Civil War Time
Get out the t-shirts. Fly those flags. It's Civil War week. It may not be too important on the national scale, but when looking at each team's record, this is the third most important game since Dee Andros was on the sideline for the Beavers. There seems to be a general disappointment surrounding the game, mostly because the Ducks finally played a few decent teams when October rolled around. If the Ducks had scattered their losses more evenly throughout the season, maybe there wouldn't be this much apathy. No fewer than five Duck fans have told me they are just looking ahead to basketball season and are expecting to get beat this week. I don't get it. Maybe we Oregonians have had a little too much excitement the past few years if we can't get the adrenaline going for this matchup.
Personally, I think it's all relative. Saturday will roll around and the excitement will appear. Hopefully we'll see an exciting game more like the 1998 version than the 1983 version.
Rally on the Farm
Down 21-3 late in the second quarter, it didn't look good for Oregon State last week at Stanford. A team that had lost seven straight on the road and wasn't throwing the ball well faced a certain dilemma. But instead of being forced into throwing the ball and taking opportunities away from Steven Jackson, the Pac-10's leading rusher actually jumped at the opportunity for more carries and single-handedly carried the team back into the game. Behind Jackson's incredible effort for 239 yards on 35 carries, the Beavers scored 28 unanswered points to come from behind and get the victory. It should also be pointed out that after struggling for most of the first three quarters, Derek Anderson had a more than adequate fourth quarter, highlighted by a 46-yard touchdown pass to James Newson. Shawn Kintner also came through with two great catches, including a jump ball play on a two point conversion.
This ought to give this team a little more confidence. While the only game away from Reser Stadium the rest of the year will be the Beavers bowl game, this is a huge win for next year's squad. Any confidence going into next year is a good thing. Which is one more reason this Civil War is such a big game.
Defense Didn't Breakdown
A quick check of the score in the first half of last week's Stanford-Oregon State game signaled a warning. The Oregon State defense had given up 21 points in less than two quarters? Stanford deserves credit for its six play, 91 yard drive in the first quarter that was only the second time this season OSU had given up a first quarter touchdown. They had the Beaver defense on its heels. But the other two touchdowns were set up by OSU missteps, including an interception that was returned to the OSU 7-yard line and a punt returned to the OSU 31-yard line.
It was the fifth straight game Oregon State had held its opponent to less than 100 yards rushing. The Beaver defense now ranks first in the Pac-10 in all defensive categories, total defense, rush defense, pass defense, and scoring defense.
Newson Leaving His Mark
James Newson came close last year to setting the record for most receiving yards in a season. In coming up 31 yards short, he earned his spot as second on the all-time single season list. This year, Newson is already third on that list and trails last year's total by just 17 yards. With 56 yards against Oregon, he will move into first place ahead of Vern Burke, who in 1969 caught 69 passes for 1007 yards. In addition, one more touchdown catch would give Newson the season record. He is four behind Burke on the career TD list.
Jackson Moving up the Charts
Newson isn't the only one breaking records this year. Steven Jackson needs only 57 yards to pass Ken Simonton's mark in 2000 for most rushing yards in a season. Jackson is fifth in the nation, averaging 136.63 yards per game. If he rushes for his average against the Ducks, he will move into fourth after West Virginia's Avon Cobourne rushed for only 80 yards last night against Virginia Tech.
Jackson is currently 10th on the Pac-10 single season rushing list. He would move up even further with a 100-yard game against Oregon. He would move pass Cory Dillon, Trung Canidate, and Marcus Allen into seventh all-time. Another 200-yard game would pass Reuben Mayes, and get right on the heels of O.J. Simpson for fifth place.
Toledo's Job Safe?
Going into this week's game against USC, UCLA is 7-3 this year with a younger team than anyone else in the Pac-10. Bob Toledo is using numerous true freshmen, including two quarterbacks, Drew Olson and Matt Moore. The offense has been inconsistent, but the defense has played extremely well, with a couple of likely all-conference team members in Matt Ware and Ricky Manning (Side note: It will be very interesting to see how the voting shakes out at cornerback for the Pac-10 first team. With Marcus Trufant, Dennis Weathersby, and Manning all great defensive backs).
The Bruins still have an outside shot at the Rose Bowl, but would need to win its last two games and have Washington beat Washington State. While not likely, we've certainly seen stranger things happen. If the Bruins win either game, I believe Bob Toledo will retain his job. If he loses both, he may be out.
Either way, it ought to be noted that Toledo has done a great job with all the youth on his team and in a rebuilding year, improved upon last year's team.
1) Washington State
5) Oregon State
The Ducks have lost four out of their last five games and are coming to Corvallis without their usual swagger. Their pass defense has been belittled every week since they lost to Arizona State. Maybe this is exactly what Derek Anderson needs.
Oregon will come in with a great game plan on both sides of the ball. On defense, they will load guys up front to take away the run. Anderson must make plays early in the game to take pressure off Jackson. He does not need to beat the Ducks by himself. Simply sticking to the game plan and hitting open receivers will suffice. Oregon likes to get after the quarterback and has a good defensive line with Haloti Ngata, Seth McEwen, Igor Olshansky, and Darrell Wright. They will blitz their linebackers and keep trying to hit Anderson as much as possible. They will keep the pressure on unless Anderson is able to beat them deep.
Offensively, because Onterrio Smith is out, Terrance Whitehead will get most of the carries, with Ryan Shaw and Allen Amundson getting an occasional look. Whitehead struggled against Washington, mostly because of poor offensive line play for the Ducks. Their struggles have corresponded with problems up front, with both run blocking and pass protection.
This Week's Focus
Season Record: 49-16
Last Week: 2-2
USC and UCLA are back on top again. Well, almost. The winner of this game still has a shot at the Pac-10 title if the Huskies beat the Cougars and UCLA triumphs over Washington State December 7th. But with all the talk at the beginning of the year about the northwest power shift, it ought to be noted that only Washington State is among the Pac-10's top four teams. Arizona State rounds out that quartet. Both USC and UCLA have rebounded from disappointing seasons last year to get to the top.
This game will feature a team in USC that is playing as well as anyone in the country. The Trojans have been incredibly stingy on defense and are probably better than Oregon State, the Pac-10 statistical leader in all defensive categories. The numbers are skewed because of the non-conference schedules, with USC facing teams such as Auburn, Colorado, and Kansas State. And on offense, Carson Palmer has been living up to expectations, the USC offensive line is amazing, and three backs are running the ball well. Norm Chow is doing a great job calling plays, and true freshman Mike Williams is a lock for the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honor.
UCLA would be in much better shape right now had Cory Paus not been injured against Cal. They probably would have triumphed over the Bears that day and would have a better shot against the Trojans. This game may be at home for UCLA, but USC is much too good of a team. They will win this game handily.
USC 35, UCLA 17.
Cal 45, Stanford 21. Stanford has won the last seven "Big Games" coming into this year, but the roles are reversed this year. Stanford is the league doormat and Cal is playing what will be the closest to a bowl game any of their seniors will see because of NCAA violations under former coach Tom Holmoe. Jeff Tedford has his team headed in the right direction and will likely get to a bowl next year.
Washington State 51, Washington 32. Washington State will clinch a BCS appearance with a win here. They may have been on the verge of one last year until the Huskies ended those hopes in Seattle. This game could very well be an upset, but Washington State simply has too much riding on this game to blow it. They have beaten too many good teams this year to fall apart against Washington. The Husky defense has improved over the last few games after struggling in the early portion of Pac-10 play. Look for Jason Gesser to have a great game. The difference will be the WSU offensive line which has been the best in the conference all year.
Oregon State 24, Oregon 20. The Civil War has been filled with excitement and close calls the past four years and this year should be no different. The Beavers have not lost a November home game since November 7th, 1998 against third ranked UCLA. The Beavers are 22-3 over their last 25 home games. This game will come down to Steven Jackson's ability to run the ball (or the offensive line's ability to protect) and Derek Anderson's accuracy. The offensive line has only given up two sacks in the last four games. If they can keep that protection, it will mean good things for the Beavers.
Oregon will struggle offensively against the Beaver defense, but Oregon State must minimize its mistakes, notably turnovers and punt returns. Those were the difference in last year's Civil War and also the reason Stanford scored 21 points.
Look for a few trick plays from both sides in the likely dry weather (Wait, this can't be the Civil War, can it?). Both teams will play hard, but the Beavers will win this one at home, continuing the streak of home victories.
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