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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Oregon State poses big threat

    Arizona head coach Mike Stoops sat down in room 109C in the McKale Center on Monday for his weekly press conference with a lot on his mind.

    Just two days removed from a 55-45 loss at Oregon, in which he saw his team allow 45 points and 411 yards of total offense in the first half – perhaps the worst half of football Arizona has played under Stoops – one would think the head coach would still be dwelling on the Ducks game.

    Instead, Stoops has sworn his sole concern is preparing his squad for a No. 21 Oregon State team that has surprised many during its quest to the top of the Pacific 10 Conference standings.

    “”They are probably one of the most underrated teams in the country,”” Stoops said. “”I think they are one of the best coached teams in the country from top to bottom. I think they do a tremendous job maximizing their players. I think they always play hard and are consistent in their approach.””

    A simple look at Oregon State’s résumé would suggest it is one of the premier teams in the country, but Stoops is right in that the Beavers are rarely talked about on a national scale.

    Oregon State (7-3, 6-1) has only one blemish on its Pac-10 record – a season opening loss to Stanford – but has since rattled off six consecutive conference victories, including a 27-21 win over then-No. 1 USC and has remained the only school to knock off the Trojans this season.

    With success in the Pac-10 schedule, Oregon State has only two more games to win – at Arizona, and at home against No. 24 Oregon in the season finale – to make its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1965.

    “”We want to win and we know what is at stake for Oregon State, too,”” Stoops said. “”We want to win for a lot of different reasons. I don’t know if (Oregon State’s Rose Bowl chances) is extra incentive or not, but we know what is at stake any time you play a top-20 team; it’s always a big game and we want to finish this season in a positive way.””

    Arizona hasn’t been a stranger to tough competition this season, but players are excited about the opportunity to play yet another ranked team.

    “”We are going to be up for them without a doubt,”” said offensive lineman Joe Longacre. “”They are a great team so it should be another challenge for us, but it is going to be an exciting game and it is good to be back home.””

    If Arizona has any ideas of knocking down Oregon State, it has to begin with the containment of the Rodgers brothers, both of whom have been very dangerous weapons for the Beavers the entire season.

    Freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who has nabbed most of the attention, has been an outstanding threat for Oregon State, rushing for a team-high 1,233 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. The second leading rushing is Jacquizz’s brother, James, who has 29 carries for 250 yards and four touchdowns.

    James Rodgers, who had all of his rushing attempts on end arounds and reverses given he is a receiver, is the second leading wideout behind senior Sammie Stroughter, as James has pulled down 48 balls for a little more than 600 yards and four more scores.

    That being said, Stoops is certainly aware of what the Rodgers brothers bring to the table.

    “”They create a lot of run plays for both of them (Rodgers brothers). A lot of quick reverses, but that’s just part of it,”” Stoops said. “”Our rotations and our secondary is going to have to be really good, and our gap control is going to have to be really good against them.

    “”Everybody is going to have to play well (to stop them),”” Stoops added. “”You have to tackle and be disciplined in your gap controls, and if we stunt move we have to be precise.””

    Larsen making impact in NFL

    Former Arizona linebacker Spencer Larsen had always been known as a playmaker and a defensive captain during his time with the Wildcats.

    Despite falling down to the sixth round of last April’s NFL Draft, Larsen is already making a difference for the Denver Broncos.

    In Denver’s 24-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Larsen became the first player in Broncos’ history to start on both sides of the ball in the same game – and the first in the NFL since 2003 – in addition to his role on special teams.

    “”I have never seen a guy start at middle linebacker and fullback,”” Stoops said Monday. “”He probably played the first play of special teams, too, so it is good for him. I am very excited for him. I am glad Denver recognized what he brings to any good football team, and he has done an awful lot with the tools he has been given.””

    Larsen grabbed attention by wreaking havoc on defense en route to recording a second-best seven tackles in addition to an array of solid blocks on offense.

    “”I know my job,”” Larsen told the Denver Post. “”I was out there to run into people.””

    During his time at Arizona, Larsen was named a First Team All-Pac-10 player and posted 271 tackles in 32 games played, including a team-high 131 bring downs in 2007 as one of the unsung defensive leaders alongside fellow senior Antoine Cason, who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the draft.

    As a sixth-round pick, Larsen wasn’t sure he was going to make the team, especially because his emotions were elsewhere when training camp started.

    Not only has Larsen made the team, but he has become a much needed entity for the Broncos in all facets of the game.

    “”I felt like I wasn’t able to give my best because of where my mind was,”” Larsen said. “”I had my niece pass away the first day of training camp, and then a week later, my second son was born. I had to leave the team both times. It was crazy.””

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