Oregon State preview

Another week, another dangerous road test for the USC Trojans as they take another trip to the Pacific Northwest, this time to face the Beavers of Oregon State. Here we go again. How many times have you heard that this week?

Another week, another dangerous road test for the USC Trojans as they take another trip to the Pacific Northwest, this time to face the Beavers of Oregon State.  Here we go again.  How many times have you heard that this week?  College football analysts seem determined to saddle the Trojans, as well as other national title contenders, with as many "trap" games as possible.  However, this is where I believe the Trojans separate themselves from the rest of the college football world and have clearly established themselves as the number one team in the nation.  Over the past three years, USC is the only program to put a better team on the field each week than the one they displayed the week before.  The Trojans have established a trend of getting better each week they play, and when they're already the number one team in the nation in August, by November they are downright scary.  Trap games don't happen to these Trojans.  Ask Arizona State.  Sure, it's still college football and anything can happen, but if everything stays true to form, the Trojan team that is unleashed against Oregon State on Saturday will be the best Trojan team to take the field thus far in 2004.


Beavers on Offense


Quarterback - #14 Derek Anderson


            At 6'6" and 240 pounds, with a rocket arm and good football smarts, Derek Anderson has everything you'd want in a college quarterback.  He will end his career as the Oregon State leader in almost every passing category.  On the year, Anderson has completed over 50% of his passes and totaled 2,242 yards with 16 touchdown passes.  He leads the Pac-10 in yards and attempts and is tied for first in completions.  However, throughout his career, Anderson has always had a penchant for turning the ball over, and 2004 has not been an exception.  Through eight games, Anderson has been intercepted ten times and has continued to show the occasional lapses in judgment that have kept his Beaver teams from reaching their full potential.  He has the ability and the weapons to put up numbers against this Trojan defense; however, he also has the ability to put the ball on the ground or in the hands of the Trojan defenders.  Anderson likes to remain in the pocket and can become flustered if he must deal with constant pressure.  The dominating Trojan defensive line will be harassing Anderson all night long and should bring him down more than a handful of times.  Anderson will have to retain his composure, something that has been difficult for him throughout his career.


Running Back - #29 Dwight Wright


            Had Stephen Jackson returned to Oregon State to finish out his college career, this Beaver team could have positioned itself as a major player in the Pac-10 race, and because of the schedule, in the national championship race as well.  However, with Jackson off to the NFL, Dwight Wright has found himself as the sole member of the Beaver ground game.  Wright is a senior who played his first three years in the shadows of Oregon State's more talented tailbacks.  However, because of his experience, he knows the system and what he has to do in order to help his quarterback and his team win.  But the fact remains the Oregon State's bread and butter on offense is moving the ball through the air and utilizing the arm of Derek Anderson.  As practically the only option on the ground, Wright has carried the ball for 576 yards on only a 3.9 yards per carry average.  Wright has found the endzone five times this year on the ground and once through the air.  He can slip out of the backfield as well and catches about two passes per game.  Oregon State must get Wright going on the ground to have any shot at staying in this game.  If the Trojan defense is allowed to sit back in pass coverage and disregard the running game, Derek Anderson will have an extremely difficult time moving the football.  On the other hand, this Trojan defense doesn't exactly give up rushing yards in big chunks.


Wide Receivers - #28 Mike Hass, #16 Marcel Love #17 Anthony Wheat-Brown


            When you move the ball through the air with the regularity of this Oregon State offense, you'd better have receivers that can hang onto the ball.  Mike Hass has turned into one of the best wide receivers in the nation.  On the year, he has 56 receptions for close to 900 yards.  He ranks first in the Pac-10 in both categories, six receptions and 156 yards ahead of second place Derek Hagan.  However, he's done most of his damage between the twenties, scoring only four touchdowns on the year.  Hass won't have any confidence problems when facing the Trojans on Saturday as he, as well as all Trojan fans, can recall the season finale in 2003 where Hass put up something like four miles of receiving yards.  Marcel Love and Anthony Wheat-Brown are both athletic speedsters making contributions to their team in their first year with solid playing time.  Love ranks third on the team with 24 receptions for 337 yards and two touchdowns, while Wheat-Brown has hauled in 19 passes for 252 yards with three touchdown grabs.  None of the wide receivers posses great height, with each coming in under 6'2", but they are all quick, elusive and have great acceleration.  We've said it before, but the Trojan secondary will be tested yet again this year; this time by the Beaver passing attack.



Tight End - #89 Joe Newton


            Joe Newton has established himself as a big part of this Beaver attack.  He ranks second on the team in receptions and yards, with 35 receptions for 417 yards.  Both of those totals put him second to Alex Smith for Pac-10 tight ends.  Standing 6'7", Newton will be a huge presence in more than one way for the Beavers in the middle of the field.  Many people thought the Trojans would be vulnerable to talented tight ends this season, and after the opening game against Virginia Tech, it looked like that might be true.  However, in a league spattered with excellent tight ends, the Trojans have done an amazing job at shutting each one of them down.  Newton will probably get a few catches, but don't expect him to run wild against this ever-improving defense.


Offensive Line - #61 Adam Koets, #69 Josh Linehan, #73 Matt Brock, #67 Roy Shuening, #65 Doug Nienhuis


            This line has one objective at the start of every game: protect Derek Anderson.  Any holes that open up for long runs by the Beaver tailbacks can be seen as just an added bonus.  For the most part, this line has performed admirably, as Anderson is on his usual record-setting pace.  However, they have given up 22 sacks on the year and haven't faced anything resembling the type of defense that the Trojans will offer.  Matt Brock in the middle and Doug Nienhuis at the right tackle position are the two seniors and they'll have to lead this line against the vaunted Trojan pass rush. 


Beavers on Defense



Defensive Line - #27 Joe Lemma, #97 Ben Siegert, #99 Sir Henry Anderson, #90 Bill Swancutt


            Bill Swancutt is, without question, the anchor of this Beaver defensive line.  He leads the line in just about every statistical category.  His 41 tackles rank fourth on the team, while he ranks first in tackles for loss, with 11 for –55 yards, sacks, with 4.5, quarterback hits, with six, and fumbles recovered, with three.  He presents arguably one of the toughest challenges for the Trojan offensive line this year.  The fewer times Matt Leinart has to look up at #90, the better.  The other three members of the starting defensive line have totaled only nine more tackles and 3.5 fewer sacks than Swancutt. 


Linebackers - #4 Keith Ellison, #44 Trent Bray, #40 Jonathan Pollard


            The linebacking trio of Keith Ellison, Trent Bray and Jonathan Pollard that the Beavers employ is strong, smart and mobile.  Bray leads the team with 87 tackles and is the only non-defensive back with an interception.  Pollard, Bray and Ellison have been used to put pressure in the opponent's backfield as they've combined for 20 tackles for loss and have one, two and three sacks of the quarterback respectively.  However, the daunting task of containing Reggie Bush, squaring up against LenDale White and covering Dominique Byrd over the middle for sixty minutes has yet to be accomplished by any linebacker trio on the Trojans' schedule thus far, and it will be a shock if these three are able to get the job done.


Cornerbacks - #8 Aric Williams, #2 Brandon Browner


            When you start talking about the defensive backfield for the Oregon State Beavers, you start talking about the strength of the team.  Aric Williams and Brandon Browner are a couple of shut-down corners with size, speed and hands.  Williams is a senior and has played brilliantly throughout his career with the Beavers.  Last season, he earned honorable mention Pac-10 Conference honors and this year he's intercepted four passes while batting down eight.  He's also shown the ability to step up and hit the ball carrier, totaling 28 tackles, good enough for fifth on the team.  And after all of this, he might not even be the best cornerback on his team.  Browner, only a red-shirt sophomore, stands at 6'4" and is a burner.  Teams have been leery of throwing his way as his seven pass break-ups rank second only to Williams.  With the amount of talent at this position, the Beavers feel confident in allowing one-on-one coverage on the outside for most of the game.  If the Trojans can find ways to beat this early, it will go a long way towards shattering the Beaver spirit.


Safeties - #24 Sabby Piscitelli, #5 Mitch Meeuwsen


            The strength in the defensive backfield doesn't stop with the cornerbacks.  Mitch Meeuwsen, a standout senior, has been patrolling the secondary for four years.  He is the all-time interceptions leader for the Beavers, and has already picked off four passes this season.  Meeuwsen is a constant presence around the ball, either making tackles or breaking up passes.  His 42 tackles on the season rank second on the team.  Sabby Piscitelli has stepped into a starting spot in the Beaver backfield and delivered beyond all expectations.  He's tied for the team lead with four interceptions and is second on the team with seven pass deflections.  Because the Beaver cornerbacks are so successful at one-on-one coverage, the two safeties are able to simply sit back and read the quarterback.  Matt Leinart will have to be sharp in order to keep the ball away from the Beavers' ball hawking defense.


Beavers on Special Teams



Kicker - #13 Alexis Serna


            Sure, you saw Alexis Serna miss three extra points in the Beaver's opening night loss to the LSU Tigers.  However, what you probably haven't seen is how this young man has been able to rebound.  Since that night, Serna has missed only one kick.  He has connected on eight of nine field goals and is 14 for 14 on extra points since LSU.  Serna has also displayed excellent range, connecting on a field goal from 55 yards.  


Punter - #35 Sam Paulescu


            Sam Paulescu has punted 52 times on the year and is averaging 41.8 yards per punt.  He has totaled four touchbacks and forced a fair catch on ten occasions.  With #5 back there in Cardinal and Gold, the Beavers are hoping those last two numbers increase.


Kick Returner - #19 Sammie Stroughter


            With the leg strength Ryan Killeen is showing this year, kickoffs to the opposing team have simply become a formality.  Sammie Stroughter is averaging just over 20 yards per kickoff return and has yet to break one for over 40 yards.  Don't look for that trend to change against the suddenly potent Trojan coverage unit.



            This Oregon State Beaver team showed in the first game of the season that they are capable of playing with some of the best teams in the nation.  Their four losses have all come to nationally ranked teams, and while overall, they're not on the same level as the teams in the top 25, the Beavers have the talent to surprise some people around the nation.  However, the Trojans are simply not a typical top 25 team.  This USC team just doesn't suffer letdowns and they aren't intimidated by playing on the road.  The Trojans will put forth their best effort against the Beavers this Saturday, and that will be more than enough to dispatch Oregon State and return home to continue their reign as the nation's number one ranked team.

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