Beavers look to ruin another Homecoming

Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Washington this week occurred in Corvallis last Saturday, where Oregon State was upset by previously winless (in conference) Arizona.

Oregon State (2-3, 4-4) at Washington (0-5, 1-7)
Husky Stadium
Saturday, November 5 - 3:35 PM (PST) - FSN TV
Series All-time: Washington leads, 57-28-4
Last Meeting: October 16, 2004 – OSU 29, Washington 14
Line: Oregon State by 4


For a second week in a row, the Huskies get ready to face an opponent disappointed in letting one go to a foe they should have beaten. The Beavers moved the ball at will against the ‘Cats, holding the ball for over 36 minutes while piling up 31 first downs and 654 total yards. And they had three fourth-quarter chances to set things right for their fans and their Homecoming alumni. But alas, seven turnovers and 12 penalties (to Arizona's one of each) led to just 27 points.

The ‘Cats scored 29.

"You lay in bed after a game like that," a disappointed head coach Mike Riley said after. "I told the team, ‘this is a big four-game stretch, and we didn't get what we wanted in the first one.'".

"We met the enemy, and he was us."

So now for the Beavers to be eligible for their fourth straight bowl game (and sixth in seven years), they must win two of their last three. Next week's opponent Stanford is going pretty well these days – UCLA heartbreak notwithstanding – and OSU has to travel to Eugene for the Civil War.

So this looks to be the easiest of the three. That makes it much more important for Oregon State to win this one – a point not lost on Riley. "We don't need to focus on (a bowl game) right now," he says. "We need to focus on Washington. We've got to disregard (their) record and go play. Just play better football."

"This game will be about ourselves."

It does seem strange, considering history, to imagine an Oregon State football team harboring even the remotest chance of overlooking a Washington football team. But such is the matter that is 13 straight conference losses for the beleaguered Huskies – who this week happens to be celebrating their Homecoming.

The Beavers ruined their own last week. No doubt, this Saturday they'll be looking to ruin somebody else's.

OREGON STATE OFFENSE
TEAM STATS:  30.5 points, 467.1  yards (4th PAC-10, 
             130.0 rush, 337.1 pass) 
             31-41 in Red Zone offense 
            (.756, 8th PAC-10, 18 TDs)

RUSHING: Yvenson Bernard 209-990-12 TD (4.7), long 51
         Nate Wright 9-37-0 TD (4.1), long 13
         Patrick Fuller 8-20-1 TD (2.5), long 6

PASSING: Matt Moore 189-314-18 (.602), 
         2481 yards, 10 TD
               
RECEIVING: Mike Hass 69-1237-6 TD (17.9), long 63
           Yvenson Bernard 31-285-1 TD (9.2), 
           long 30
           Anthony Wheat-Brown 30-313-2 TD (10.4), 
           long 58


Danny Langsdorf's first year as coordinator has seen his offense average 467 yards – if that holds up, it will set a school record. The Beavers have been running it better as the season goes, too - averaging 165 yards the last five games. But it's the turnover bugaboo that haunts them – Oregon State's 29 giveaways are the most in Division 1A football. When they don't turn it over they keep it and can score – they've come from 14 points back against Boise State and 17 versus WSU to win games, while leading the PAC-10 in time-of-possession by nearly two full minutes per game.

UCLA transfer Matt Mooresuffered his worst day as a starter a week ago, even while throwing for 436 yards. Not only did he toss those six picks, he also fumbled twice – losing one on what looked to be the comeback-topping drive. His 18 interceptions tops all of Division I-A. Still, he ranks second in the PAC-10 in passing yards, and represents a much more mobile presence than his predecessor Derek Anderson.

Of course, Moore has a QB's best-friend in All-Everything senior Mike Haas. The nation's leading receiver everything thrown near him – and he'll get thrown to constantly. 157 of Haas' 199 career receptions have gone for first downs or touchdowns, and he is in the Top-20 all time in NCAA receiving yards. Given Washington's fortunes in covering big-time receivers, it's even money that Haas will do something spectacular to enhance the Beaver outcome. Flanker Josh Hawkins and slot receiver Anthony Wheat-Brown have 59 receptions and three touchdowns between them.

The Beavs' single-back set has produced a total of 1,040 yards – and Boca Raton sophomore Yvenson Bernard has 990 of them. The nation's ninth-leading rusher is on pace to rush for 1,400 yards, and he has 12 of the team's 16 rushing touchdowns. Benson rushed for 192 yards last week, and had a career-best 194 earlier against California.

Up front, Oregon State is in a youth movement, with two juniors and no seniors listed in the two-deeps. However, the same starting unit has been intact all season, boding well for the future. Averaging 305 pounds, they are led by juniors Adam Keats and Josh Linehan. Both are starting their 21st-straight game, as is sophomore Roy Schuening.

GAME OUTLOOK: So, who wants to cover Haas? Who CAN? Last week it was Matt Miller for Arizona State who had the career day against the Huskies while they worried about Hagen. Offensively, OSU owns one of the worst Red-zone percentages in the conference, but the Huskies are the PAC-10's worst in Red-zone percentage defense. A bleak weather forecast could mean oodles of turnovers between two sides that know how to do it – and might signal an emphasis on the ground game.

OREGON STATE DEFENSE
TEAM STATS:  34.9 points, 443.0 yards (8th PAC-10, 
             120.1 rush, 322.9 pass)
             28-32 in Red Zone defense (.875, 
             T-8th PAC-10, 21 TDs) 

TACKLES/TFL:  Trent Bray 82/3.5
              Keith Ellison 74/12.5
              Sabby Piscitelli 45/2.0

PASSES DEF/INT:  Keenan Lewis 10/0
                 Sabby Piscitelli 9/2 
                 Brandon Hughes 9/0

SACKS:       Keith Ellison 4.0
             Joe Lemma 2.0
             Ben Seigert 2.0


Mark Banker's third year as coordinator hasn't been a whole lot of fun. After having one of the best pass defenses in the nation a year ago, the 2005 Beavers turned over almost an entirely new secondary and lost two premier defenders from the front seven. As a result, they've been prone to the big play, allowing 51 plays (including special teams) of 25 yards or longer.

In seniors Trent Bray and Keith Ellison, Oregon State should continue their legacy of putting linebackers into the NFL. Bray leads the conference in tackles with 82, while Ellison (74 tackles) leads the league with 12 tackles-for-loss. Ellison also leads the Beavs with four sacks.

Up front, the loss of sack-master Bill Swancutt to graduation is still being felt. Still, like the offense, OSU has been able to start the same four up front, with Joe Lemma (4.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and senior Sir Henry Anderson (4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 batted passes) leading the way. Sophomore DE Jeff Van Orsow (6 TFL) has tons of upside.

Only junior Sabby Piscitelli returned to the Beaver secondary, and it is a unit doing the ‘growing pain' shuffle. Piscitelli – a Boca Raton High teammate of Yvenson Bernard – has been a busy Beav, with 45 tackles, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries just among a few of his exploits. Safety Lamar Herron also has two picks. A pair of RS-freshmen start at corner - Keenan Lewis ranks third in the PAC-10 with 10 passes defended, while Brandon Hughes was originally recruited as a wide receiver.

GAME OUTLOOK: While three individual OSU defenders are in the top-seven in passes defended in the league, the Beavs rank 116th nationally (out of 117) in pass defense – and passing improvement figures to be a Husky emphasis this week. Oregon State has caused just 16 turnovers and look to do better against a Washington offense that lately has been putting the ball in the opposing hands with more regularity.

OREGON STATE SPECIAL TEAMS
PLACEKICKING:  Alexis Serna 16-18 FG (long 47), 
               28-28 XP, 0 blocked

PUNTING:       Sam Paulescu 37-44.6 (long 64), 
               .496 inside the 20

KICK RETURNS:  Lamar Herron 11-24.9 (long 56), 0 TD
               Sammie Stroughter 9-21.6 (long 29), 0 TD

PUNT RETURNS:  Sammie Stroughter 19-6.4 (long 29), 0 TD



Place-kicker Alexis Serna is OSU's ‘Mr. Reliable' – and surely he has fond memories of Husky Stadium. The sophomore hit five field goals a year ago, including a half-ending 55-yarder. He is second in the PAC-10 in FG percentage (behind WSU's Loren Langley), and the conference's leading kick scorer is 33-for-38 (.868) for his career. Senior punter Sam Paulescu is having an All-conference year, putting nearly half of his kicks inside the 20 while averaging 45 yards per boot. He has had a pair of efforts blocked, however.

Sammie Stroughter is still looking for his first TD via kick return. Performing both kick and punt return duties, his career best effort was a 52-yard punt return against Notre Dame in the Insight Bowl. Lamar Herron broke off a personal best 56-yard kickoff return at Louisville.

GAME OUTLOOK: Oregon State owns all the edges here. Numbers wise, they out-kick, out-cover (Washington is last in the conference in kick coverage), and out-return the Huskies. If the weather makes it a field-position battle it's advantage Beavers.

KIBBLES AND BITS


Early forecasts call for a great deal of drip ... While the Huskies beef about having to travel to Eugene year-after-year, the Beavers wonder aloud why they have to return to Husky Stadium for a third-straight season in 2006 ... Since 1999, OSU is 14-5 in November ... Oregon State leads the PAC-10 in both 4th-down conversions (10-for-14) and 4th-down conversions allowed (2-for-9) ... The second quarter has delivered demons to the Beavs so far in 2005 – they gave up 28 points at Louisville, 23 at home against Washington State and 21 at UCLA ... By mileage, Oregon State is the closest PAC-10 school to the Washington campus. However, they only have three Washingtonians on their roster – Trent Bray (Pullman), Aaron Carlson (Olympia), and Adam Mobley (Skyline) ...


Rick Samek can be reached at RSAMEK1@COMCAST.NET

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