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CORVALLIS, ORE. -- I hope I can be forgiven for putting in a personal note this week. I am quite excited to return to Corvallis, Ore. this week for the BYU-Oregon State game. I've been there once before for a football game.
In 1967 (I know, that was a long time ago), in my sophomore year, we played at Oregon State. Sometimes in my broadcasting career, I will say that "today was one of those days." This means for one of the two teams, everything went just the way it was supposed to. In 2009, it was one of those days for Florida State in Provo. Well, we had one of those days against a very good Oregon State team in 1967.
We beat the Beavers 31-13 and it was a beating from the start to the finish. The week following our game, Oregon State beat No. 2 ranked Purdue, two weeks later, they tied the new No. 2, UCLA, and the week following that game they beat USC, the then-ranked No. 1 team in the nation.
OSU lost two games that year: at Washington and at home to BYU. They finished the year ranked No. 7. Ah, it was one of those days, and is fun to be able to have a chance to remember the glory of that October day.
Here is the scoop on this year's Oregon State team. OSU does enough things well to cause BYU concern. I know they have one win, but as they get going this year, they are improving. Phil Steele put them on his most improved list this season. They have tools. Offensively, they have been putting the ball in the air. They were 40 for 66 against Arizona State two weeks ago. I thought they might have been throwing because they were behind early, but no; they were leading by a score of 13-0 in the second quarter at Tempe. I believe they felt they couldn't run the ball well, so went straight to a complete passing game. This brings up my first objective.
#1 OBJECTIVE BYU needs to be ready for an aerial attack. I don't believe OSU will be able to run the ball effectively against BYU. That will create a game similar to the Arizona State game. "Quizz" Rodgers left the team early last year for the NFL and the Beavers have had some injury problems at running back this year. I think they want to throw the ball anyway, stopping the run will just encourage them to do what they want.
In the 104 first downs earned this year for OSU, 70 (67%) of them come by way of the pass. They complete a healthy 63% of their passes but just for 9.8 yards a catch. They like to throw quick release passes for short yardage and keep drives alive. This could cause BYU some grief, so they need to stop third down-and-short passes or put them in longer third down situations. The pass defense will be tested.
We can talk about turnovers in every game. Just ask Utah how sweet it is to get a bunch, but how sour it is to give up a bunch. Oregon State has been generous in turning over the football. They have thrown eight interceptions this year and given up four of 12 fumbles. They are minus-2 in the turnover stat. Of course, BYU has been equally friendly to opponents.
In OSU's win this year, they were on the plus side of takeaways and that is the only game this year that they were plus. BYU has been able to win two games this year even though they lost the turnover battle.
#2 OBJECTIVE Don't give up the ball on turnovers. Win the turnover battle. These of course are common sense statements. OSU has trouble when they turn the ball over. Here is an interesting stat about OSU and turnovers: In the eight turnovers gained in the last two games, OSU has scored 33 points. However in the 12 turnovers given away, opponents have only scored 21 points. Hang onto the ball and when you earn a turnover, make something good happen.
Oregon State is better on offense than defense. They have eight returning starters on offense and only four on defense. Teams have completed 67% of their passes against the Beavers for 253 yards a game. Not bad on the yards. Wisconsin and UCLA ran for a couple hundred yards against them, but other opponents have found the going tough. The defensive front is pretty spread out, which I believe will allow BYU to have some success running the ball.
#3 OBJECTIVE Run the football for first downs. BYU had success running right at San Jose State last week. This defense should be somewhat forgiving to straight ahead runs that worked well last week. The Beavers leading tacklers are the middle linebacker and the two safeties. That makes me think that other teams have attempted to run straight at them. The defense does have good quickness and closes quickly in the secondary. If BYU can balance the offense again and make first downs, that reduces Oregon State's offensive chances, so they need to keep OSU off balance with good runs.
OSU has scored twice this year with their punt return team. One block for a score and one return for a score. BYU can't give up any easy scores. The special teams need to step up a notch from last week. Don't I say this every week? Here's looking for one of those days again in Corvallis.
It could be sweet.
- Oregon State's first season was in 1893. The son of the school's president was the first coach and was also the team's quarterback. Sounds like today's little leagues.
- In my game against OSU, my first nine passes did not touch the ground. The first eight went to my teammates, the ninth went to OSU.
- OSU is 10-5 in bowl games. They have lost by 27, 25, 24 (BYU in 2009),16 and 6.