Oregon State 101: An in-depth look at the Beavers

LAST WEEKEND, both Washington State and Oregon State had their backs against the wall. The Beavers responded with a confidence-building win at Washington, while the Cougars lost another heartbreaker. Making matters worse, the Cougars lost their field general, quarterback <b>Josh Swogger</b>, for the remainder of the season when it was discovered he'd been playing with a broken foot.

Neither team has any room left for mistakes, but the Cougars will enter Reser Stadium with a freshman signal caller while the Beavers will have the services of fifth-year senior QB Derek Anderson. So it's a matter of the Beavers' experience versus WSU's element of surprise in a battle for their bowl lives.

When: Saturday, October 23, 3:00 p.m.
Where: Reser Stadium (35,362 capacity)
TV: None
Last Meeting: 2003, WSU won 36-28
Line: Rain, high of 60F.
Forecast: Showers in the morning, partly cloudy in the afternoon, high of 59.

THE BEAVERS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know: Derek Anderson, QB: Anderson is once again the conference leader in total offense and interceptions. He remains a mixed bag of clutch throws and costly picks. While his offensive production continues to soar, his most telling statistic is his 6.4 yards per attempt, which is down from 7.9 last year. Winning quarterbacks are almost universally above the 7.0 mark. "I think (Anderson) trusts his arm a lot," WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey told CF.C."He will challenge you, he'll fire the football in there."

Dwight Wright, RB: Wright accounts for 428 of OSU's 439 rushing yards. He is a capable back but is nowhere near the runner Steven Jackson was. As a result, the Beaver ground game is little more than a sideshow in this year's offensive attack. "(Wright) is a different kind of back," Akey said. "But he is very dangerous."

Mike Hass, WR: Haas is the go-to guy for Anderson. He has a conference best 46 receptions, which is on pace to break the school record despite the 11 game schedule. Sure-handed as they come, Haas is a vital component of the Beaver passing game.

Overview: The OSU offense is a mirror image of WSU, but they've got far more experienced personnel operating it. Four seniors start at skill positions and there is a senior center leading the offensive line. They've struggled running the ball, averaging a conference low 73 yards per game and 2.5 yards per rush. The Beavers are also once again one of the most penalized teams in the country (80 yards per game) and have a low 35 per cent conversion rate on third downs.

Strategy: Blitz, blitz, blitz. Anderson cracked under pressure last year, and might do so again. The Cougars need to make the big plays in this game to win and Anderson has the potential to help them in this department. The important thing is to keep an watchful eye on Haas. Anderson has become too dependant on him and will throw his way under pressure.

THE BEAVERS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know: Mitch Meeuwsen, FS: A classic ball hawking safety, Meeuwsen has two picks this year to go with 16 for his career.

Bill Swancutt, DE: One of the most disruptive forces in the Pac-10, Swancutt always seems to be in the backfield. He has only managed two sacks this year, but is a consummate big play maker regardless of his statistics.

Trent Bray, LB: The former Pullman native leads the team in tackles and ranks third in the conference with 65. When it comes to making stops, no other Beaver comes close.

Brandon Browner, CB: Aric Williams and Browner have been a bit of a letdown after being billed as the top corner tandem in the conference. But they looked solid last week and are much faster than any WSU has seen this year.

Overview: Just like the offense, the Beavers run a nearly identical system as the Cougars. They blitz continuously from the linebacker position, but rarely send more than one man. The secondary plays a lot of cover-two and looks to pick off errant throws resulting from the pressure on the quarterback. Opposing quarterbacks have the lowest rating in the conference against OSU.

Strategy: The Beavers really make life difficult for quarterbacks and they will definitely try to test first time starter Alex Brink. Expect plenty of blitzes, and lots of confusing motions and fakes. The Beavers will focus on taking away the running game until Brink proves he can beat them with his arm. Brink should try to throw over the top of the defense when he sees opportunities, but he has to be careful with the football. This defense is looking to force turnovers.

THE BEAVERS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
While kicker Alexis Serna is still best known for his missed extra points against LSU, it is noteworthy that he has been perfect on all his kicking attempts since then. His longest kick for the year is 55 yards. Punter Sam Paulescu averages a mainstream 41.7 yards per punt.

INJURY REPORT
WSU: QB Josh Swogger (out for the year, broken foot), TE Cody Boyd (out, shoulder), DE Matt Mullennix (out for the year, knee), RB Chris Bruhn (doubtful, knee sprain), WR Greg Prator (probable, hip), WR Marty Martin (probable, shoulder), CB Karl Paymah (probable, ankle), RB Allen Thompson (probable, shoulder), TE Troy Bienemann (probable, shin).
Oregon State: TE Joe Newton (probable, shoulder strain), LB Chaz Scott (probable, ankle)

FINAL THOUGHTS
So far this year, I've noted a perfect reverse correlation between my fantasy football franchise and the Cougars. Both teams have a 3-3 record with all of my wins occurring on Cougar losses. I'm projected to lose this weekend so maybe that is good news.

Ok, seriously. My final thoughts are that WSU's best chances to win this game come through Oregon State's personnel. I have never believed that Mike Riley is a good football coach, or that Anderson is a good quarterback. Both seem like smart, capable guys, but they also seem to have mental breakdowns at bad times. The Cougars should do whatever they can to encourage this tendency. Cougar offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller needs to do some creative play calling this week and Akey, his counterpart on defense, needs to redefine the word "pressure" for Anderson.

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