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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Breakdown: Arizona vs. Oregon State

Keys to the Game

Arizona

Contain, contain, contain

The incredible talent and athleticism of the Rodgers brothers gets brought up far too often, but there’s a pretty good reason for it — they really are that talented and athletic. Few players can turn on a dime as quickly as they can, and they seem to turn a minus play into a plus play every time they have the ball. With that in mind, Arizona needs to stay home and honor its run fits on every play. The Wildcats have done a shockingly good job of eliminating cutback lanes so far this season — really, watch the tape. It’s jaw dropping — and that has to be the case on Saturday as well.

Execute on special teams

This should be a close game, meaning special teams will be key. Most of the breaks have gone in Arizona’s favor this season — Iowa’s blocked extra point and Cal’s missed field goal — but the Wildcats’ special teams play hasn’t been great. William “”Bug”” Wright has had a case of the drops all season on offense, and it’s carried over into special teams, but he has been the last player off the field every practice because he’s taking extra reps off the JUGS machine. Keep an eye on punter Keenyn Crier. He’s been mediocre at best this year, and OSU’s James Rodgers might be the most dangerous punt returner in the nation. Crier needs to keep the ball away from him, and the punt and kick coverage teams must stay in their lanes to negate Rodgers’ return ability.

Establish the run game

Arizona has escaped its poor running game so far this season, but the ill effects are starting to show. As talented as Nick Foles and his receivers are, it’s impossible to have a good passing game without a good running game. The Wildcats’ 120.3 yards per game ranks just ninth in the Pac-10 and 93rd in the country, and that won’t cut it against Oregon State’s talented front seven, led by defensive tackle Stephen Paea. Oregon State does allow 194.8 yards per game, so the possibility to run successfully is there. The Wildcats will need to penetrate the Beavers if they plan on getting any action on offense tomorrow.

Oregon State

Have the better Katz

The Arizona Wildcats defense is off to a remarkable start. Being the No. 2 overall defense in America is just silly. With that in mind, the matchup between a stout defense and an experienced quarterback in his first year as a starter should sway heavily in favor of the home team, but Ryan Katz is a bit of an enigma. If you’ve ever seen him throw, you know he has the arm strength to play in the NFL, but he’s only completed 51.6 percent of his passes — a giant red flag that a quarterback is turnover prone. Yet here he is four games into the season, and he has yet to throw an interception. He needs to stay turnover-free and get the ball to his playmakers.

Force turnovers

Statistically speaking, Oregon State’s offense will struggle on Saturday. Not because it doesn’t have the talent, but because Arizona’s defense is a brick wall. If that stays the same tomorrow, and despite the talents of the Rodgers brothers, there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case, the Oregon State defense will need to make some big plays and probably score some points of its own. Despite Nick Foles’ heroism late in games and his high completion percentage, the junior has thrown four interceptions in four games. With players like James Dockery in the Oregon State secondary, that could work in the Beavers’ favor.

Mix it up on offense

You would think that the pattern for Oregon State’s offense would be to get the ball in Jacquizz’s and James Rodgers’ hands as often as possible. While that isn’t the worst plan in the world, most offenses hit a wall if they try to do the same thing over and over again. Defenses will make adjustments and eventually shut the dives and traps to Jacquizz and the bubble screens and jet sweeps to James. Wide receivers Jordan Bishop and Aaron Nichols and tight end Joe Halahuni have emerged as receiving threats this year. Also keep in mind that despite the talents of Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State is averaging just 121 yards on the ground per game — one yard better than Arizona.

Players to Watch

Oregon State

Jacquizz and James Rodgers

The Beavers’ offense goes as far as James and Jacquizz Rodgers take it. Oregon State and its pro-style offense does whatever it takes to get the ball to the brother duo, and rightfully so. Junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers is coming off of a 145-yard, two-touchdown game against ASU and is in the conversation for top running back in the conference. Senior wideout James Rodgers is returning after missing last week’s game with a concussion, but is at full health. Both players are listed at only 5-foot-7, but use their speed and ability to shift gears to shred apart defenses. Both can run and catch equally well, while James Rodgers is stellar as a return man and is the Oregon State all-time leader in all-purpose yards. Keep your eye on these speedsters, which should be no problem considering they have combined for over 40 percent of the team’s total yards and over 50 percent of its touchdowns this season.

Ryan Katz

The sophomore quarterback looked like a first-time starter against top-5 defenses in Texas Christian University and Boise State early in the season. But the big-arm quarterback settled down and turned in his best game as a starter against ASU last weekend, throwing for 260 yards and two scores. Katz has one of the biggest arms in the country and has no shortage of options in the passing game. In fact, ESPN.com’s Bruce Feldman said he hadn’t seen anyone outside of Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett with a bigger arm than Katz. Arizona’s defense, however, ranks first in the Pac-10 in passing defense. Something has to give. It will be interesting to see how the 6-foot-1 sophomore handles his first trip to Tucson in front of the ZonaZoo. If he can get comfortable in the pocket and find time to throw, Arizona could be scrambling.

Stephen Paea

The defensive end has one of the most interesting stories in all of college football. Paea is a native of the Kingdom of Tonga — a series of 169 islands found in the South Pacific Ocean. After growing up playing rugby, moving to the states and not picking up football until his senior year of high school, Paea is now one of the premier defensive tackles in the country. He played only year at Snow College before transferring to Oregon State and is in his fifth year of football. He’s quick, explosive and ridiculously strong. He’s also become a Youtube sensation, bench-pressing 225 pounds 44 straight times — the NFL combine record is 45. He has 23 career tackles for a loss, 10 career sacks and can be found on almost all of the award watch lists and preseason teams. Arizona’s offensive line will have its hand full with Paea.

Arizona

Paul Vassallo

The junior outside linebacker will have the biggest responsibility among the linebackers this weekend — defending Oregon State’s fly sweep. Vassallo needs to stay honest and contain receiver James Rodgers on the end around. Other outside linebacker Jake Fischer is also a player to watch, but Vassallo figures to be tested a little more. He leads the team in total tackles with 22 and needs to keep up that production this Saturday if the Wildcats hope to stifle Oregon State’s extremely creative and versatile offense. Vassallo and the No. 2 Arizona defense have yet to face a spread offense since opening up against Toledo and it remains to be seen how the Widcats will handle it. They also haven’t faced a back like Jacquizz Rodgers this season, which is even more reason why Arizona needs a big game from the Juco transfer Vassallo.

Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed

With time to throw, Ryan Katz has a chance to test Arizona’s secondary with his big arm, which is where Reed and Elmore come in. If the duo can get to the quarterback and make Katz’ first trip to Tucson nerve-wracking and uncomfortable, the Wildcats should be able to pick up on Oregon State’s schemes much easier. The defensive end duo has been solid through four games, combining for four sacks and six tackles for a loss. If Reed and Elmore can ramp up the intensity and keep Katz and the Beavers’ offense from getting into a rhythm, Arizona can neutralize Oregon State’s best asset – its offense.

Nick Foles

It’s hard to knock a guy who’s led his team on consecutive game-winning drives. But aside from the late-game heroics and showing up in the “”Nick”” of time, Foles has been mediocre as of late. He turned the ball over twice against Cal and threw for only 135 yards prior to the 77-yard game winning in the final minutes. Foles was flushed out of the pocket several times and has been sacked five times in the last two games. The offensive line needs to protect Foles against an Oregon State team that sacked ASU quarterback Steven Threet six times last weekend. The Beavers also forced three interceptions against the Sun Devils. The first order of business is getting time to throw, and from there Foles needs to get the offense into a rhythm and look like the quarterback he did in the first three games.

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