Oregon State 101: Cougs' first real challenge

OREGON STATE FINISHED the 2004 season with seven straight victories and were off to a fine start this year with wins over Portland State and a very scrappy Boise State team. With no USC on their schedule, some of the Beaver faithful were even declaring themselves as contenders for the conference title. Then the wheels fell off. The Beavers were blown out in consecutive losses to Louisville and Arizona State in which their defense surrendered a combined 105 points.

Cougars vs. Oregon State
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
1:05pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
43,300-seat Reser Stadium, Corvallis

TELEVISION:
None

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
Oregon State by 2

THE SERIES:
WSU leads 46-40-3; In 2004, WSU lost 38-19

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 31, OSU 24

With a bye week coming up after WSU, the Beavers now face a must win game against the Cougars just to keep their bowl hopes alive.

THE BEAVERS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know:
Matt Moore, QB: No relation. The transfer from UCLA is a good QB when he has time to work, but has made some poor decisions under pressure and loses accuracy on the run. He averages 318 passing yards per game but has also thrown five interceptions against six touchdowns this season.

Mike Hass, WR: Arguably the most polished receiver in college football; a fantastic route runner with great hands and a fearless attitude. He doesn't have top end speed but is deceptively quick in his cuts. He's averaged 100 receiving yards over his last eight games and 167 yards per this season. I'd compare him to former Coug Scott Lunde but that really doesn't do Hass justice. He cannot be contained without consistent double teams.

Yvenson Bernard, RB: Bernard's not especially big or fast, but a big part of a Beaver offense that strives for balanced play calling. He's a solid receiver on screen plays.

Overview: The Beaver's spread offense is similar to WSU's. Notable differences are their increased emphasis on four receiver formations and lots of pre-snap motion. Most of this is driven by the loss of starting TE Joe Newton. They have a young offensive line and it shows at times, surrendering a league worst 19 sacks this season. Because of problems protecting, OSU has been using more slant routs and fewer fly patterns.

Strategy: Shut down the run on first down, then attack Moore and position the safeties for interceptions as Moore hasn't proven he can make good decisions or throw accurately under pressure. Effective blitzing up the middle and some early knockdowns would prevent Moore from getting into a rhythm and consistent double teams on Hass may compound the problem for OSU. However, Cougars will need to beware of screen passes when they blitz, which OSU runs very well.

THE BEAVERS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know:
Trent Bray, MLB: The Pullman product is again leading the team in tackles with 41. A tough all-around defender that is being asked to lead the defense back to form after a pair of embarrassing performances.

Sir Henry Anderson, DT: Emotional big man who anchors a solid run-stopping defensive line, but one that just hasn't pressured opposing quarterbacks. The Beavers have just five sacks so far this year.

Keenan Lewis, CB: The freshman Lewis, along with his sophomore counterpart Gerald Lawson, have endured a baptism by fire so far this season. They have been on the receiving end of over 1,000 passing yards and 12 passing touchdowns over the past three games. Lewis' cramping problems last week left the secondary even more exposed. Both corners seem to make poor reads and have been virtually no threat to intercept passes.

Overview: OSU operates from blitz heavy 4-3 but this group lost a ton of star power from last year and it shows. Gone are Bill Swancutt, Mitch Meeuwsen, Brandon Browner, Aric Williams, Chaz Scott and Jonathan Pollard and the Beavers' inexperienced corners have been unable to compensate for the losses here. The defensive front has been solid against the run, but no one really garners much acclaim in the pass rush. To get any kind of pressure on QB's, the Beavers have to blitz and given their struggles in the secondary are hesitant to do so with much consistency. The entire group has had problems with over-committing. Counter plays, screen passes, and play action has been devastatingly effective.

Strategy: One sure fire way to beat this defense is to get them off balance. They continue to start out just fine, but once the weaknesses in the secondary is exploited OSU has been over-compensating, allowing offenses to switch gears on them effectively. When the corners play tight man coverage, they get beat deep. When they play zone defense, the get killed by quick slants. The entire secondary frequently gets caught biting on a receiver's first move and routes like hitch-and-go's have been lethal.

THE BEAVERS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Statistically, the Beavers are sound on special teams but turnovers have provided them lousy field position. Punter Sam Paulescu averages 44.6 yards per punt but has had a punt blocked in each of the last two games. Kicker Alexis Serna has been virtually automatic since the heartbreaker at LSU last year.

INJURY REPORT
WSU: CB Omowale Dada (knee), probable. DEs Adam West (concussion), and Lance Broadus (groin) are out. CB Don Turner (back spasms) will be a game time decision.

Oregon State: CB Keenan Lewis (cramps), probable. TE Joe Newton (leg), Long snapper Joel Cohen (knee), and WR Kevin Swanigan (knee) are all out.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Those who believe that Oregon State is a bad football team are mistaken. Overall, most of the team's problems the past few weeks can be blamed on the fact they were facing three of the most explosive offenses in the country (Boise State, Louisville, and ASU). Still, there is clearly something missing from this Beaver team that will prevent them from making much noise in the Pac-10. They've lost of a ton of playmakers off last year's team and seem to be losing some of that nasty streak that often trademarks Dennis Erickson coached teams. This is a must win game for OSU so expect a tremendous effort on their part -- but this is also a team with a very fragile confidence right now so the Cougs may attack them aggressively.

Cougfan Top Stories