OSU defense gets tough

By Craig Degel
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 23, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Keith Smith, who has scored all five of Arizona's rushing touchdowns this season, will face a tough Oregon State defense Saturday, despite what the Beavers' 1-5 record may suggest.


Arizona redshirt freshman Keith Smith has recovered from the injury he suffered against Southern Cal and will start this weekend - just in time to face one of the most relentless defenses in the Pacific 10 Conference.

While its 1-5 record may not strike fear into anyone's heart, Oregon State's defense should.

"They are really physical, tough and relentless," UA head coach Dick Tomey said. "They blitz all the time."

The Beavers had 11 sacks in their win over Stanford last Saturday.

"Eleven sacks is astronomical," Tomey said. "And that's not counting all the times they knock you down."

Smith is actually looking forward to the Beavers, if for no other reason than to get back out and play.

"I hate the bye weeks," he said.

In fact, the Wildcats have played just two games in the last month. While that may not help with the sharpness of play, it certainly helps heal wounds. Smith has had two weeks to get over his shoulder injury while other guys who may not have been able to play week after week are getting rest.

"It hurts a tiny bit, but I'm ready to go," Smith, 20, said of what has amazingly been the only injury of his career - that's his entire career, not just his time with the Wildcats.

Freshman receiver Dennis Northcutt has impressed the UA coaching staff and will get a lot of chances against the Beavers on Saturday.

The receiver spot is Northcutt's third position of the year. He began as a running back and was then switched to defensive back. It was there he had two interceptions - one returned for a touchdown - against Illinois.

Now he's a receiver, a spot Arizona could use some help at with the loss of Richard Dice.

"We've been looking for a right place for him," Tomey said. "A guy finding his spot can take years. He's fully capable."

Tomey deflected criticism away from his much-maligned corps of running backs yesterday at his weekly press conference, saying it hasn't been given enough opportunities.

"Having Keith, we haven't been patient enough with our backs," he said.

Tomey was quick to point out that this season's yards-per-carry average is better than last year's.

It would have been tough to get any lower. The Wildcats finished among the conference's worst in that category last season.