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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Beavers defense newly energized behind pass rush

    Subtract the two best defenders from the Pacific 10 Conference’s worst defense last year, and what do you get?

    Improvement all around, if you subscribe to Oregon State’s brand of fuzzy math.

    “”We’re just playing with more energy,”” Beavers junior linebacker Derrick Doggett said in a phone interview this week. “”Everybody’s stepping up, making plays. We just try to make it our identity that we don’t want to give up a lot of points.””

    Oregon State, behind a balanced yet potent pass rush, enters tomorrow’s game at Arizona allowing 21.7 points per game.

    That total’s good for only sixth place in the Pac-10, but it represents a vast swing from last season.

    The Beavers allowed conference highs of 31 passing touchdowns and 298.7 passing yards per game, while giving up an average of 33.2 points, good for ninth.

    Through six games, Oregon State is on pace to give up fewer than half as many throwing scores this season and is fourth in pass defense at 192.7 yards per contest.

    “”The DBs, they’ve been working hard, and they got more experience,”” Doggett said of a secondary that includes three sophomore starters alongside senior safety Sabbi Piscitelli. “”They’ve stepped it up this year, and they’re just better players.””

    The Beavers’ pass rush has made perhaps the unit’s biggest turnaround, notching 23 sacks after getting only 22 all of last year.

    And unlike with the two-headed effort led by then-senior linebackers Trent Bray and Keith Ellison, who were 1-2 on the team in tackles and combined for 22.5 tackles for loss, balance is the operative word.

    Five Beavers have at least three sacks, including Doggett. He notched his third sack and a team-high 10 tackles in a win over Washington on Saturday en route to being named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Week.

    “”We know we lost two great players, but we know we got the players (now) who could step it up and make plays,”” he said. “”We had to make our own identity.””

    Oregon State’s ability to penetrate the offensive line from multiple angles should concern Arizona, which has lost its starting quarterback to injury each of the last two weeks.

    The Beavers, appropriately enough, knocked Huskies quarterback Isaiah Stanback out of Saturday’s game with a foot injury that will likely end the senior’s playing career.

    Wildcat head coach Mike Stoops said he will try to counter Oregon State’s aggressiveness at the line by running the ball in hopes of keeping defenders honest.

    “”We can’t let them crowd the line of scrimmage,”” he said. “”That’s something we’re going to look at and plan it so they don’t cheat the line of scrimmage. We got to.””

    Stoops added that he hopes Arizona’s passing game, despite being down to a depth chart of third-string signal-caller Kris Heavner and wide receivers Anthony Johnson and Syndric Steptoe, can do a passable facsimile of its performance against the Beavers last year.

    Then-freshman Willie Tuitama, in his first career start, threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard completion to wide receiver Mike Thomas.

    “”We’re going to have to score again, score some points,”” said tight end Brandyn McCall. “”Didn’t they beat Washington? That’s pretty good. We’ll have to do the same thing (to them).””

    Doggett said the defense is focused on not letting up during the second half of the schedule, especially in light of Oregon State’s 41-13 home loss to then-No. 20 California on Sept. 30, when Golden Bears quarterback Nate Longshore completed 22-of-31 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns.

    With things more or less adding up well for the Beavers’ defense these days, Doggett prefers to stay positive.

    “”We just have to watch the film and just learn from our mistakes and get better and forget about that and move on,”” he said. “”It’s a long season.””

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