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September 24, 2007

He said. She said. Giving it all away

...::He said.
.She said::...

...::THE OFFENSE
SHE SAYS::...

Yes, the Beavers gave yet another ball game away, but I did see improvement over the Cincinnati game from a few weeks ago. Turnovers are going to kill you, and the mistakes that led to six on the night need to be improved, but the offense did sustain a few nice drives and completely dominated Arizona State early.

Sure, Sean Canfield threw five picks, but we all knew going into this year that some rookie mistakes would be made. Since I had to rely on the radio for my game coverage (yes, it felt like it was 1948 once again), I am relying on notes and the first hand accounts from a few from Beaver Nation who made the journey to the desert.

While Canfield had moments of greatness, he also struggled at times. I think a lot of this comes down to 'trusting his eyes' and making quicker decisions. Doug Flutie talked about this during the Cincinnati game, as he said it one of the biggest mistakes young quarterbacks make. Once Canfield is able to trust what he sees downfield (and do so quickly), things will begin to go more smoothly for the Beavers.

Blocking does not sound like it was an issue, although it would be nice to get Yvenson Bernard a few more holes to run through. The tight ends also seem to have tightened up their blocking assignments.

Next week, I would love to see the shot gun used a little more frequently, as it seems to give Canfield a bit more time to make his reads. Also, although I love to see the Beavers spread the field and go deep, it may be worth a try using Clinton Polk on a few plays. I realize that no back blocks as well as Bernard, but Polk's running style may be just the ticket to keep the defense in check.

In the end, I have to give the offense a B-, they racked up 514 yards of offense, had more first downs than the Devils (28-19), and converted on 4-5 attempts in the red zone. A good effort, but the turnovers once again killed the Beavers and the offense must find a way to protect the ball at all costs.

SHE SAYS-GRADE: B-

...::THE OFFENSE
HE SAYS::...

For me, this week's game seems to fit perfectly in a good, bad, and ugly review format.

The Good: 514 total offensive yards against a Craig Bray defense is good any way you slice it. The Sun Devils had only given up a total of 642 yards in their first three games. At times the Beavers were able to move at will against the Sun Devils. Scoring 32 points on the road was also good, and should have been enough to pull out a victory.

The Bad: For some reason, with a veteran offensive line and veteran running back, the Beavers can't count on the running game when they need it most. Bernard put up decent numbers (24 rushes, 128 yds) but he and the Beavs weren't able to control the game like good rushing teams can. A critical drive starting at the 7:06 mark of the 3rd quarter (score 26-13 OSU leading at the time) netted 1 yard on two consecutive run plays, including a 3rd and 1. From that point forward, until the last OSU drive of the game, Bernard ran a total of 5 times for 15 yards. That just won't get it done on the road with the lead.

The Ugly: No surprise here, it's the 5 picks. We've all seen this happen before, for various reasons, to Oregon State QB's. Is it the system? Is it the QB? Is it the receivers? Is it the line? There are no easy answers. But it keeps occurring. It is a team sport and the team (coaches included) must work together to correct it. Ball control, ball control, ball control. Almost as alarming as the interceptions themselves is that they were returned for 120 combined yards.

HE SAYS-GRADE: C-

...::THE DEFENSE
SHE SAYS::...

While the offense gave the ball away, the defense still struggles with giving up the big play. Against the Sun Devils, Oregon State gave up four touchdown plays of over 40 yards, including a 64 yard pass play to start the second quarter.

The defensive line has made great strides over the past two years and not only held Arizona State to 35 net yards rushing, they continually put pressure on Rudy Carpenter. The only problem…Carpenter was slippery and when the defense didn't wrap him up and tackle him, he was able to get away and make a big play.

Giving up big plays is nothing new for the Beavers who struggled in similar ways late last season with Hawaii and Missouri, but unless Oregon State can figure out a way to contain these big pass plays, it could spell more trouble as the season wears on.

The defense did have a great stand late in the game, after Sammie Stroughter muffed a punt that led to ASU recovering the ball on the Oregon State 2-yard line. The defense held strong when the game was already out of hand, and held the Sun Devils to a field goal.

At the end of the night, I felt that big plays given up by the defense were just as costly as the turnovers by the quarterback. The only difference is, the defense is a group of seasoned veterans and shouldn't allow that many big plays to happen.

SHE SAYS-GRADE: C

...::THE DEFENSE
HE SAYS::...

The Good: The run defense continues to be stellar. The Sun Devils, who had been relying on their run game for most of the year, netted a total of 35 yards on the ground on 36 rushing attempts. The defense also sacked Carpenter four times on the night, and forced him to scramble much more then I'm sure he wanted to. Good work here.

The Bad: The failure to really put the hammer down after being spotted a 19 point lead. With the speed and skill of this defense, that should have been plenty to really take it to the Sun Devil's. What more could a defense ask for on the road?

The Ugly: FOUR touchdown scoring plays of over 41 yards. Are you serious? From a team whose longest play of any type this year had been 35 yards! You've heard of the ever popular 'bend but don't break' defense. Well this apparently was the dreaded 'hardly bend and then completely meltdown' defense. Ole! Rudy Carpenter single-handedly won that game for the Sun Devils, and got a big assist from the Beaver defensive secondary. As we've seen over the years, good QB's can repeatedly burn the Beaver secondary.

HE SAYS-GRADE: D+

...::SPECIAL TEAMS
SHE SAYS::...

Again, not being in Tempe or being able watch the game on TV, I am at a huge disadvantage. Serna had one great punt and one bad punt, with a few average punts thrown in for good measure. The punting situation is what it is, so no use to dwell on that.

Stroughter had one fumbled punt and almost more inexcusable was a fair catch he called for on the 7-yard line. I thought that most schools of thought taught that anything inside the 10 should be let go with the hope (or expectation) of a touchback?

SHE SAYS-GRADE: B-

...::SPECIAL TEAMS
HE SAYS::...

The Good: The coverage teams did a nice job.

The Bad: The return teams didn't get much and kick off returns were especially poor.

The Ugly: Another muffed punt by Stroughter deep in the opponent's territory and a 7 yard punt by Serna.

HE SAYS-GRADE: D

...::OVERALL
SHE SAYS::...

Well, it was way better than Cincinnati…

Actually, I do feel better about our offense since the Beavers were able to move the ball on a decent Arizona State defense (yes, the ASU "D" has accounted for great records, but they really hadn't played anyone until Oregon State).

Canfield is 'getting it,' but he needs to make his decision more quickly and get rid of the ball. The line is giving better pass protection, but more run blocking will be needed if they are going to balance the offense more closely.

On defense, the line has been exceptional, but tighter play out of the secondary is a must from here on out. There is talent there, but getting torched for big plays are going to continue to be costly as the Beavs have some pretty tough games looming on the schedule.

While I wasn't happy this morning when I woke up, there are tangible things for the Beavers to work on this week, and improvement has been made on many fronts. It is a long season ahead, so I guess all that any of us can do is hang on tight and enjoy the ride.

SHE SAYS-GRADE: C+

...::OVERALL
HE SAYS::...

The potential is there, which is more then I was saying at this time last year. Thinking back a year ago, the offense stunk at this point. Now, it is much better, except for one glaring statistic. While a certain coach to the south might like to play the game without turnovers, they are a huge part of every game and can quickly nullify solid execution.

It is very simple. In almost all cases, winning teams control and protect the ball and losing teams do not. Right now, on the road against solid competition, the Beavs are careless with the football.

The Pac-10 gauntlet continues this week against UCLA in Corvallis. The team's response to the bitter disappointment in Tempe will go a long way to determining if they can reach their full potential this year, or if it will be quashed by the turnover bug.


HE SAYS-GRADE: D+




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