By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Amid a league filled with structured attacks, the Arizona football team will get its first look at chaos when it travels to Corvallis, Ore., this weekend.
Chaos in a sense that no one really knows what to expect offensively or defensively from the Oregon State Beavers.
"We've been usually known for causing teams problems with our option running game," Oregon State coach Jerry Pettibone said. "But this year we hope to cause problems with our defense because it also is a style not typically used."
The Wildcats (4-4 overall, 2-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference) will hope to solve the puzzle of this Beaver team (1-7, 0-5) at 8:08 p.m. tomorrow. While its record is borderline pathetic, OSU has not been a statistically bad team. They are second in the league in rushing at 218.6 yards-per-game, and are ranked fourth in total defense. So why is this team doing so badly?
"Turnovers have killed us. We are last in the league in turnover margin at minus seven," Pettibone said. "We've been in the game many times, but we just have never made the plays teams need to in order to win games."
Part of the Beavers' losing woes might also be the result of trying to start a new offensive scheme. They have changed from the wishbone option to the more pass-oriented double-slot offense.
"We tried to put in the double slot in order to make defenses concentrate more on our passing game," Pettibone said. "But we need to be able to throw the ball successfully in order for that style to be effective."
Leading the offense for the Beavers this weekend again will be senior quarterback Don Shanklin. Shanklin ran for 85 yards and threw for 101 in a 30-10 loss to Arizona last season. In limited duty this season as a backup to freshman Tim Alexander, Shanklin has run for 199 yards and passed for 237 yards Ÿ but has yet to score a touchdown.
Alexander has been the recent quarterback of choice, but has been sidelined with a bruised shoulder and probably will not play this weekend. The rest of Oregon State's offensive attack is pretty much by committee, with six backs that have rushed for over 100 yards on the year.
"If you watched them play Washington, you saw that they kicked the hell out of them with 300 yards in the final half," UA coach Dick Tomey said. "They have also been a tough team to defeat at home this year, so we have our work cut out for us."
Attempting to stop the option attack will be Arizona's defense, which is ranked No. 1 in the conference. The key for this game might be the play of linebackers Charlie Camp and Chester Burnett. The two have combined for 97 tackles and will be counted on to smell out the option and stop the Beavers before they head upfield.
"Defending (against) the option requires a good deal of discipline," Tomey said. "You can think you're holding them and then they bust out an 80-yard run. You also have to make sure you don't neglect their passing game and allow them to beat you throwing the ball."
But again, the No. 1 guy on defense all season long has been senior defensive end Tedy Bruschi. Bruschi has 12 sacks and 15 tackles for losses this season, and needs just 2.5 more sacks to tie the collegiate record of 52 held by Alabama's Derrick Thomas.
"Tedy Bruschi is a definite All-American and has been an outstanding player in the Pac-10 for the past three seasons," Pettibone said. "He is definitely one of the best down lineman that we will play against this year."
The OSU defense does not have a household name yet, but free safety Reggie Tongue has made strides to becoming a complete player. Tongue has nine career interceptions and has 88 tackles this season, second in the Pac-10 to teammate Kane Rogers' 90.
"We have a defensive scheme that relies on blitzing and man-to-man coverage," Pettibone said. "We try to give the offense different looks and give them problems on blocking assignments. Other than the free safety, we will send anyone on a blitz at any time."
One reason the Beavers have been able to blitz so much is the play of a pair of redshirt freshman cornerbacks, Andrae Holland and Armon Hatcher. The duo has combined for six interceptions while doing a solid job in coverage against the league's best receivers.
"Andrae and Armon have done a solid job especially for considering how young they are," Pettibone said. "They are a big part of our success as a defense."
The Arizona offense will try to neutralize the aggressive Beaver defense with a controlled attack. Leading the charge will be senior quarterback Dan White, who has passed for 1,321 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games this season.
With junior receiver Richard Dice missing this weekend, senior wide receiver Cary Taylor might be the go-to guy. Taylor caught his second touchdown last week, a one-arm grab on a fade thrown by White.
"We did a good job of taking care of the ball last week on offense," Tomey said. "We need to make the most of our possessions because Oregon State tends to have longer drives because of their option style."
While Arizona has shown signs of playing well this season, it is not out of the woods yet.
"We have to be concerned about playing a good game. We have the same sense of urgency as we had last week," Tomey said.
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