Beaver secondary faces Run-n-Shoot exam

CORVALLIS -- While college football's opening weekend features four matchups between Top 25 teams, Oregon State plays host to 1-AA Portland State out of the Big Sky league. While this intra-state tilt won't garner the same national attention, the run and shoot passing attack of the Jerry Glanville-led Vikings run will be a good test for the Beavers and their newly assembled secondary.

The Vikings finished seventh in the Big Sky Conference in '08. But a look inside the numbers makes clear the Vikings can put crooked numbers on the board.

Five times last season, they posted over 30 points. The defense, however, gave up an average of 32.5 ppg. That's something Glanville will look to improve upon Saturday, along with the abysmal 29.2 rushing yards per game.

OFFENSIVELY, WIDE RECEIVER James Rodgers says he's preparing as if OSU is opening with national champion Florida. Most college football fans still remember when Michigan fell against Appalachian St. just two years ago -- there is no "impossible" in college football chatter since that day.

"Any team we play, you have to take the game seriously,'' said Rodgers. "I don't take any team lightly.''

Indeed, given the slow starts (2-3) the last three years running, OSU can ill-afford to take anyone lightly. The Beavers will more than likely be favorites in all three non-conference games and to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2002. That year, OSU went 4-0 against Eastern Kentucky, Temple, UNLV, and Fresno State.

But in '09, it all starts on Saturday with beating a team who could potentially expose and take advantage of the Beavs' biggest weakness.

THE RUN AND SHOOT offense primarily uses only one back — if any. Receivers are often sent in motion to both create confusion and mismatches, such as forcing a linebacker or safety to cover a fleet receiver.

The PSU receivers are taught to read the defense and run routes accordingly. This is the main reason for the high number of interceptions -- if the QB isn't reading the same coverage as the receiver, passes often find themselves in the hands of the defender.

Darrell "Mouse" Davis had a prolific coaching career, he is well known for popularizing the run and shoot attack. Mouse returned to Portland State in 2007 to assist Coach Glanville and retired following the '08 season. Gone is the legend and with it the experience, however, the system remains — of course not without tweaks.

With the concerted effort to re-establish the PSU run game, Mike Riley sees "an air of mystery" in the Mouse-less spread attack. But the Beaver starters in the secondary -- LCB Tim Clark, SS Suaesi Tuimaunei, FS Lance Mitchell, RCB James Dockery -- will still be tested.

NO MATTER HOW you slice it, defensively, the Beavers will need to remain fundamentally sound and assignment savvy against sets featuring up to five wideouts.

The OSU secondary will more than likely be beat a few times while they continue to work on cohesiveness as a unit. The group needs to remain aggressive and trust what the coaches have taught them throughout the past month. Pressure up the middle will likely greatly influence the success of the still green defensive backfield.

Stephen Paea will be called upon to disrupt the middle of the line, and potentially draw double teams, allowing his fellow linemates a 1-on-1 match up off the edge.

Clark, a veteran corner, knows the perils of dealing with any form of the run and shoot and spoke about it in a recent interview with the Oregonian: "Any time you have to tackle in space, it makes it tough,'' said Clark. "That's why we practice. We have the most inexperienced group on the defense, so we expect to get attacked a lot, I hope we respond to that.''

ON OFFENSE, Oregon State, on paper, has a tremendous advantage. Assuming last year's trends continue, how can a team out of the Big Sky -- one who allowed 1-AA opponents rack up 30-plus points per game -- stop a Pac-10 team who themselves averaged 30 plus points per game?

Answer: Turnovers.

The Beavers will need to protect the ball, continue to move the chains and wear down the Portland State defensive line. While many fans will want to see the Beavs' new "wildcat" formation and other exciting offensive sets/plays, the basics need to be hammered home in Week One. And you want to save some of the shiny new stuff for the competition expected to provide a sterner test.

On Saturday, establish the run game, work on the base offense, and execute every play. That's the surest way for the Beavs to park a "W" in the opener.

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