Oregon State 101: Repeating Riley's Rally

ONE WEEK AFTER upsetting top ranked USC, the Beavers let an opportunity for more national attention slip through their fingertips -- they led 15th ranked Utah late but managed to give up a touchdown, two-point conversion and game winning field goal in the final 1:29. The loss puts OSU in the exact same 2-3 position they were the last two seasons -- just before they rallied to reach 9 and 10 wins.

And the 1-5 Cougars, according to the oddsmakers, appear to be the perfect victim to get the ball rolling once again for Mike Riley and the rebounding Beavers.

If the Oregon State team that played Stanford and Penn State shows up, however, and the Cougs make some of their own breaks, they could break the Vegas bank. The problem is that the Beavs have looked like a completely different team from Week 3 on.

THE BEAVERS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Lyle Moevao, QB: Moevao has an accurate arm but at 5-11 can struggle to see the field at times. He will move around to buy time, has improved significantly this year in terms of accuracy and decision making, but he is not a threat to run the football.

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB: Quizz is a game changing, if short, workhorse of a running back somewhat in the style of Jerome Harrison -- he gets lost between the tackles. Leading the league in rushing, the 5-7, 193-pounder does a good job of taking what the defense gives, constantly moves forward after contact in a way few bigger backs do, and rarely loses yardage. The true freshman accounts for 110 of the Beavers 132 rushing yards per game. His brother James Rodgers is the Beavers' starting slot back.

Shane Morales and Sammie Stroughter, WRs: A strong tandem of receivers. Morales relies on solid route running and sure hands while Stroughter relies on his game breaking speed, which has been hampered by a hip injury. Both have been clutch on third down.

Overview
Coach Mike Riley will feed Jacquizz Rodgers -- he has carried the ball 37 and 25 times the last two games for an average of 144 ground yards per. But the passing game is what has made this spread offense go -- Moevao has passed for 280 yards per game and distributes the ball broadly among his receivers, with the biggest emphasis on Morales. Tight ends Howard Croom and Brady Camp serve primarily as extra linemen. Quizz does not bust many long ones but what he does do is rip off 6-7-8 yard runs at a time, which can both tire and demoralize a defense.

Strategy
The Cougars had some luck throwing an extra man on the line of scrimmage to help stop the run last week, and whether they go that route or not against Oregon State, they must stop the run or Oregon State will march up and down the field. But WSU, with the strong emergence of Moevao and the OSU passing game, cannot put all their eggs in one basket either. but might be better served to use an extra defensive back, albeit it one strong in this week. The Cougars likely need to get more aggressive against the pass and mix up their coverage packages to ensure the risks to throwing the ball will be more than just an incomplete pass. Moevao, as solid as he's been this season, does have one or two moments a game where he tries to force a ball and the Cougs will need to capitalize on them if they're to pull off the upset. His height can also cause him to lose track of defenders in complex zone coverages and zone blitzes. Up front, the Cougs' d-line must take advantage of first year starters Alex Linnenkohl at center and redshirt frosh RT Mike Remmers.

Cougars (1-5) vs Beavers (2-3)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
3:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Reser Stadium (45,674)

TELEVISION:
FSN NW

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

THE LINE:
OSU by 30

LAST MEETING:
2007 in Pullman, OSU won 52-17.

THE SERIES:
WSU leads the series 47-42-3

CF.C PREDICTION:
After heated discussion among the CF.C brain trust, optimists predict a Cougars 24, Beavers 21 win in OT, pessimists call it 45-20 Beavs.

THE BEAVERS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Brandon Hughes, CB: OSU's top corner was out for last week's loss with a hamstring injury. He tried to practice Monday but could not, and if he cannot go, Tim Clark will start in his place.

Slade Norris, DE: Norris was at times unblockable against Utah last week, while fellow DE Victor Butler was a force against USC. Norris has had considerable success on first down.

Keaton Kristick, LB: He has emerged as a true sideline to sideline 'backer from the school that has dubbed itself Linebacker U.

Al Afalava, SS: The hard hitting safety has been a little less productive this season but is also battling a groin injury and played only part time last week. At least once a game, however, he still seems to lay someone out drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd.

Overview
The Beaver D isn't quite the dominant group it was last season but they're good, and the starting secondary remains plenty tough. They run a base 4-3 but mix in more nickel than they used to once they get a lead. As they did last year, Riley and DC Mark Banker are mixing in a ton of players in rotation and overall, it has worked nicely the last three games. Stanford and Penn State had early season success running the ball, but the Beavs have improved markedly in that area the last three games, and OSU does not have a glaring weakness on D. If they have Hughes and Afalava back full time this week, it should shore up the coverage problems they had against Utah.

Strategy
Washington State must take advantage of the matchups whenever Oregon State goes to their rotation. Safety Suaesi Tuimaunei has been burned this year and susceptible against the run when he's subbed in for Afalava. Hughes is a lockdown corner and while Clark is no slouch himself, whenever he is in, Washington State could be well served to attack his side. Pound the rock, grind the clock, and do whatever it takes to keep the game within striking distance. In all likelihood, the only way the Cougs are going to win a conference game is ugly, so style points should be ignored. Keep Brandon Gibson involved enough to keep the defense from creeping up, but try not to take huge chances until the second half -- excepting if they can get Gibson or Jeshua Anderson in single coverage against Clark. After the way the Beavers lost last week, the Cougs need to find a way to make them feel like 'Here we go again' rather than the reverse being true. If the Cougs can make a game of it, Oregon State's confidence could be most brittle in the closing minutes given last Thursday's stunning turnabout.

THE BEAVERS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Dare but whisper Cougar fans, WSU might have the edge in special teams this week. Justin Kahut and the Beaver kickers have converted less than half of their field goal attempts and none longer than 37 yards this season. Kahut's struggles reached a new low last week when he missed an extra point and field goal, both of which might have made the difference. Punter John Hekker is slow getting off his kicks and also averages a meager 35 yards per punt. Stroughter remains one of the conferences strongest punt returners when he is healthy, but the rest of the special teams do not stand out and WSU needs to take some chances in trying to get a hand on one of Hekker's punts.

FINAL THOUGHTS
To be a 30 point underdog to a 2-3 football team should be insulting to the Cougar players and they need to play like it. The Beavs look like they're ready to, inexplicably again, take off after their customary 2-3 start. The defensive tackles, so invisible the first two games, have suddenly flipped a switch. Stephen Paea had two sacks out in space last week, something defensive tackles do not usually do. Oregon State is a beatable football team but WSU must have early success or it will be a long day. After losing a very winnable game last week against No. 15 Utah on the road and getting an extra 2 days to rest and prepare, they will come into this game motivated. Sooner or later, however, the Cougs ought to catch somebody napping who believes they can win by showing up. A better bet may be Arizona who comes to Pullman between matchups with USC and Oregon. Washington State would benefit greatly if they can force a turnover or two and get a big special teams play in order to stem any OSU momentum. The Cougar offensive line, who did not have a good outing against UCLA, must play sound fundamental football this week or risk making their OSU counterparts look like world beaters.


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