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The Daily Wildcat

 

Game breakdown: Oregon State at advantage in defense

Oregon+State+wide+receiver+Brandin+Cooks+%2813%29+beats+Washington+State%26apos%3Bs+Damante+Horton+for+a+12-yard+touchdown+catch+in+the+second+quarter+at+CenturyLink+Field+in+Seattle%2C+Washington%2C+on+Saturday%2C+October+22%2C+2011.+%28John+Lok%2FSeattle+Times%2FMCT%29
John Lok
Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks (13) beats Washington State's Damante Horton for a 12-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday, October 22, 2011. (John Lok/Seattle Times/MCT)

In 2011, this game proved to be the dropping off point for the Wildcats. Arizona lost 37-27 to a mediocre Beavers team, dropping to 1-6 and leading to the firing of former head coach Mike Stoops.

Things have vastly changed for both squads since then — Oregon State in particular, whose defense has emerged as one of the best in the country. Here’s our breakdown of Saturday’s game.

UA passing versus OSU pass defense

Matt Scott had his worst game of the season against Oregon, completing just 50 percent of his passes — but even with an impressive Beavers defense in town do not expect a repeat of Eugene. Plus, for how talented the Beavers defense has shown itself to be through two games, they still gave up 372 yards to UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, and last year OSU gave up 378 yards to Nick Foles. The key for Scott and his receivers will be converting on opportunities. The Wildcats can’t go zero for six in the red zone and expect to win.

Advantage: Arizona

UA rushing versus OSU rush defense

This is where things start to get dicey for the UA. Ka’Deem Carey has impressive numbers for the season. With 423 yards, he is just two yards off last season’s total. Against the Ducks, Carey had 76 yards, but only nine in the first half, meaning the majority of his total came when the game was out of reach.

The Beavers shut down two of the nation’s top running backs in UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, holding them to just 106 combined rushing yards and zero touchdowns. If they can’t make an impact, it’s not clear whether Carey can either. In last year’s loss, Carey had eight yards on eight carries.

Advantage: Oregon State

OSU passing versus UA pass defense

This might be the most intriguing matchup on Saturday. Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion was a freshman last year when he completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions to UA corner Shaq Richardson — one of which was returned for a touchdown. Richardson returns, although he’s a bit inconsistent, and Jonathan McKnight — who missed all of last season with an ACL injury — has been a shutdown corner for the UA through four games.

The Beavers have a talented receiving corps, though, led by senior Markus Wheaton and sophomore Brandin Cooks who broke out against UCLA with six receptions for 175 yards and a touchdown.

Advantage: Even

OSU rushing versus UA rush defense

The Beavers’ rushing attack is weak, a far cry from years past when OSU employed Rodgers brothers Jacquizz and James. The Wildcats’ linebackers have been a pleasant surprise so far, and the Wildcats were able to shut down the Ducks’ Heisman candidate De’Anthony Thomas. The Beavers’ leading rusher Storm Woods has a solid, if unspectacular, 132 rushing yards in two games.

Advantage: Arizona

Special teams

Maybe the weakest group on Wildcats. Head coach Rich Rodriguez even said he had to “fire” some players from special teams in practice this week and get some new blood to fix the problem.

Against Oregon, a long punt return in the third quarter by Thomas was a momentum shifter that wound up putting the game out of reach for the UA. Kicking, punting and the return game have all been mediocre.

Advantage: Oregon State

Coaching

Mike Riley isn’t the biggest name in the Pac-12, but the Beavers have shocked everyone by upsetting two top 25 opponents. His constantly changing offensive formations are sneakily effective, and his defense is one of the top in the nation. Rodriguez is no slouch, though.

Advantage: Even

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