THE UNSUNG: Sammie delivers

IN A DEFENSIVELY dominated game like the 75th Sun Bowl, where the Beavs knocked off No. 18 Pitt by the smallish score of 3-0, the limelight will shine brightest on the Oregon State defense -- and well it should. But don't discount what guys on offense like senior wide receiver Sammie Stroughter did to help secure the victory.

There will be plenty written about what the Beaver defense did in the Sun Bowl. A dominating performance that held Pitt and their All-American running back scoreless with but 178 total yards on offense. But although the Beaver offense managed only three points, guys like Sammie Stroughter were instrumental in the win.

Stroughter made most of his plays in the first half. Heck, in the first quarter, Stroughter out gained the Pittsburgh offense on his own -- 66 to 54 yards.

Stroughter's six catches for 88 yards were both game highs. He had another 15 yards on returns plus 19 more on two carries, giving him 122 all-purpose yards.

Beyond any of the numbers, though, Pitt couldn't cover Stroughter.

He was open just about every time Lyle Moevao found him, (or had time to find him) and on more than one occasion, the Beaver receiver made sweet grabs on footballs buffeted around by a strong El Paso wind.

In the big picture, what Stroughter did was give the Beavs the edge in field position, huge in a game that featured 20 punts.

Indeed, on a trifecta of third-and-longs, Stroughter made the plays that flipped the field.

On third and seven, he moved the chains for 23 yards. On third and 10, Stroughter again gave the Beavs a fresh set of downs with a 17 yard catch. On third and 11, Stroughter got Oregon State 18 hashes.

On any single play in this game, Pitt could have taken the lead. But Stroughter helped ensure Pitt would have to go a long ways to do it, something that as the game wore on it became increasingly clear was not going to happen.

Stroughter finished his Beaver career third all-time at OSU with 164 receptions and 2,653 receiving yards. He passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season for the second time in his career, only Mike Hass (three times) and James Newson (twice) have ever had more than one 1,000 yard season.

STROUGHTER WASN'T THE only one on offense who contributed to overcoming the loss of Beaver yardage makers Jacquizz Rodgers and James Rodgers.

Receiver Shane Morales had five big catches for 79 yards.

Jeremy Francis, who left the team to care for his ailing mother and then returned when the Beavs arrived in El Paso, didn't get his first carry until the very last play of the first quarter. But he made some hay over the next three quarters.

The Beavs' plan was to go airborne with the Rodgers boys out, but Francis eventually wound up with 15 carries for 76 ground yards, each one taking on ever increasing importance as Pitt began to overwhelm the OSU offensive line in the second half.

Lyle Moevao had his moments, on 21-of-42 passing for 193 yards. He threw two picks, one of them a bad decision that cost the Beavs an opportunity to put points on the board at the end of the first half, another where he was hit as he threw. But he also moved the OSU offense enough, converting what would turn out to be key third downs and he made plays at key times in difficult, windy conditions.

Punter Johnny Hekker deserves special mention. He averaged 45 yards on 10 punts, with a 57- and 52- yarder included.

He also killed it in other ways, with five of those punts downed inside the Pitt 16-yard line.

All offensive performances that combined to keep the Beaver D fresh. All performances that could go unsung in light of the pulverizing performance of the Beaver D. But they shouldn't..

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