The 13th-ranked Oregon State Beavers will attempt to rebound from their first loss of the season, when they take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in a Pac-12 affair in Corvallis this weekend.
Mike Riley's Beavers came into last weekend's matchup with Washington with a perfect 6-0 mark, but were handed a 20-17 loss in Seattle. Still, at 6-1 overall, it marks the best seven-game start under Riley and has OSU (4-1) sitting a half game behind rival Oregon (5-0) in the North Division standings.
Riley is hoping his team responds positively following its first loss.
"Very disappointing, very hard. The key deal now is our reaction to it, and where we go from here, we are just past the midway point; lot of football left."
Todd Graham's Sun Devils head to Corvallis with a two-game losing streak in tow. Arizona State gave it all it had last weekend, but came up just short in a 45-43 shootout with UCLA. The loss dropped ASU to 3-2 in league play, tied with UCLA for second in the South Division, a half game behind USC (4-2).
Graham was proud of the effort in the loss.
"We battled as a team," said Graham after the loss to UCLA. "I was proud of the guys. We played good enough offensively today to win. But when we scored, I thought our offense put us in a position to win, and we didn't get it done defensively. It came down to one drive and play, and we didn't play very well. We missed a lot of tackles today. Obviously we didn't get it done, but I'm really proud of our guys and how hard they played. It was a heck of a ball game."
Arizona State holds a 25-12-1 series advantage against Oregon State, but the Beavers have been much more competitive at home, boasting an 8-6-1 edge in Corvallis. The Beavers have won three of the last four meetings overall, but Arizona State won last year's bout in Tempe, 35-20.
The Sun Devils rallied from a nine-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to take a 43-42 lead against the Bruins last week, only to have UCLA convert a 33-yard field goal as time expired to escape with the win. The loss spoiled a strong performance by Taylor Kelly, as he completed 25-of-35 passes, for 315 yards and four TDs in defeat.
One of the most balanced offenses in the nation, Arizona State is averaging 38.4 ppg, while effectively moving the chains both on the ground (192.4 ypg) and through the air (284.8 ypg).
Kelly has played well for the most part, completing 67.7 percent of his throws on the season, for 2,008 yards and 19 TDs. Tight end Chris Coyle leads the team with 38 receptions, for 473 yards and two TDs, but freshman tailback D.J. Foster has proved to be adept at delivering out of the backfield, with 29 catches, for 454 yards and four TDs. Junior tailback Marion Grice has 22 receptions, with six of them resulting in TDs.
While the ground game puts up big numbers, it is a backfield by committee, led by Foster (371 yards, two TDs), Cameron Marshall (349 yards, five TDs), Kelly (303 yards) and Grice (302 yards, six TDs).
Although it wasn't reflected in the loss to UCLA this past weekend, the ASU defense is among the Pac-12's best. The Sun Devils are now giving up 21.6 ppg, and while the team gets gashed by the run (173.6 ypg), it has done a great job combating the pass (148.4 ypg, leads the nation).
Linebacker Brandon Magee has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Sun Devils, leading the team in tackles (58), with 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Safety Keelan Johnson and linebacker Chris Young are tied for second on the team with 54 tackles apiece. Young has 13.5 TFLs, with two sacks. Pass rusher Carl Bradford (45 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks) and defensive tackle Will Sutton (40 tackles, 14.0 TFLs, 8.5 sacks) have been monsters along the front line.
Quarterback Sean Mannion returned to the lineup last week for Oregon State, but had to be replaced by Cody Vaz, who will get the start this weekend against the Sun Devils. In three games this season, the redshirt junior has completed 62.3 percent of his passes, for 603 yards, with four TDs and no interceptions. Regardless of the person throwing the ball, it usually ends up in the hands of wideouts Markus Wheaton (50 receptions, 679 yards, six TDs) and Brandin Cooks (44 receptions, 790 yards, three TDs).
While Oregon State is primarily a throwing team (311.7 ypg), the Beavers are able to get some balance in the run, thanks to tailback Storm Woods (540 yards, 4.6 ypc, six TDs).
The Oregon State defense has been just as responsible for the team's successful start as the offense, if not more so. The Beavers are giving up a mere 17.0 ppg this year, showing particular disdain for the run, holding foes to a meager 83.4 ypg on 2.9 ypc.
While the pass defense has been a little more generous (260.7 ypg), the team possesses a ball-hawk at cornerback in Jordan Poyner (27 tackles, five INTs). Linebacker Michael Doctor leads the team in tackles (46), but the player to watch up front is defensive end Scott Crichton. Of his 28 total stops, 12.5 have come behind the line of scrimmage, including eight sacks.