Week 7: UW vs. Oregon State

Oregon State (2-3) hopes to rebound after an 0-2 Pac-10 start, while Washington hopes to get over a heartbreaking loss to USC in the LA Coliseum. The Huskies (4-2, 2-1) have not lost at home yet this season while the Beavers lost their lone road contest this year to Boise State.

LAST WEEK: Washington went toe to toe with USC and was on the 15-yard line, lined up to take a shot at winning the game, but were deprived the chance by some boneheaded officiating. The Dawgs dropped a heartbreaker, 26-20, in Los Angeles as a result. The Husky defense was once again stout inside the red zone, making USC go for field goals. Isaiah Stanback had two touchdown passes and Kenny James led all rushers with 84 yards, but the Trojans held on to keep their record unblemished. Washington is almost to the point where a loss like this one is no longer considered a moral victory. They are on the rise. LAST WEEK: The Oregon State defense turned in a their best performance of the year recording five sacks and 12 tackles for loss, but the Beaver offense managed just six points in a 13-6 loss to Washington State. The offense turned the ball over five times with three of them coming in WSU territory. WR Sammie Stroughter had six catches for a career high 124 yards while returning four punts for 100 yards and was close to taking back a couple of punts for touchdowns. RB Yvenson Bernard had 17 carries for 91 yards while QB Matt Moore completed 18 of 34 for 223 yards, his first 200 yard performance of the season, with no touchdowns and one crucial interception.
KEY INJURIES: Jason Wells (Concussion - will play), Dashon Goldson (ankle, will play), Isaiah Stanback (hip pointer, will play). KEY INJURIES: RT Josh Linehan is out with a knee injury, FS Al Afalava is questionable due to a concussion.
WHEN OREGON STATE IS ON OFFENSE: The Husky defense has shown outstanding toughness in the red zone, holding UCLA and USC to field goals as they got closer to the goal line. The two inside guys are Wilson Afoa (15 tackles, 2 tfl) and Donny Mateaki (10 tackles), with Jordan Reffett (5 tackles) adding depth. They are not dominant but have been pretty solid. The terror twins on the outside at DE are Grayson Gunheim (4.5 tfl, 2 sacks) and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (18 tackles, 2.5 tfl). They are spelled by Brandon Ala (2.5 tfl, 2 sacks). Those six bodies keep the front line fresh. The linebackers are fast and active, led by senior Scott White (47 tackles, 7 tfl, 3 sacks, 2 INT). White is flanked by fellow senior Tahj Bomar (26 tackles, 3 tfl, 1 sack) and junior OLB Dan Howell (4 tfl, 1 sack, 1 INT). Chris Stevens (5 tfl, 2 sacks) and EJ Savannah provide outstanding depth. The secondary is led by senior safety C.J. Wallace (55 tackles, 4 tfl). Jason Wells is the other safety and will undoubtedly be the target of the OSU passing attack. The corners are junior Roy Lewis (36 tackles, 1 sack, 2 breakups) and Dashon Goldson (1 INT, 4 breakups). Matt Fountaine also plays a lot of snaps on corner and has 40 tackles. Mesphin Forrester has two INTs and 2 breakups in a nickel back and reserve safety role. This defense is normally tough after the first drive of the game, as they make adjustments well. The key differences in the resurgence of the Husky defense this year have been that they tackle much better than they used to, they line up properly and hold their gap responsibilities much better, and they all understand what it is that Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer is trying to do with his weekly game plan. The key this week will be to make sure not to let Yvenson Bernard cut back against the flow, or to lose contain and allow him to get outside. He has a nice combination of speed and strength that will make overaggressive linebackers pay for overcommitting. The secondary will have the speedy Sammie Stroughter to deal with. He is faster than any of the UW defensive backs so the safeties will need to be alert to provide help in the middle on the medium to deep balls from Moore. Washington should be able to force Moore into some poor throws, and maybe even step in front of a couple for interceptions. He doesn't appear to be great at looking off defenders. WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: For the first time in the Riley era part II, the defense lined up in a nickel formation last week, and it worked. The defense turned in their best performance of the year against a very good Cougar offense. Many of their sacks and tackles for loss had to do with the different schemes that were implemented and a heavy rotation of players at linebacker and on the defensive line As a unit they played with heart and speed, two things that were missing from the first four games of the year. Washington native Alan Darlin leads the team in tackles with 33 stops, including 5.5 for loss and two sacks. Derrick Doggett, who excels at covering receivers, and Joey LaRocque, who is a run stuffing specialist, are the team's second and third leading tacklers respectively. MLB Bryant Cornell, the speedy Isaiah Cook and Dennis Christopher all receive lots of repetitions at linebacker as well. Senior Joe Lemma (8 tackles/3 sacks), junior Jeff Van Orsow (17 tackles/1 sack) and junior Dorian Smith (8 tackles/1 sack) man the ends. Lemma is undersized and gets handled by the bigger tackles, but is tied for the team lead in sacks with three. Van Orsow has a decent array of moves with a good motor, but is no Bill Swancutt. Smith brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm and will be starting by the end of the year over Lemma. The tackles are manned by the underachieving Ben Siegert (6 tackles) and Curtis Coker (9 tackles/1 sack/2 fumble recoveries), who is one of the emotional leaders of the team and demands a double team. William Vea, who has a co-team high three sacks, junior college transfer Gerard Lee and sophomore Pernell Booth all get time at the tackle spots. Senior Sabby Piscitelli is the leader of the secondary as he has a team high three interceptions with 19 tackles. He is susceptible to play action passes, but is settling down as the year wears on. Sophomore Al Afalava has had a quiet second year as players are taking advantage of his aggressiveness on hits. CB Keenan Lewis is the best cornerback on the team as he leads the squad with four pass breakups. At times he can shutdown one side of the field, but is not consistent for four quarters. Junior Brandon Hughes mans the other cornerback spot. He is physical, but has trouble locating the ball in the air. Coye Franices is the first cornerback off the bench and started the first two games of the year as Hughes recovered from a knee injury.
WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: Isaiah Stanback is the catalyst for the Husky offense. As he goes, so goes the Husky offense. Stanback is hitting 53% of his pass attempts and is averaging 193 passing yards per game. More importantly, he has 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. He is also averaging 4.6 yards per rush and is second on the team with 339 yards through the first six games. That dimension is what gives defenses fits and makes Stanback one of the most difficult people to defend in the Pac-10. His 10.44 100 meter time allows him to get free, and once he is outside the pocket, he's trouble. Kenny James and Louis Rankin are the tailbacks, and both have been servicable this year. Rankin is the faster of the two but James the more consistent back. WR Sonny Shackelford is one of the hottest receivers in the conference. He has 40 receptions, 440 yards, and 5 touchdowns on the season. Anthony Russo has 17 catches for 251 yards at the other wide out spot. TE Johnie Kirton only has nine receptions but three have gone for touchdowns. Marlon Wood has great speed and is a weapon on screens and reverses. The offensive line has been a real bright spot for the Huskies, as they prefer to go with five guys the entire game. WT Ben Ossai, OG Stanley Daniels, C Juan Garcia, OG Clay Walker, and ST Chad Macklin are the trench diggers for the Huskies. The biggest improvements that the Husky offense can show are in the rushing game. BOth James and Rankin have been pretty solid, but both are capable of so much more. While teams line up with 8 in the box, with a spy on Isaiah, it makes it difficult. However if the receivers can limit their dropped passes, and the offense can get Marcel Reece a bit more involved from the slot on short outs and seam routes, it would keep the linebackers from crowding so much and perhaps provide some running lanes for the Husky tailbacks. Against Oklahoma, Kenny James' long TD run came as a result of some nice trap blocking and a horrible tackle by the Sooner safety. Rankin has the speed to do real damage but it is difficult to run through 8 guys that are all 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. A couple more inside screens might also loosen it up a bit more, as Marlon Wood looks like he's finding his rhythm now, and the Huskies block that play very well. Still, the key to the offense is Stanback and his performance. If he's on, the Huskies roll. If he's off, it becomes a difficult proposition to move the ball because Shackelford is the only guy that gets open regularly and he's going to have a lot of company on Saturday. WHEN OREGON STATE HAS THE BALL: Through two conference games the Men in Black on offense have managed to put up just 19 points. Most of the blame has been placed on QB Matt Moore's shoulders who admittedly has struggled. He hasn't made a lot of mistakes, throwing just three interceptions, but he hasn't thrown a lot of touchdowns either, four on the season and just one in Pac-10 play. For a senior quarterback he is not seeing the field well oftentimes locking onto a receiver, not going through his reads, and holding onto the ball too long. His performance has Beaver Nation in an uproar for coach Mike Riley to play redshirt freshman Sean Canfield, who has looked sharp in mop-up time. Riley said he was close last week to implementing a predetermined rotation between Moore and Canfield, but mums the word on the situation this week. It would be very surprising to see Canfield in the game against Washington unless Moore gets injured, or it's a blowout or if Hell freezes over. And while much of the blame has been placed on Moore's shoulders, it is not entirely his fault. The receivers, except for Sammie Stroughter, have not been getting separation from their defenders forcing Moore to thread the needle almost every time. A big play receiver has yet to emerge as well as Moore has completed a pass over 25 yards just once. Stroughter leads the Beavers with 22 catches for 329 yards and no touchdowns. Junior Brandon Powers (16/166/0) mans the slot position while the underutilized Anthony Wheat-Brown (10/155/2) lines up at flanker. Junior Ruben Jackson and Chris Johnson have the potential to stretch the field, but have seen little time on the field. TE Joe Newton has big play ability with 18 catches for 209 yards and three touchdowns, but has had a quite year do to the Beavers not being able to get in the red zone. Despite averaging 4.9 yards per carry and being second in the conference with 495 yards, RB Yvenson Bernard has had a subdued season with just 34 carries in the last two games. He has had a hard time holding onto the ball fumbling in four of the five games with his last two fumbles coming inside the opponent's red zone. True freshman Micah Strickland lines up at fullback when the Beavers are in the I-formation. He has proved to be a valuable weapon in the passing game catching five passes for 44 yards. With all five starters returning from a year ago the offensive line was supposed to be a dominating force but they have yet to dominate an opponent. C Kyle DeVan is playing a high level while LG Jeremy Perry is always looking to knock someone's head off. The versatile Andy Levitre is taking Josh Linehan's place at right tackle after Linehan injured his knee in September against Idaho.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sean Douglas has showed off his leg this year, averaging 46.6 yards on 30 boots including a school-record 82 yarder. However the deep snaps have been a problem and led to a blocked punt last week. PK Michael Braunstein rebounded from missing two against Arizona to hit both attempts last weekend, and is now 4 for 6. He also handles the kick off duties and had a beautiful onside kick last week. Marlon Wood has yet to break a punt return but is getting close. The main kick returner is Roy Lewis, who has a long of 31. The punt coverage teams have had trouble at times for this unit, and this weekend is not a good time for this to happen. Sammie Stroughter is perhaps the best punt returner in the Pac-10. He has good vision, great cuts, and enough excelleration to take it to the house through what has been a suspect Husky special teams unit thus far. They'll get tested this week. SPECIAL TEAMS: Stroughter is second in the nation in punt return average with a 23.6 yard mark. He has two punt returns for touchdowns and has been very close to adding his third the last two games. Francies has done a nice job in the kickoff return game averaging 22.2 yards per return. Many fans feel he is very close to taking one back for six. PK Alexis Serna started the season off rough missing his first two field goal attempts, but has connected on five of his last six, including a 58 yard kick against California tying a school record. Freshman punter Kyle Loomis also got off to a slow start but has performed splendidly the last several games. After averaging 28.0 per kick in the opener he has since averaged 42.3 yards per attempt and 48.2 yards per attempt in conference play.
OREGON STATE CAN WIN IF: Washington comes out flat after their heartbreaking loss to USC. The offense has avoided the costly turnover while the defense has avoided giving up the long touchdown plays that used to plague this team. Any reverting to those former tendencies could give the Beavers all the momentum they need. Stanback must continue to make good decisions with the football and lead the offense down the field, move the chains, and put points on the board. Also, another special teams gaffe like they had on Saturday would spell disaster. WASHINGTON CAN WIN IF: The Beavers turn the ball over three or more times. On the road against a confident Husky team the offense must not give the home team a short field. Defensively they must play with their hair on fire, control Stanback and force the Huskies into mistakes. Some even say that if the defense doesn't score a touchdown, the Beavs won't win.
OREGON STATE WILL LOSE IF: Washington executes on offense and the defense continues to be tough inside the red zone. Beaver QB Matt Moore was really beaten up by WSU last weekend. DC Kent Baer needs to keep the heat on Moore by bringing guys at different angles and out of different packages. Tackle Bernard, pressure Moore, and avoid the turnovers on offense and the Huskies should end the day with a 3-1 Pac-10 record. WASHINGTON WILL LOSE IF: The OSU defense that showed up against Washington State shows up against Washington. They played fast, created turnovers and left everything on the field. If the defense can maintain a high energy level, the Beavers will be in every game from here on out. On offense, OSU must find out how to get big plays, to stretch the field and to get into the red zone where they can utilize Newton's size.
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David Samek is the Publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Washington Magazine. He has been covering UW athletics and recruiting since 1996. Dan Norz is the publisher of BeaverFootball.com. Wear orange, be loud and go Beavs!

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