NOTEBOOK: Paea set the Sun Bowl table

IMAGINE WHAT HE would do if he were 100 percent. Actually, you don't have to, you saw it during the season before Stephen Paea's knee started acting up. An inflamed bursa sac and an MCL sprain hampered the d-tackle in November and until three days before the Sun Bowl, Mike Riley was noncommittal on how much he would play. But Paea set the table in El Paso. And then the Beaver D sat down to eat.

The stat line doesn't do his play justice.

Paea had four tackles, one solo, and a quarterback hurry in the Sun Bowl according to the official stats.

What the box score cannot illustrate however is just how dominant, how incredibly disruptive Paea was against No. 18 Pitt in Oregon State's 3-0 win.

Numerous plays for little, no gain or loss were a direct result of the OSU sophomore d-tackle's ability to get penetration. The end result was startling -- Pitt, the highest scoring team in the Big East, was held to 178 total yards on offense and zero points.

Pitt's All-America running back, scoring machine LeSean McCoy, had to immediately break sideways on a few occasions just to try and elude Paea -- and that allowed a flowing Beaver defense to come in and clean up.

Defensive tackles, as we've often written this season, don't get the numbers. They allow the linebackers, defensive ends and run supporting safeties to rack up the tackles.

Paea is different.

He logged 41 tackles this season and 11.5 of them were for loss. Most of his five sacks came when he chased down the quarterback. The guy, at 6-1, 293 pounds, can flat out run.

And the technique, athleticism and strength he showed in the Sun Bowl should have Beaver fans licking their chops when thinking of the next two years.

He was only a sophomore this season, a year in which it was the third game, against Hawaii, that it all started to click for Paea. Imagine what an offseason in the weight room, and then spring ball and fall camp under the tutelage of d-line coach Joe Seumalo, might result in next year, and then over the next two seasons.

Because he's already wicked good now.

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