By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 24th-ranked Oregon State Beavers travel to Seattle this weekend for a Pac-10 Conference matchup with the Washington Huskies.
Oregon State seeks its third consecutive victory, as the team has beaten Arizona State and Arizona by a total of five points the last two times out. The most recent victory over the Wildcats by a 29-27 final on the road vaulted the Beavers into the top-25.
Last weekend, Washington dropped a 24-14 home decision to the same Arizona State team that Oregon State recently defeated. The Huskies are now 2-3 overall and clearly need a victory on Saturday to avoid being rendered insignificant in the Pac-10 title race.
“We have to get back on the horse and we have another tough opponent a week from tonight,” said head coach Steve Sarkisian after the ASU loss. “This is a mentally tough football team and we will be back.”
Washington owns a 57-33-4 series advantage over Oregon State, but the Beavers have won the last six matchups.
Ryan Katz earned Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors for his play against Arizona, as the Oregon State quarterback completed 30-of-42 passes for 393 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception. Katz also ran for a score, and tailback Jacquizz Rodgers had a rushing touchdown as well.
“We knew what we had to do coming into the game and we went out there and did it,” Katz said. “I felt a lot of confidence out there and we got the job done.”
Markus Wheaton paced the receivers with seven catches for 113 yards and a score, while James Rodgers made seven grabs as well for 102 yards and a touchdown before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Clearly, he will be sorely missed.
Overall this season, Oregon State is generating 28.0 ppg and 342.6 total ypg. The Beavers were expected to be a dominant running team this season, and while Jacquizz Rodgers does have seven scores on the ground, he is rushing for fewer than 100 yards per game. The team is generating a modest 3.7 yards per rushing attempt, a stat that must be improved. Katz has thrown for 1,113 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception, as he has been a pleasant surprise.
While Oregon State finished with an impressive total of 486 total yards against Arizona, the Beavers permitted the Wildcats to rack up 541 yards. Arizona posted 440 yards through the air, making the most of its 46 pass attempts with three touchdowns through the air. All of that damage was done despite the fact that the Beaver defense spent fewer than 24 minutes on the field. Clearly, there is room for improvement defensively for Oregon State.
Opponents are averaging 30.0 ppg and 456.0 total ypg against the Beavers, who have surrendered 19 touchdowns to enemy offenses thus far. Ten of those scores have been of the passing variety, and OSU is allowing 13.0 yards per completion. With 11 sacks and nine takeaways, there have been some impact plays made, but the overall performance has been lacking. Keep an eye on James Dockery, as he has three interceptions already.
Washington quarterback Jake Locker entered this season as a Heisman candidate and was considered one of the top players in all of college football by many fans and analysts. Locker has been a bit inconsistent this season, partly because of his own play and partly because of a lack of protection and play- making ability from his teammates. Against Arizona State, Locker threw a touchdown and ran for a score, but the Huskies were just 5-of-14 on third down conversion attempts and finished with a modest total of 354 yards.
Defensively, Washington did some good things against Arizona State, limiting the Sun Devils to 99 rushing yards on 37 attempts, an average of 2.7 yards per rush. ASU posted three sacks and came up with an interception, and while the pass defense could have been better, the coach of the Huskies was proud of the effort.
“All-in-all, I thought our defense gave us a chance to win the game,” said Sarkisian. “ASU moved the ball between the 20’s but when it’s all said and done, our defense left a chance for us to win and we weren’t able to do that.”
Washington is generating 25.0 ppg and 399.4 total ypg this season, and of the 15 touchdowns scored by the offense to date, eight have come from the arm of Locker. The big signal caller has thrown for 1,145 yards with only three interceptions, but his 55.4 percent completion rating can certainly stand some improvement. Jermaine Kearse leads the receivers with 28 catches for 477 yards and five touchdowns, while Chris Polk paces the ground attack with 466 yards and three scores.
Opponents are posting 30.8 ppg against Washington, which is giving up 429.6 total ypg. The Huskies have only come up with five takeaways through five games, a major problem area, and they have struggled against both the run and the pass. In fact, foes are averaging 5.4 yards per rushing attempt and 13.1 yards per pass completion.
Give a narrow edge to Washington based solely on the home field advantage. Locker is due for a breakout game, and it may very well come this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington 31, Oregon State 24