Oregon State 101: All about run D, run O

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ONE TO forecast. Oregon State has six wins, including one over Cal, yet they're the underdog this weekend against Washington State. Pullman is always tough on visiting teams -– even if some of the students already are gone for Thanksgiving. But more pressing is the fact prognosticators are noticing that the Cougs' once-porous D is now making plays.

Heck, WSU senior safety Husain Abdullah is the reigning Pac-10 defensive player of the week. And true freshman corner Chima Nwachukwu is making highlight tapes –- but now he's more the predator than the preyed upon.

A Cougar victory is a must to maintain crimson bowl hopes alive. For the Beavs, they're looking to head keep the mo going as they head the following week into the battle with hated rival Oregon.

Cougars (4-6) vs Beavers (6-4)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
3:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (35,100)

TELEVISION:
FSN

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

THE LINE:
WSU by 2

LAST SEASON:
Cougs won 13-6

THE SERIES:
WSU leads 47-41-3

CF.C PREDICTION:
WSU 23, Oregon State 17

THE BEAVERS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Yvenson Bernard, RB: Bernard is the do-everything back in OSU's offense. They give him a ton of carries and he's handled them well given his smallish frame. He leads the team in receptions (35), rushing yards (963) and touchdowns (11). A model of consistency, he'll take whatever his line and the Cougar D gives him.

Lyle Moevao, QB: Kind of a poor man's Marques Tuiasosopo. He's taken over the starting job from the injured Sean Canfield. Still undeveloped and relatively inaccurate, he has completed barely half his throws and has five picks this year and only one touchdown pass. He has a ton of mobility but uses it to create passing opportunities as opposed to running for yardage.

Overview
OSU's offense is run based mostly because of the inconsistent play at quarterback. The Beavers like to get the ball in Bernard's hands as much as possible and the offense isn't operating well if he gets less than 30 touches. OSU has a tendency to score points early, but if they fall behind they are in trouble. The Beaver passing attack is dead last in the conference in nearly every statistical category.

Strategy
OSU is short on big play receivers and the quarterbacks have been mistake prone. Shutting down the running game and forcing the Beavers to throw the ball a lot is key. But the Beavers have creative ways of running the football, using a lot of misdirection and end-arounds, so stopping the run isn't as simple as stacking the box. The good news for the Cougs is that OSU's running attack has been waning of late, averaging just 3.5 yards per rush over the last four games. A banged up offensive line is mostly to blame. Conversely, the WSU run defense has surrendered just 3.2 yards per rush since the switch to the 3-4 was implemented. Unless they get turnovers to help, the Beavers could struggle to put up 20 points in this game.

THE BEAVERS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
DEs Victor Butler and Slade Norris: OSU has a pair of great pass-rushing ends in Butler and Norris. They have 17 sacks between them this season.

LBs Darnell Doggett and Joey LaRocque: The Beaver ‘backers are fast and swarm to the football. They are savvy veteran leaders of a very experienced group.

Overview
The Beavers run an aggressive 4-3 system with plenty of speed all around. OSU has a stout run defense, surrendering just 1.9 yards per rush but the passing defense has been questionable -- and figures to be even more so in the first half Saturday when they'll be sitting some of their players who were involved in the nasty business with the Dawgs last week. They bring a heavy pass rush and have generated 39 sacks and 24 forced fumbles this year. The Cougar offensive line will have its hands full.

Strategy
The Beaver D doesn't have the horsepower to keep up if the Cougar passing attack is in sync. Play smart, but aggressive and try to force a high-scoring game. The kind of grind-it-out low scoring affair the Cougars won with in 2006 normally favors the Beavers.

THE BEAVERS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
OSU is a mixed bag on special teams. They rank dead last in net punting and punt return average. They lost their top special teams playmaker in Sammie Stroughter but still have Lou Groza Award Winner Alexis Serna handling place kicking duties.

FINAL THOUGHTS
It works to WSU's favor that the Beavers played a very emotionally draining game against UW last week and already locked up their bowl eligibility. The Beavers will play tough, but next week's game against Oregon has to be looming on their horizons. On Senior Fay with it's home crowd behind them, expect the Cougar veterans to put forth their finest effort of the year. Hopefully the Cougar fans will brave the cold and do the same.


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