Oregon State looks to mend Dam against Washington

One of the tackiest and most obvious clichés in the books, unfortunately, describes Oregon State's 2001 football fortunes to a tee (pardoning the pun). What a difference a year makes.

#8 Washington (5-1, 7-1) at Oregon State (2-4, 3-5)
Saturday, November 10 - 12:35 PM
Reser Stadium – Corvallis, OR
Last Meeting: October 7, 2000 – Washington 33, Oregon State 30
Series All-Time: Washington leads, 55-26-4

Now, it might have been a tad presumptuous to rank the defending PAC-10 co-champions as high as eleventh in the first polls of the season (and downright preposterous for Sports Illustrated to rank them number one), considering that the Beavers returned only 10 starters from last season's Fiesta Bowl champion roster. Still, the surprising swiftness of the fall from the penthouse was rivaled only by the swiftness of last year's uprising.

And as savory as last year's 11-1 Tostitos tasted for coach Dennis Erickson's crew –- the only blemish a 33-30 Husky Stadium loss to Washington in perhaps the season's best game -- this year's 3-5 lemon tastes every bit as bitter.

Granted, OSU wasn't dealt a pat hand to start. Last year's powerhouse opened with three cupcake wins at home, while this season opened with that surprising 44-24 monster mash at the hands of Fresno State. On National TV, no less.

Licking their wounds, the Beavers went into Las Cruces and ground out an ugly five-point win over New Mexico State. Oregon State was set for their home opener the following week in what figured to be a laugher with Montana State, but the game was cancelled in the wake of the tragic events of September 11.

So, with a scheduled bye the following week, the Beavers were off for 21 days before finally welcoming UCLA. An angry, hungry-for-redemption UCLA.

It was no contest.

Then the wheels blew out with a 0-31 first half in Pullman that reminded everyone of the OSU teams of the early 1990s. Oregon State came back well to lose that one by seven, but the die was cast. There would be no magic run to follow up what was an incredible 2000 season.

And last Saturday bore the microcosm of OSU's year. The Beavers, trying to end a 41-year L.A. Coliseum drought, held a six-minute advantage in possession time while nearly doubling USC in first downs and total yards. Yet they lost 16-13 in overtime, as they gave up a blocked punt-return for a touchdown, and the almost-automatic Ryan Cesca missed two short field goals in the last six minutes of regulation.

Still, Beaver coach Dennis Erickson holds hope for his usual strong finish -- Erickson is 42-10-1 overall in November. And with a 2-1 November (and 1-0 December), OSU can still become bowl-eligible (probably in Seattle) and erase a lot of that early-season bitterness by winning out -– especially with wins over Washington and later, Oregon. "I hope we still can keep that going," Erickson says of his November success. "We have improved every year in November since I've been here. There are still things to play for; there are opportunities for us as a football team. We'll just see where we can go from here."

Erickson is expecting from Washington just what everyone else has lately -- a team that takes it to the limit each and every week. "Washington is, well, Washington," comments Erickson on the Husky team he sees on film. "You look at their games every week, and they just win. They make big plays at the end of games and win. It says a heck of a lot for their program. Everything about them is ‘team'.

"This is a game we've been looking forward to all year – heck, before the year even started. And we want to rise to the challenge. The Oregon State-Washington game has always been special. We haven't won very many, so I don't know how special it is to them -- but it's special to us."

Coach Erickson would also love to get another November streak going for one player in particular -- Ken Simonton, who is nearing an end to a brilliant four-year career, one that will live on in OSU annals forever. "He's the type of player you wished never ran out of eligibility," says Erickson of his All-American tailback. "He just amazes me every time he goes out and plays."

Simonton, who long ago saw his Heisman hopes dashed in the face of defenses stacked to stop him exclusively, wouldn't mind extending his eligibility a little longer, either. "I'm a family man, I love my family," says Simonton of a final stand for a Bowl. "But I don't necessarily want to see them at Christmas time.

"This is the only season I have guaranteed left, and I want to enjoy it and extend it as long as I can."

As would the many thousands of Beaver fans who've had to endure the difference a year can make.
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TEAMS STATS: 22.4 points, 342.9 yards (118.2 rush, 224.7 pass)
RUSHING: Ken Simonton 152-629-5 TD (4.1), Steven Jackson 40-278-1 TD (6.9)
PASSING: Jonathan Smith 130-234-8 (55.6 percent), 1577 yards, 8 TD
RECEIVING: James Newson 45-658-3 TD, Tim Euhus 18-254-1 TD

In their single-back set, the Beavers have been pretty efficient in the red zone (82-percent), but downright dreadful in converting third downs –- partially due to OSU's conference-leading penchant for penalties. It's a big reason why Oregon State averages 10 less points and 80 less yards-per-game than a year ago.

Heroic in 2000, maligned in 2001, senior quarterback Jonathan Smith (5-11, 204) needs to average 200 yards per game in his final three games to surpass Erik Wilhelm as Oregon State's all-time leading passer. Smith, making his 35th-straight start, has found the going tougher this season with a brand-new receiving crew, even though his completion percentage is at a career-high. Smith has been a long-time thorn in Washington's paw, throwing for 1,022 yards and seven TDs in his three games –- including that record 469-yarder in Husky Stadium in 1998. Says Smith of a frustrating senior year: "We just put ourselves into such an early hole, and it's been pretty tough to come out of it." Beaver fans are drooling over the prospects of Scappoose freshman Derek Anderson (6-6, 240). Anderson, set to take the reins next year, played his first significant time against Washington State, throwing for 96 yards. Last year, Anderson became the state of Oregon's first-ever high school Player-of-the-Year in both football and basketball in the same scholastic year.

What can you say about senior TB Ken Simonton (5-8, 191) that hasn't already been said? Simonton owns twelve all-time Beaver rushing records (and five full pages of the Oregon State media guide), but will need to average 124 yards per game to become the first player in PAC-10 history to rush for over 1,000 yards in all four eligible seasons. With 108 yards, he will pass Marcus Allen as the PAC-10's second-leading all-time rusher. Simonton "only" has three 100-yard games this season and hasn't had his best days against the Huskies, with 267 yards in three games (with a best of 106 in 1999). Senior Patrick McCall (5-11, 200) also expected a big year, but only has two touchdowns and is averaging 3.9 yards-per-carry. Las Vegas true freshman Steven Jackson (6-1, 212) shows tremendous promise -- his 63-yard TD scamper spoiled UCLA's shutout. Jackson almost single-handedly led Oregon State to their only TD against USC, rushing for 60 of his 119 yards on the drive, and also catching the four-yard TD pass.

Sophomore flanker James Newson (6-1, 206) is the only receiver that has emerged from a corps that lost over 2,600 yards and 20 touchdowns to graduation. Newsom has 45 catches –- no other wide receiver has more than 14 -- and has three touchdowns. Newson has 372 receiving yards spanning the last three weeks. Junior Seth Trimmer (6-5, 201) caught four passes for 107 yards and a score against Fresno State, but has found the going tougher since then. Junior Shawn Kintner (6-3, 204) scored an unusual TD against Cal, when he stole the ball back from the Bears' Nnamdi Asomugha and waltzed 10 yards into the end zone after Asomugha had intercepted Smith. RS-freshman George Gillette (6-1, 188) started the first four games for OSU, but hasn't produced as hoped. Tight ends are featured prominently in Erickson's offense, and sophomore Tim Euhus (6-5, 243) is on pace for a 30-catch season. Euhus is OSU's second-leading receiver, and has a 40-yard TD against ASU to go with a career-best 6-for-91 effort against New Mexico State. Against Arizona, Cole Clasen (5-8, 185) became the first Oregon State Beaver to ever start a game as a walk-on freshman.

It's a massive front line for Oregon State. Senior center Chris Gibson (6-3, 286) is making his 22nd-straight start for the Beavers, and like the Huskies' Kyle Benn, makes all the line calls. Junior guard Mike Kuykendall (6-6, 323) returned to the starting lineup against USC after a two-game lineup shuffle. RS-freshman Kanan Sanchez (6-4, 327) has been impressive in his four career starts at the other guard. Senior Vincent Sandoval (6-4, 304), OSU's left tackle last year, moved to the right side in favor of junior Lee Davis (6-4, 314), who pushed Sandoval all of last year.

TEAM STATS: 26.0 points, 366.4 yards (176.0 rushing, 190.4 passing)
TACKLES/TFL: Rich Siegler 74/12, Nick Barnett 58/11, James Allen 56/4
SACKS: Noah Happe 7, Kyle Rosselle 3, Bill Swancutt 3
INTERCEPTIONS: Terrence Roberts 3, Mitch Meeuwsen 2

Some pretty good backs have had pretty good days against a Beaver defense that starts only three seniors -– Delvon Flowers with 226 yards and Dave Minnich with 195 to name two. The OSU secondary has been pretty decent, but they're razor-thin at safety after a season-ending injury to Calvin Carlyle. Eric Mobley has also missed most of the season, but may return before the year is out.

Senior Kyle Rosselle (6-5, 258) and sophomore Noah Happe (6-5, 236) are manning the ends once patrolled by the presidential duo of Jackson and Grant. Happe is the leading tackler on the Beaver defensive line and dominated against USC, registering three (of his seven) sacks on Carson Palmer, while Rosselle has chipped in three. Junior Eric Manning (6-1, 292) and sophomore Dwan Edwards (6-3, 281) have nine tackles-for-loss and four sacks between them from the inside. Manning is making his 21st-straight start, and plays a lot like Larry Tripplett. Salem true freshman Bill Swancutt (6-4, 241) looks very promising in the defensive line rotation, already with three of sacks to his credit.

The Beavers top three tacklers happen to be all three starting linebackers. Senior James Allen (6-3, 230) makes his 26th Beaver start, and will have 200 career-tackles before the season is out. Middle linebacker Rich Seigler (6-3, 228) is having a big year, leading OSU with nine tackles per game and ranking fourth in the conference with 12 tackles-for-loss. Seigler and junior Nick Barnett (6-2, 202) both have 18-tackle efforts this year –- tops in the PAC-10. Barnett also leads the Beavers in quarterback hurries, and has 29 tackles over the last two games. Junior Jason Lowe (6-2, 220) has a sack and a forced fumble as the fourth LB.

Junior corner Dennis Weathersby (6-1, 200) has the "big receiver" cover responsibility, and will probably face off with Reggie Williams. Weathersby only has one interception, but has eight pass break-ups. Junior Terrence Roberts (5-10, 195) owns three of Oregon State's six interceptions from his left corner spot. Senior free safety Jake Cookus (5-10, 192) leads the DBs in tackles with 48, while RS-freshman Mitch Meeuwsen (6-3, 208) has a pair of interceptions and three fumble recoveries while capably filling for Carlyle. Diamond Bar RS-freshman Aric Williams (5-11, 163) will be the nickel back.

PLACE-KICKING: Ryan Cesca 10-14 FG (long 47), 21-21 XP
PUNTING: Carl Tobey 56-39.7 (long 60)
PUNT RETURNS: Josh Hawkins 24-155 (long 19)
KICK RETURNS: Patrick McCall 13-23.3 (long 68)

Junior place-kicker Ryan Cesca (5-8, 176) has hit 26 out of his last 33 field goal attempts, and for the year was 6-for-6 from inside the 40 before his two misses against USC (though he did hit a 29-yarder in the OT). Cesca has a long of 47-yards this season and a career-best of 49-yards. He is already Oregon State's second-leading all-time scorer, behind Ken Simonton. Sophomore punter Carl Tobey (6-1, 222) is averaging just under 40 yards per punt in his first season. Long Beach Poly freshman speedster Josh Hawkins (6-0, 179) handles the punt-return duty, averaging 6.5 per try. Tailbacks Patrick McCall and Steven Jackson return the kickoffs –- McCall peeled off a 68-yarder against Fresno State.

The Beavers have blocked three kicks so far –- two punts and a field goal -– and it's something Washington needs to be aware of, considering they've had three punts of their own blocked. Oregon State also leads the conference in kickoff coverage (18.4 yards per return).

Oregon State wide receivers coach Eric Yarber will miss his second straight game after being hospitalized with a liver virus. Though it is not life-threatening, Yarber will remain in the hospital for at least another week . . . A hard ticket this week: Official capacity at Reser Stadium is 35,362. The Beavers' average home attendance so far this season? 36,427 . . . The Huskies have done pretty well at streak-extending so far. They've been able to keep their Stanford (10 straight at home) and California (19 straight overall) streaks intact (along with their 13-game home winning streak), and now they have two more streaks to defend this week –- 12 straight wins at Reser Stadium and 13 in a row overall in the series. Their last loss in Corvallis was in 1974 –- the year before Don James took the helm . . . Streak addendum: The Huskies have scored in nine straight quarters . . . Oregon State has won 14 of their last 16 at home, losing only to Washington and UCLA during that time . . . Taking the fifth: The Huskies rank fifth in all four major PAC-10 team categories –- Total Offense, Total Defense, Scoring Offense, Scoring Defense . . . When Washington State's Al Genatone sprinted 73 yards with a DeShaun Foster fumble for a score, it was the first touchdown UCLA had given up in the third quarter all season . . . Oregon has only given up seven sacks all season . . . Cody Pickett now ranks second in the PAC-10 in Total Offense (259.4 yards per game) . . . If California can't win one of it's last three games for out-going coach Tom Holmoe, they will become the first PAC-10 team to go winless since Oregon State in 1980 . . . Why punt? Washington is an unreal 9-for-10 in fourth down conversions this year. Oregon State is a not-too-shabby 4-for-6 . . .

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