A Night-mare on Western?

For <A HREF=http://washington.TheInsiders.com>Washington</A> vs. <A HREF=http://oregonstate.TheInsiders.com>Oregon State</A> series traditionalists, there's going to be a lot of weird looking vacillations surrounding this year's 88th renewal, set for Saturday night in Corvallis. Those that Rip Van Winkled the last few seasons might think there's some sort of mix-up in the game program – some apprentice copy editor must have got the nouns "Washington" and "Oregon State" mixed up.

‘Fraid not, Rip.

Washington (1-1, 3-3) at #22 Oregon State (2-0, 5-1)
Saturday, October 18 - 7:06 PM (PDT), TBS National
Reser Stadium – Corvallis, OR (capacity 35,362)
Series All-time: Washington leads, 56-27-4
Last Meeting: November 9, 2002 – Washington 41, Oregon State 29
Line: Oregon State by 10

For starters, the Beavers are legitimate double-digit favorites over the Huskies for the first time since Mildred and Earl Reser fixed that first batch of potato salad on their farm in the Tualatin Valley. And considering the direction of both teams' seasons, the salad – er, spread - could be considered on the low side.

Secondly, the last time these two rivals met at son Al's barn on the corner of 26th and Western, the Beavs clobbered Washington 49-24 in a game which wasn't that close. It ended a run of twelve straight Husky triumphs at Reser.

Keith Gilbertson
Third, Oregon State is ranked. And the Huskies aren't – whoops, our bad, Washington merited a nod in this week's ESPN Bottom Ten poll, ranking fifth.

And finally, the Beavers have won seven in a row and 26 of their last 29 contests at home, while the Huskies have dropped seven of their past nine road games by an average of 36-21.

Says Oregon State all-world tailback Steven Jackson, "As you can see, we're rolling right now."

Washington coach Keith Gilbertson agrees. "They're the hottest thing going in the PAC-10," he mused, "and they've had two weeks to get ready for us."

Former Husky safety Nigel Burton, now the Beavers' secondary coach, echoes Gilby's assessment. "The players have been looking forward to this game for two weeks now," Burton told the Corvallis Gazette-Times on Monday, "and they're a bit more agitated than usual. I think you're going to see some guys flying around in practice because they are drooling to get back and hit somebody (after the week off).

"We'll be ready to go on Saturday."

Mike Riley
Second-term OSU coach Mike Riley has warned his troops against – (straight face) – potential let-downs. "I basically told them not to fall into any traps here," Riley stressed. "It's about this one game, and has nothing to do with the past. We know what (Washington) is capable of, and that they have to have (a win). Their backs are against the wall.

"So we can't worry about what's being said about Washington. Our concern is what they do and how they do it – and how we prepare for it."

At a sinking 3-3, Gilbertson deflects potential comparisons to the sudden turnaround from last year's 4-5 train wreck, saying "Some of the guys have experience at this, yes. But we also have a lot of guys who haven't – this is their first go-round."

"Bottom line - all of our players and coaches have to go down (to Corvallis)," the Husky head coach preached, "and do what it takes to get the job done. We can't be caught up in what's happened, or worry so much about the future.

"We've got to start doing things right now – for right now."

Just giving four hard, competitive quarters against a ranked, title-contending, high-riding team would be a start. Who knows ... the ranked, title-contending, high-riding team could come out over-confident against a struggling side that's been badly humiliated over its last six quarters. That's what occurred between these two 18 years ago in Husky Stadium.

Ol' Rip must be shaking his sleepy head over the irony.

TEAM STATS:  31.3 points (3rd PAC-10),
             473.2 yards (1st PAC-10, 190.4 rush, 282.8 pass)
             23-29 in red zone offense (.793, 3rd PAC-10) 

RUSHING:     Steven Jackson 183-877-9 TD (4.8), long 66
             Dwight Wright 57-246-2 TD (4.3), long 29
PASSING:     Derek Anderson 101-202-11 (.500), 1669 yards, 9 TD
RECEIVING:   James Newsom 34-629-1 TD (18.5), long 53
             Steven Jackson 18-203-1 TD (11.3), long 66
             Tim Euhus 16-251-3 TD (15.7), long 30

QB Derek Anderson
(Getty Images)
Well, you can't get much better that tops in the PAC-10 in both offense and defense. There were some early grumblings from Beaver backers when OSU dropped their road opener at Fresno State, but since then Oregon State has reeled off a league-leading (along with Washington State) four straight wins.

In a pass-happy conference (seven teams average better than 230 aerial yards per game), it makes sense that the top teams can make a living on the ground, and the Beavers lead the conference in rushing. The NFL impatiently waits for the probable first-team all-American Jackson, who is making a mockery of the PAC-10 rushing race (and is second in the nation) at 146 yards per game. The 233-pound junior – who had his wisdom teeth pulled last week - has run for 214 yards and five scores in two games against Washington, and has cracked the 100-yard barrier in 11 straight regular-season games. Jackson is getting more and more Heisman attention, and coach Riley says of any potential campaign – which OSU athletic director Bob De Carolis would be against after an ill-fated Ken Simonton try in 2001 - "We're just going to just give him the ball some more. That's the plan." Quick junior Dwight Wright will spell Jackson, giving scat-back relief, and also return kicks.

Quarterback Derek Anderson has had his share of detractors while being a two-year starter, but turned a big corner with his performance at Cal two weeks ago. The junior hit on 18-of-27 for 227 yards and two touchdowns, plus he ran one in for another score. It elevated his season average to an even .500 – the first time he has ever been at break-even. There's never been a question of Anderson's arm strength, though - he has 35 TDs and 27 INTs in his career.

RB Steven Jackson
(Getty Images)
Anderson's big-timer, of course, is senior James Newsom. Like Jackson, Newsom leads the PAC-10 and is second in the nation in receiving yards, averaging 126 per game. He's only found the end zone once this year, but scored a dozen times in 2002, and enjoyed a five-catch, 138-yard day a year ago in Husky Stadium. Senior Tim Euhus has very capable hands at tight end, with 52 career grabs and five touchdowns. Sophomore flanker Mike Haas has averaged an eye-popping 24 yards in his eleven catches, and has scored twice. Senior Kenny Farley starts in the slot, and he only averages 22 yards per reception.

Of course, these guys wouldn't be putting up numbers without a strong interior, and Oregon State has one. Seniors Brian Kilkenny – who took over at tackle when starter Brandon Lockheart was suspended for a team rules violation - and David Lose man the left side, and on the right are juniors Kanan Sanchez (27 straight starts) and Doug Nienhuis (19 straight). Junior center Matt Brock also makes his 19th-straight start. They've only allowed eight sacks all season, and are a big reason OSU leads the conference in third-down conversions.

GAME OUTLOOK: Easy to say, almost impossible to do – stop SJ and you stop OSU. Oregon State has converted a league-best 44 third-downs behind Jackson's charges. Of course, you've also got to get a bit of a pass rush in passing situations, and that's been a stellar disappointment for Washington this year – even with Terry Johnson's PAC-10 second-best seven sacks. The Beavers have been prone to giving up defensive TDs – both New Mexico State and California were gift recipients.

TEAM STATS:     16.8 points (2nd PAC-10),
                308.0 yards (1st PAC-10, 98.8 rush, 209.2 pass) 
                9-17 in red zone defense (.529, 1st PAC-10)

TACKLES/TFL:    Richard Seigler 38/11.0
                Lawrence Turner 28/3.5
                Trent Bray 28/1.5    

PASSES DEF/INT: Aric Williams 8/2
                Lawrence Turner 5/0
                Mitch Meeuwsen 4/3 
SACKS:          Bill Swancutt 3.5
                Dan Rothwell 2.0
                Richard Seigler 2.0

FS Mitch Meeuwsen
(Getty Images)
Experience abounds on the PAC-10's leading defense. It isn't full of superstars, but eight different guys have at least 20 tackles, eight different guys have sacks and they've only allowed completions at a 42-percent rate – the only team in the conference to pass-defend at under 50 percent.

The big guys up front are junior defensive end Bill Swancutt (3.5 sacks, seven tackles-for loss) and senior tackle Dwan Edwards. Edwards, a three-year starter, has eleven career sacks, while Swancutt, a probable all-Conference pick, has 18 in as many starts. After watching film of Dave Ball and Jorge Cordova running roughshod through the Husky line, Swancutt must surely be licking his chops. Redshirt-freshman tackle Ben Siegert was a third-teamer coming out of spring ball, yet has started every game this season. Senior end Dan Rothwell came all the way back from a lost 2002 - a season spent rehabilitating his re-constructed knee.

It only seems like middle linebacker Richard Seigler is in his second decade in an OSU uniform, prompting coach Gilbertson to quip, "I'd like to see the graduation rates of some of these guys. I mean, it seems like some of them have been there forever. They've got quality and experience, no doubt about it." Seigler, the emotional leader of the group, has an amazing 302 tackles on his résumé to go with six career interceptions. The former freshman all-American has a PAC-10 second-best 11 tackles-for-loss. Sophomore Trent Bray had defensive coordinator Mark Banker thinking about moving Seigler to the strong side after wowing the coaches in spring, but it was easier to just insert him as the starting SLB. Junior Jonathan Pollard has a third-best 27 tackles from his weakside spot.

DB Brandon Browner
(AP Photo)
Redshirt-freshman corner Brandon Browner was the PAC-10's defensive POW for his three-interception performance against Arizona State, one week after serving an academic suspension that cost him the Boise State game. Free safety Mitch Meeuwsen also has three pickoffs, and corner Aric Williams has a pair to go with a team-leading six pass break-ups. Strong safety Landon Turner is OSU's second-leading tackler with 28.

GAME OUTLOOK: The Beavers lead the conference in total defense, red-zone defense, pass-defense efficiency, and is second in third-down conversions allowed. They've allowed five rushing touchdowns and 2.9 yards per carry. It's going to be a tall order for a Husky offense that's only scored three touchdowns in the past two games.

PLACEKICKING:  Kirk Yliniemi 7-8 FG (.875, long 51), 19-20 XP 
PUNTING:       Carl Tobey 36-41.7 (long 62), .194 inside-the-20
KICK RETURNS:  Dwight Wright 7-15.7 (long 25), 0 TD
               Brandon Catanese 4-19.5 (long 21), 0 TD  
PUNT RETURNS:  Cole Clasen 14-5.6 (long 42), 0 TD

PK Kirk Yliniemi
(Getty Images)
The Beavers have a Mr. Automatic in place-kicker Kirk Yliniemi. The senior has missed only three field-goal attempts in 28 career tries, and is 8-for-9 from beyond 40 yards. Yliniemi had an emergency appendectomy prior to the New Mexico State game, but came back with four three-pointers against Boise State – though he did have a streak of 20 straight makes end. Senior punter Carl Tobey has consistent 40-yard range, with four career boots beyond 60 yards.

PR Cole Clasen
(Getty Images)
Corvallis product Seth Lacey has a pair of kick-blocks, while OSU hasn't allowed any. They have given up some big returns – note Tim Gilligan's 62-yard TD punt return that helped Boise State to a near-upset. Cole Clasen does have a 42-yard punt return to his credit, though the Beavers rank last in the conference in kick returns and ninth in punt returns.

GAME OUTLOOK: Probably have to consider this a toss-up. It was good that Knudsen bucked up and hit a fourth try after having three snuffed, and Charles Frederick is a definite Husky advantage. But Yliniemi just never misses. OSU wins the kicking battle and Washington the return battle – provided they don't trip over the yellow hankie on the way downfield.

How do we match-up against the OREGON STATE Beavers ?
Category OREGON ST Beavers UW HuskiesNational LeaderPac-10 Leader
190.33 22 1 130.83 78 6 NAVY 313.83 OSU 190.33
282.83 21 2 278.33 24 3 TEXTECH 519.83 WSU 287.33
473.17 10 1 409.17 34 4 TEXTECH 621.83 OSU 473.17
31.33 30 3 25.5 63 7 OKLA 47.67 CAL 38.5
98.83 22 5 118 32 6 OHIOST 59.67 CAL 73.67
Pass Eff.
88.22 4 1 116.8 51 6 OKLA 82.08 OSU 88.22
308 18 1 318.67 29 3 GEOR 255.17 OSU 308
16.83 21 2 24.33 61 6 FSU 9.83 WSU 15.17
37.67 35 6 39.43 18 3 AFA 45.08 CAL 44.62
5.73 106 9 10.5 41 3 TOL 21.58 CAL 14.8
15.93 113 10 19.35 80 8 SMU 28.59 STAN 26.58
-0.17 70 5 -1.17 106 10 WSU 2.17 WSU 2.17
209.17 52 3 200.67 39 1 PENNST 121 UW 200.67
124.15 66 6 123.93 67 7 OKLA 180.1 WSU 139.73
Source: NCAA.org

KIBBLES AND BITS: Oregon State's 2-0 league start is their best showing since Dee Andros' 1968 squad opened at 4-0 before losing to eventual PAC-8 champs USC ... Lost amid all the Husky negativity is Rich Alexis cracking the 100-yard barrier in three of Washington's last four games. Alexis ranks third in PAC-10 rushing with 540 yards ... Saturday's game will be the 21st-straight sellout at Reser Stadium, which will undergo an $80-million expansion to 43,500 seats in 2005 ... On the official website of the Oregon State Beavers, the site lists the single greatest game in OSU history as "OSU 21, WASHINGTON 20 (1985)" ... Despite constant double-teams, Terry Johnson leads the PAC-10 in tackles-for-loss with 12 ... The Washington State defense (now known as "Damage Inc.") has a current streak of 16-straight third downs stopped – including all 13 opportunities against Arizona ... First Warning to traveling Husky fans: Get ready for that endless bellowing of chainsaws piped through Reser's antiquated P.A. system ... Boise State head coach Dan Hawkins, responding to questioning boosters on Monday in the wake of BSU's 27-20 win over Tulsa - a game that saw the Broncos score what appeared to be an unnecessary TD with 40 seconds remaining, only to see Tulsa reply with an 80-yard touchdown eleven seconds later (but failing to recover the subsequent onside kick): "Yeah, it would have ended the game if we had just knelt on the ball. But Gandhi didn't take a knee, Martin Luther King didn't take a knee, Thomas Edison didn't take a knee, and I sure as hell am not going to take a knee ..."

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