DAVID PA'ALUHI III WITH THE SACK AND FORCED FUMBLE
FLEXING THEIR DEFENSIVE muscles, and capitalizing on the legs of record setting sensation Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State overcame key first half mistakes to win going away 34-6 over UCLA on Saturday to become bowl eligible. OSU's stop corps owned the line of scrimmage, DT Stephen Paea and DE Victor Butler spent so much time in UCLA's backfield their mail will probably be delivered there next week.
And sometimes, stats don't lie. Jacquizz Rodgers went over the 1,000 yard mark on the season in the first half, over the 100-yard mark for the game near the end of the third quarter, (finishing unofficially with 144 hashes on the day) and then in the fourth quarter, Quizz broke the all-time Pac-10 season freshman rushing record (Darrin Nelson, Stanford, '77).
Within those numbers, Quizz, whose longest run was 19 yards, continued Saturday to make some of the prettiest short yardage gainers in all of college football.
Sometimes, though, stats do lie. In the case of QB Sean Canfield, he was a sterling 10-for-13 in the first half. But two critical mistakes by Canfield, an interception and fumble when the Beavs were knocking on the door, overshadowed the high completion percentage and resulted in a 3-3 deadlock at halftime.
Canfield, starting for an injured Lyle Moevao (shoulder), came back nicely in the third and fourth quarters, finishing a robust 16-of-22 for 222 yards with 2 TDs and one interception. His long ball to Sammie Stroughter that in effect sealed the game was picture perfect, and he's still playing his surgically repaired shoulder into playing shape.
Still, his timing within the offensive set was clearly off the first 30 minutes and because OSU looks to have three tough regular season tests remaining, scoring opportunities lost early could prove costly late -- especially to a team in charge of their own Rose Bowl fate.
No such problems for the Beaver D on Saturday, as Oregon State (6-3, 5-1) dropped a curtain shade of black and orange over the UCLA offense long before the sun set in Pasadena.
UCLA FACED A Beaver swarm all day long with Victor Butler, Stephen Paea, Slade Norris and Dwight Roberson among those battering Bruin quarterback Kevin Craft and dropping UCLA running backs for loss or short gains.
The Bruins' second drive went for 68-yards and a field goal -- and then the Beaver D did not allow UCLA to cross midfield again until 5:40 remained in the third quarter. Sandwiched around that Bruin field goal, Oregon State allowed Bruin drives of 1, 5, 26, -16 and 25 yards before UCLA added a late third quarter field goal.
Linebackers Keaton Kristick and Bryant Cornell, and strong safety Al Afalava, were among those stuffing the UCLA running attack throughout -- Bruin running backs and WR Terrence Austin carried the ball for only 58 yards. Add in the OSU sacks, and the Bruins had 48 total team rushing yards. And LB David Pa'aluhi III III (3 tackles) played a key role, forcing a fumble on a sack and maintaining OSU's momentum.
STROUGHTER AND James Rodgers might have been overshadowed by Quizz but their contributions were crucial in the absence of Shane Morales (hip), injured during the Beavs' Friday walk-through. Morales tried to play but came out on the first series. Taylor Kavanaugh primarily took his place.
Rodgers had 115 receiving yards on six grabs, while Stroughter just missed the century mark at 93 hashes on six receptions. Stroughter had several of the half-dozen were works of art, including a pair on the decisive drive of the game.
With the Beavs up 10-3, Stroughter dragged a toe to move the chains but that was merely prelude to his and Canfield's 44-yard connection on third and nine down to the 3-yard line. Two plays later, with lead blocker Joe Halahuni blasting a hat on an outside linebacker, Quizz tucked it inside punched it across the goal line and the Beavs went up 17-3.
If any doubt remained as to the outcome, a fast closing defensive line forced Craft to throw before he wanted and run stuffing safety Greg Laybourn, maligned at times this season for his coverage skills, played this one perfectly. The Pac-10's leading tackler stepped in front of the receiver and raced 53-yards down the sidelines to set up a Canfield scoring lob to Quizz. That made it 24-6 with 10:15 to play.
Running back Ryan McCants added 63 yards with the bulk coming in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard dash for his second career touchdown to finish the scoring.
Through nine games on the season, Quizz has 1,089 yards, breaking the 31-year old record. The Pac-10 freshman record had been 1,069 yards by Stanford's Darrin Nelson in 1977. Former Beaver Ken Simonton had 1,028 yards in 1998. Quizz now leads his next closest challenger (Toby Gerhart) in the Pac-10 rushing category by 157 yards.
Oregon State had three sacks, (Roberson, Pa'aluhi III, Paea) and a total of eight tackles for loss.