Oregon State Preview

A road-tested UCLA team goes to Corvallis to face mystery Oregon State. Will UCLA get the Beavers off its back and beat OSU for the first time in three years?

NOTEWORTHY FACTORS:

-- Besides Cal, Oregon State is the only team in the Pac-10 that has had more points scored against them than points they've scored.

-- It's the third game of UCLA's four this season that it's opponent is ranked in the top 25.

-- It's UCLA's first game on Astro Turf this year and the different type of shoes they're wearing for the turf could be a factor.

-- UCLA's defense is currently #1 overall among Pac-10 schools.

-- Oregon State has won nine straight games at Reser Stadium. The UCLA is OSU's home opener.

-- After scoring 17 points by halftime a year ago in their matchup at the Rose Bowl, Oregon State and UCLA scored a combined 65 points in the second half, with OSU ultimately winning, 44-31.

-- In two games this season, Oregon State has not lost a fumble.

-- Against Oregon State last year, Cory Paus had the best game of his career, passing for 363 yards.

-- The last time UCLA played Oregon State in Corvallis was probably the worst loss in the Bob Toledo era, 55-7.

-- With a bye last week, Oregon State has been off for three weeks between games. The team has been practicing like it's the beginning of fall practice all over again. The lay-off has helped to get some of OSU's players healthy, but it's a mystery how such a long lay-off will affect the team's sharpness.

-- Oregon State, picked by Sports Illustrated to win the national championship, lost to Fresno State in it season opener, 44-22. The Beavers rebounded with a win against New Mexico State, 27-22, but didn't look particularly sharp.

-- Oregon State running back Ken Simonton is third for on the list of all-timePac-10 career rushing yards, with 4,284.

-- Oregon State will be without star strong safety, Calvin Carlyle, who will miss the rest of the season with an injured left shoulder that will require surgery.

OREGON STATE OFFENSE V.  UCLA DEFENSE

Oregon State probably has the conference's best all-around quarterback in Jonathan Smith (pictured at left). And he's certainly been the quarterback in the Pac-10 that has done the most damage against UCLA in the past two years. While Ken Simonton has run through just about everyone the last few years, UCLA has, actually, defended him fairly well. The Beaver thorn in UCLA's side has been Smith, who in two years against the Bruins has thrown for 612 yards and seven touchdowns. So, UCLA will do just about everything they can to take Smith out of his game. Watch for UCLA to send a lot of pressure in the form of linebacker and safety blitzes. Watch for Robert Thomas to do what he did against Ohio State's Steve Bellisari, and shadow Smith all around the field so he can't get loose scrambling.

UCLA's secondary, while playing well, has yet to really be tested against an offense that can consistently compete passes. Well, get ready, because here it is. Even though freshman cornerback Matt Ware has already started three college games, you can almost say that this is his first real college game. OSU and Smith will go right at him, especially since the other three members of UCLA's defensive backfield, Ricky Manning (pictured at right), Marques Anderson and Jason Stephens, are experienced and playing very well. OSU lost its top receivers from last year, but has found a couple of good replacements in sophomore James Newson and sophomore tight end Tim Euhus.

The way these things work, though, it would be very fitting if Simonton, and the OSU running game, is the aspect of the OSU offense that puts the hurt on UCLA's defense. UCLA's defense, while looking good in its first three games, hasn't faced anything like OSU's offense, a unit that can both run and pass well. UCLA has been very good against the run this year, but they really haven't faced a scat-back, fast tailback like Simonton who likes to find the outside. UCLA's vulnerability on the run is on the outside. Simonton looked a little rusty against Fresno State; he had his lowest yardage total in the last 17 games. He got on track in their next game against New Mexico State, but if he falters, he's backed up by Patrick McCall, who could be starting just about anywhere else.

Oregon State's offensive line was thought to be pretty good coming off a big year and returning three senior starters from last year, led by all Pac-10 center Chris Gibson. But in the first two games this year, they haven't performed well. The running game has gained only 240 yards in two games, and that's with two very exceptional tailbacks. And the OL's woes haven't just been limited to the running game. Against Fresno State, Smith was hurried, hit and sacked quite a bit.

OSU has also been plagued in its first two games by many penalties, which has really hurt their ability to move the ball.

You can expect UCLA to get even more aggressive on Saturday, with UCLA DC Phil Snow trying to pressure Smith and get some hits on him to take him out of his rhythm. When Smith is on, he's very good. But he has shown, in the past, that pressure can rattle him and get him off his game.

Advantage: Even. Oregon State's offense hasn't gotten on track yet, and still have scored 51 points in two games. The team's playing at home for the first time, which should help with their comfort level. Smith and OSU will have some success getting back in the groove, but UCLA's defensive line will disrupt OSU's offense enough to keep OSU from really getting rolling.

UCLA'S OFFENSE V. OREGON STATE'S DEFENSE

Even with the three weeks off, Oregon State's defense is still a bit banged up. Their starting strong safety, Carlyle, is out, and will be replaced by a redshirt freshman Mitch Meeuwsen. Veteran outside linebacker James Allen is still nursing a sore shoulder, but will play. That isn't good for the Beavers, considering they lost quite a bit of talent from last year's defense.

The true star of the OSU defense is cornerback Dennis Weathersby (pictured at left), who is on the Jim Thorpe watch list. Weathersby is one of the best cover corners in the country, and will line up against Brian Poli-Dixon most of the time. From there, though, the defensive backfield gets a bit spotty. Without Carlyle, OSU is starting three other new starters. UCLA will try to take advantage of this, especially try to exploit a matchup of wide receiver Tab Perry (pictured below right) on sophomore corner Shamon Jamerson.

The linebacking unit is probably the strength of OSU's defense, with Allen and a good middle linebacker in sophomore Richard Siegler, who earned freshman All-American honors last year.

But up front, OSU has some more questions. Junior tackle Eric Manning is good, but he's joined by three new starters this year, two of which are sophomores. In their first two games, the DL hasn't looked too great, with both Fresno State and New Mexico State able to run on them, while also providing good pass protection against the Beavers.

For UCLA on offense, quarterback Cory Paus got on track against Ohio State last week, and his offensive line generally gave him time to throw. Young receivers Perry and Ryan Smith are stepping up, and the UCLA tight ends look like they're gett


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