along. He's also tied for the nation's scoring lead.

THE BEAVER DEFENSE had been stout for nearly the entire season before giving up 385 yards rushing against the Ducks -- before that the Oregon State defensemen were averaging less than 300 yards allowed in total offense. But the OSU stop corps, thanks to the Sun Bowl matchup, has a chance to turn it around. It will be a challenge.

When Pitt played South Florida, the Bulls entered the game 5-0 and allowing a paltry 58.8 rushing yards per game. McCoy rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the 26-21 win.

In the quadruple overtime win over Notre Dame, McCoy rushed for 101 yards - after the third quarter.

It was, more than anything else, McCoy and his blockers who enabled Pitt to win their last five road games and to knock off two teams ranked in the Top 10 in the process.

Doesn't mean it can't be done.

CINCY HELD McCOY to 82 yards, Bowling Green to 71, Buffalo to 93 and Iowa to 78. The key to those four games? Pitt opponents forced punts, got their defense off the field after third down and put up points of their own. McCoy averaged 19.5 carries a game in those four contests. In the other eight, he carried the ball almost 26 times a game.

At the same time, you can't completely sell out to stop McCoy.

Louisville did that. And they held McCoy to a career low 39 rushing yards on 17 carries this season.

Louisville also lost that game 41-7.

Four Pitt wide receivers ran the ball in the win, mostly on reverses, and Aundre Wright ran for his first college touchdown and had a long scoring run called back on a penalty.

WHO WINS THE Sun could come down to the lines -- if OSU rebounds up front, they're fully capable, in concert with the linebackers and defensive backs, of holding McCoy under the century mark. If so, the Beavs probably come away with a Top 20 final ranking and a 9-4 mark. It would be the third straight season they've won at least nine games.

Pitt is mostly young across the board, including up front on offense, but the o-line has been steadily improving and could be peaking at the right time.

Conversely, Oregon State's defensive line played their worst game of the season against the Ducks. DT Stephen Paea being hampered by an inflamed bursa sac in his knee didn't help, but guys like Victor Butler, Slade Norris and Pernnell Booth will need to rebound and play to their abilities, as evidenced by their combined performances over the 11 preceding games.

Mike Riley talked often this season about how the true measure of a team is how they finish. The Beavers did anything but in their regular season finale with a Rose Bowl berth on the line. The Sun gives them another opportunity to rewrite some of that.

And no bigger opportunity awaits in that arena than for the Beaver D.

The under appreciated LaRod Stephens-Howling has been a dependable four yards a carry running back every time Pitt has given the ball to him this season, which hasn't been too often with McCoy. But he has five rushing touchdowns on the year.

BeaverBlitz Top Stories