Oregon State Preview

The Bruins travel to Corvallis, Oregon, to open Pac-10 play on Saturday and take on a team of Beavers looking for redemption. Both teams have something to prove...

NOTEWORTHY FACTORS

-- Cory Paus is 115 yards away from overcoming Tom Ramsey on the UCLA all-time careeer passing yards list.

-- Oregon State's Reser Stadium has AstroTurf.

-- Oregon State is ranked 2nd in the Pac-10 and 13th nationally in total defense. OSU is ranked sixth nationally in team passing efficiency defense and 12th nationally in scoring defense (14.2/game).

-- Oregon State's 22-0 loss against USC last week was the first time OSU's head coach Dennis Erickson had suffered a regular-season shutout in his college coaching career.

-- UCLA holds a considerable edge in the all-time series, 35-13-4. Last year in Corvallis, UCLA beat the Beavers 38-7. It will be the 53rd meeting between UCLA and Oregon State. The two teams won't play for the next two years.

-- Oregon State will be playing before its 13th consecutive sell-out crowd at Reser Stadium. Reser holds 35,362, but Oregon State is expecting a crowd in excess of 36,000.

-- UCLA is the only team in the nation that hasn't lost a fumble.

-- UCLA's punter Nate Fikse is the 16th ranked punter in the country, averaging 43.33 yards a punt.

-- OSU's tailback Steven Jackson leads the Pac-10 in rushing, averaging 120.6 yards a game.

-- OSU's sophomore quarterback Derek Anderson is ninth in the nation in quarterback rating (156.9), twelfth in passing yards (1201), thirty-fifth in pass completions (77), and third in touchdowns thrown (15). Before last week's USC game, he was in the top 20 nationally in five statistical categories.

-- UCLA is facing a second opponent that is coming off a pretty big loss to USC the week before. The Trojans beat Colorado 40-3 the week before UCLA played them. Last week, USC beat Oregon State 22-0.

-- Before getting shut out against USC, Oregon State was averaging 47.5 points in its first four games.

OREGON STATE'S OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE

Oregon State's offense was tearing it up – until it ran into USC last week. It was averaging just about 500 yards a game in its first four games. But it's really unsure just how good Oregon State's offense is since those first four games were against Eastern Kentucky, Temple, UNLV and Fresno State -- not exactly top-flight competition.

The Beavers do have some weapons, including one of the best running backs and one of the best receivers in the conference.

The running back is Steven Jackson (pictured at right), who currently leads the Pac-10 in rushing. He is a little scarily reminiscent of Colorado's Chris Brown, with Jackson being 6-1 and almost 230 pounds. When he gets into the open field, he's hard to bring down and he has a good burst. On the other hand, the way USC stopped him (15 carries for 67 yards), was to contain him before he got into the defensive backfield. USC generally stopped Jackson at the line of scrimmage and didn't allow him to get into the open field. This will be the UCLA defensive line's chance to redeem itself against a formidable running back after looking pretty dismal against Colorado's Brown. Rodney Leisle needs to step up and dominate, which he really hasn't done yet this season. It will be interesting to see if defensive tackle Sean Phillips gets more time than his co-starter, Steve Morgan, since Phillips is a better run stopper. Also, watch to see if Ryan Boschetti gets an increased amount of playing time, the UCLA coaches trying to infuse a little more quickness into their defensive line play. And, even though Rusty Williams is the starter at one defensive end spot, his backup, Mat Ball, will probably get more snaps. If UCLA can keep Oregon State off the field and limit Jackson's carries, they should have a good chance of limiting the Beaver offense. If Jackson gets warmed up, gets the sense he can run against UCLA, and gets 25-30 carries, it will be a long day for UCLA's defense.

James Newson is the Beavers' #1 receiving target. He has good size at 6-1 and 202, and has good speed and a knack for getting open. He currently leads OSU with 25 receptions, averaging 15.2 yards a reception, and has five touchdowns, putting him among the top eight in the Pac-10 in all of those categories.

Also good targets are OSU's tight end, Tim Euhus, and the other wide receiver, Kenny Farley, who is 6-3 and 225. Euhus is starting to get utilized more within the OSU offense.

The question will be whether Oregon State can get the ball into the hands of its receivers. The 6-6, strong-armed sophomore quarterback Derek Anderson had no trouble doing it in the Beavers' first four games. He threw for an average of 300 yards and almost 4 touchdowns a game before he was shut down by USC, who held him to 80 yards passing on 8 of 30 completions. USC was in his face all game, pressuring the young quarterback, hitting him all day, registering five sacks and rushing him into bad throws and bad decisions.

Anderson will try to get back on track against UCLA. Playing in front of a home crowd, he'll try to find his rhythm early. UCLA doesn't have as good a pass rush as USC from its defensive front, but it will be zone blitzing quite a bit, sending linebackers and defensive backs to try to get to the fairly immobile Anderson. Redshirt freshman Spencer Havner (at left) is developing at a quick clip; he had a good day rushing the passer against San Diego State and you can probably expect him in the OSU backfield trying to disrupt Anderson. But also expect some surprises from UCLA to try to confuse and disrupt Anderson even more. The Bruins will send rushers from more unusual spots and situations.

UCLA matches up well in its defensive secondary with OSU. While UCLA is young, it's big, and then on one side its smallest player is All Pac-10 Ricky Manning (above left), who's coming off one of the best games of his career against San Diego State. UCLA will be in its man-like zone coverage and blitz out of that quite often. If Anderson gets enough time, he'll find some receivers in the soft part of the zone, about 10-15 yards downfield.

A huge factor for OSU's offense is its depleted offensive line. The OSU line did well in its first four games, until it had some key players go down because of injury – and before it played against a Pac-10 level defense. OSU has gone through two offensive tackles, Brian Kilkenny and Lee Davis, due to injury. It will have to do a little juggling, moving guard Mike Kuykendall to tackle and promote backup David Lose to starting guard in Kuykendall's place. There is also a chance that redshirt freshman Jake Pratt could get time at the vacant tackle spot, but he did so against USC last week and the results weren't great. The biggest concern about this OSU team right now is its offensive line. It's not just a matter of injuries, but whether it truly is good enough now that it's playing against Pac-10 level defenses.

Advantage: Even. Oregon State will bounce back a bit from last week's performance against USC. They'll feel more comfortable, especially the young quarterback, just being at home. They'll be motivated to prove that last week wasn't really their true offense. UCLA's defense will more than likely be solid. It's a good set-up for them – going against a somewhat questionable and depleted offensive line, beginning to gel in their zone blitzing scheme, and able to take advantage of a young, inexperienced quarterback. So, Oregon State will get some points, but it's unlikely they'll run it up into really big numbers.

UCLA'S OFFENSE V. OREGON STATE'S DEFENSE

Oregon State's defense is definitely the strength of the team. They return eight starters from last season, including a few that are not only all-Pac-10 level players but possible candidates for national honors.

Just like what's important in baseball, Oregon State is very talented up the middle of its defense. All Pac-10er defensive tackle Eric Manning is a stud; middle linebacker Richard Seigler is big and fast, and has 39 tackles on the season; and free safety Mitch Meeuwsen has a nose for the ball and is good at creating turnovers. But OSU's defensive strength doesn't stop in the middle. They have some real talent on the perimeter, too. On the defensive line, OSU has two good defensive ends in Noah Happe and Bill Swancutt, who have five sacks between them, and more than twice the amount of tackles than UCLA's starting defensive ends. They're allowing only 102 yards a game on the ground.

Besides Seigler at linebacker, the Beaver's leading tackler is its strongside linebacker, Nick Barnett (pictured at right) wiith 46 tackles on the season so far, which leads the Pac-10. He is having a great season and is on his way to all Pac-10 honors, at least.

And then, if that isn't enough, OSU has perhaps one of the few best cornerbacks in the country in Dennis Weathersby. He is the all-time OSU career pass breakup leader. He is big (6-1) and very talented, and he'll more than likely shut down whatever UCLA receiver he happens to be matchup up with on any given play. The problem is, OSU's other cornerback, Terrell Roberts, is pretty darn good in his own right. And then throw in very solid strong safety Lawrence Turner, who has 33 tackles on the season, and you have a strong defensive backfield, and a strong defense overall.

Oregon State is 13th in the nation in total defense, allowing just 272.2 yards a game. They're 12th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 14.2 points a game.

Yes, they didn't necessarily play tough competition in their first four games. But they still have loads of talent, and they played well against USC, being on the field 38 minutes and holding USC to 330 total yards on offense.

This is easily the biggest challenge of the season so far for UCLA's offense. They're playing the best defense they've faced so far, on the road.

UCLA's offense has yet to really prove it can sustain a drive and convert that drive into points. It has gotten many of its offensive points through big plays, and it will have to go back to that again if it wants to score enough to win. The Bruins will go right toward Mike Seidman, Craig Bragg and Tab Perry to supply those big plays. If these three are shut out on big plays for the game, the odds are against UCLA being able to move the ball consistently and score.

But also watch for UCLA to have a bit of shift in its offensive approach against Oregon State. Head Coach Bob Toledo has bee emphasizing, in public and private, that the Pac-10 games are really what "count." He'll more than likely break out a few surprises offensively against Oregon State. Look for a good game in play calling, trying to keep Oregon State's defense guessing and on their heels.

More than likely part of that little shift in offensive game plan heading into the Pac-10 is to get your stars the ball, and that means that we should expect Manuel White (pictured at left) to get 20+ carries in this game and have the ball thrown his way at least a couple of times.

Much of what might decide this game is how well UCLA blocks, in its running game and its passing game. OSU is the best defense UCLA has played and UCLA's offensive line will have its hands full with OSU's defensive front. Whether Mike Saffer, the senior starting tackle, will make the trip and play will be determined sometime today. The smart money is on Saffer playing. Again, though, so much depends on whether the offensive line can create holes for UCLA's running backs to exploit. When Manuel White, though, is running the ball, the offensive line magically appears to create better holes and is more effective. It will be a big test if, with one of its leaders banged up, the offensive line can get gelled. Blocking for White more often could be an inspiration.

Another big factor is the performance from UCLA's fullbacks. Both, Pat Norton and J.D. Groves, have been nicked up. Their blocking performance is key to UCLA's offense being successful.

You can probably expect Cory Paus to have a solid day. He seems to be more relaxed on the road at times, and he's been through the Oregon State drill before. If he has time to throw, you can expect him to have another solid game.

Advantage: Oregon State. Their defense is really good, the best that UCLA has faced this season. UCLA's offense, on the road, with questions still lingering on whether it can move the ball consistently, might struggle a bit. UCLA will have to stay creative in its play-calling, and go to its strengths if it wants to effectively move the ball against OSU.

PREDICTION:

UCLA will more than likely sputter a bit on offense, but shown signs of improvement in moving the ball behind White and going to its go-to receivers. UCLA's defense should be able to hold Oregon State's offense from having a big day by pressuring Anderson. But Oregon State's defense has more of an edge on UCLA's offense than UCLA's defense has on Oregon State's offense. Throw in the home field advantage and Oregon State has an edge, even though it should be a close game.

Oregon State 27
UCLA 20


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