BF.C Keys to the Game: Civil War

THE WAR OF THE ROSES. For years, maybe decades to come, the 2009 version of the Civil War will be known as the War of the Roses. It's debatable whether this contest ranks as the "biggest" OSU-UO game ever -- the 2000 Civil War featured two Top 10 teams with just one loss each. But it's hard to argue that there has ever been a Civil War more hyped than this one.

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Oregon's offense has been crowned as "unstoppable" by the college football world, and as such enters the game as a ridiculous 10 point favorite.
 
Pundits, analysts, armchair coaches and message board gurus alike have pondered crazy schemes, formations and game plans to stop the hurry-up, wide-open spread option.  But quietly, one must wonder if Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker has the answer.

As lauded as Chip Kelly is for his genius offense, Banker is widely considered to be the best defensive mind in the Pac 10 and after heavy losses to graduation in 08, Banker has put together yet another excellent Beaver defense.

It would seem from this chair that Oregon State is built to handle Oregon maybe better than any other team in the conference.  Stanford's power running attack created long stretches of clock-eating drives that kept Oregon's offense off the field, but the Cardinal lacked the firepower on defense to stop Oregon -- they simply shrugged and went into shootout mode, and with QB Andrew Luck playing out of his mind they won.

Oregon State presents those same facets -- a powerful running game spearheaded by the conference's best offensive weapon in Jacquizz Rodgers, an accurate quarterback in Sean Canfield who can slice up a defense like a Thanksgiving turkey if too much attention is paid to the running game.  For proof, look no farther witness Canfield's eye-popping 70 percent completion rate. 

But Oregon State has the wild card in the matchup:  The league's best run defense. 
 
And while OSU boasted a statistically outstanding run defense in 2008 as well, one needs to look deeper to see the difference.
 
The 2008 Beaver defense boasted an absolutely ferocious pass rush, which often created 2nd and long, 3rd and a mile situations which necessitated passing the ball.  The '09 vintage of the Beaver D gets the job done without the pass rush, by playing gap control defense and playing hard-nosed football.

It isn't as fast, isn't as aggressive -- but on the whole, it's a lot more sound. 
 
Here are the keys to winning The War of the Roses for Oregon State:

 

 
Win On First Down
 
Simply put, if the Beavers can limit Oregon from running wild on first down and get the Ducks into second and long, and a few third and long's, and force Oregon to string together long drives without long running plays, they have an excellent shot at winning the game. 
 
If Masoli has to pass from the pocket, the Beavers will be imposing their will upon the Ducks. 


Ball Control

Quizz simply needs to do what he does, which is run hard with outstanding ball security. 
 
Canfield needs to keep the ball out of the Oregon defense's collective hands. 
 
Oregon State's ball security as a trend has been far superior to Oregon's this year. And now is no time to buck that trend.
 
Go plus-2 on turnovers and the Beavers are in business.

 

Hit Them Between the Eyes

The way to disrupt the zone read is to get pressure up the middle. 
 
What Oregon wants to do is key on the backside DE and get a hat on a hat, so if the end pursues the running back, Masoli is in a foot race with a linebacker in space. 
 
What Oregon State wants to do is have DT Stephen Paea deposit the center or guard (or both!) into Masoli's lap.
 
Coming up the middle, not the edges, is the way to disrupt the spread option.
 
It won't take a Herculean effort but it will take an A-game effort.

 

 
REVIEWING LAST WEEK'S KEYS:
 
1 - Be Workmanlike:  A little lack of focus to begin with, and a game that felt a bit uneasy at halftime, but then the Beavers settled down and took care of business in the second half with a fairly vanilla gameplan on offense and defense.  Grade:  B

2 - Stay Hungry.  Unfortunately the one thing that Beaver fans hoped wouldn't happen, did:  Brennan Olander tweaked his knee against WSU.  Hindsight is 20-20, but a faster start from a team that played hungry might have had Mr. Olander relaxing on the bench instead of the trainer's table.  Grade: C

3 - Eyes on the Prize.  13 penalties for 107 yards, including one ugly stretch in the 2nd quarter that included four straight penalties that gave WSU 44 yards out of their 80 yard drive.  The game even got a little chippy -- exactly the opposite of the ideal circumstances.  Grade: D
 

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