Wildcats wary of Oregon St. defense

By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 25, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Quarterback Keith Smith crawls after a fumble during Arizona's loss to Southern Cal. Smith will have to protect the ball against an Oregon State defense that has forced a conference-high 20 turnovers this year.


When the Arizona Wildcats and Oregon State Beavers meet at Arizona Stadium tomorrow night, the opponent's offense probably won't be the main concern for either team.

With UA head coach Dick Tomey calling Oregon State's defense "astronomical" and Beaver head coach Jerry Pettibone saying Arizona's defense is "amazing," both teams may just be hoping to move the ball forward, not backwards, in the game.

"We may have a tough time," UA quarterback Keith Smith said. "They proved they can get pressure on the quarterback. As a team they have nothing to lose and they play so hard every game."

It is on the offensive side of the ball that both teams are having their problems. The Wildcats (3-3 overall, 1-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference) come into the game ranked eighth in the conference in total offense, while the Beavers (1-5, 1-3) are ranked a notch below.

Defense, on the other hand, has been the bread and butter. They both bring big-play defenses that capitalize on an opponent's mistakes. Arizona is ranked second in the conference in total defense and has forced 10 interceptions. Oregon State has picked off 10 balls of their own and have forced a conference-leading 20 turnovers.

"Their defense is so unique that they vary every play," Tomey said. "They blitz all the time. They have gotten more aggressive."

The Beavers' defensive resurgence earned them their first win of the season last week against Stanford. In the 26-12 victory, they sacked the Cardinal quarterbacks 11 times and recorded 17 tackles for lost yardage. Oregon State forced four turnovers and allowed only 198 yards of total offense.

Defensive lineman Tom Huthoefer led the team with three sacks in the Stanford game. Sophomore Inoke Breckterfield leads the team with four sacks this season and Marc Williams leads the Beaver secondary with three interceptions.

"I couldn't be happier with our defense performance (against Stanford)," Pettibone said. "I think it was the finest defensive effort I have seen here since I have been the head coach at Oregon State."

The Oregon State defense may lead the way, but the offense is slowly gaining ground. Tailback Akili King is seventh in the league in rushing with 431 yards. The Beavers are second in the conference with 1,166 yards on the ground.

"Everybody on our team is running hard," Pettibone said. "We keep that up and we'll win some games."

The passing game, however, has been just the opposite. Oregon State is last in the conference, trailing the Wildcats by about 150 yards. Some of their problems began when starting quarterback Tim Alexander strained his hamstring three weeks into the season. David Moran took over the starting job and has thrown for 205 yards and one touchdown. Alexander is listed as questionable for tomorrow's game.

The real battle will likely be decided by how well the Arizona rushing defense plays. The Wildcats are No. 1 in the conference in total defense and No. 2 against the run.