Arizona tried to put a little bump in the Sun Devils road Monday morning, but Arizona State is now squarely focused on Oregon State next Saturday night in Corvallis. It's a "trap game" in many definitions of the phrase. The maroon and gold are going on the road against an inferior team, while they sit pretty in the polls. They haven't won in Corvallis since 2005, a streak they'll have to break to keep their national title hopes alive. After an out of conference matchup against Notre Dame, Pac-12 South implications will loom large again this week.
Oregon State key wins and losses
OSU is a deceiving 4-5 this season, winning their first three games over Portland State, Hawaii and San Diego State. They lost to No. 18 USC the following week 35-10. Up 10-7 early in the second quarter, USC then took the reigns with 28 unanswered points to win easily. A 48-yard touchdown pass from Cody Kessler to Darreus Rogers headed into halftime gave the Trojans a 21-10 lead and USC never looked back. OSU quarterback Sean Mannion threw two interceptions in the loss.
The following week the Beavers got their only Pac-12 win over Colorado. OSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but a 1-yard touchdown run by Buffs put them up 21-20 headed into halftime. The Beavers then answered with 10 unanswered points including a 24-yard pass from Mannion to Caleb Smith. It put OSU up 30-21 on their way to a 36-31 victory. OSU lost a nail biter to Utah the next week at home in double overtime. Beavers' kicker Trevor Romaine kicked a field goal to tie the game at 16 to send it into overtime, but missed a 37-yarder that went wide right in the second extra period. Devontae Booker scampered 19 yards for Utah on their next drive to give Utah the win. OSU has now lost three straight after that heartbreaking loss, including losses to Stanford, Cal and Washington State.
Oregon State on offense
The Beavers are a pass-first team, ranked No. 30 in the country in passing yards per game with 280. They run a pro style scheme under head coach Mike Riley. Senior Sean Mannion is the signal caller and potential NFL Draft pick in the first couple of rounds, but he hasn't performed up to snuff in 2014. He has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,437 yards for 10 touchdowns, but has thrown six interceptions as well.
Senior Terron Ward and junior Storm Woods have split the carries out of the backfield for the Beavers. Ward handles more of the duties, carrying the ball 114 times for 548 yards and nine touchdowns. Woods has 77 carries for 466 yards and three touchdowns.
At wide receiver sophomore Victor Bolden and redshirt freshman Jordan Villamin lead the way, trying to replace the machine that was Brandin Cooks last season. Bolden is Mannion's first target, catching 51 balls for 568 yards and a touchdown, averaging 11.1 yards per catch. Villamin has two more touchdown catches with 25 catches for 384 yards. Senior tight end Connor Hamlett will also play a role Saturday. He has 27 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
The offensive line has allowed 28 sacks in nine games, that's just over three sacks a game, so the Sun Devils should really be able to exploit this part of the Beaver's offense. Part of the problem is youth for this group. The Beavers start two sophomores in Sean Harlow and Dustin Stanton at the tackle positions and Fred Lauina, a redshirt freshman, at left guard. The experience comes in junior Josh Mitchell at center and senior Roman Sapolu at right guard.
Oregon State on defense
The defensive line is stacked with experience. It starts with senior Dylan Wynn at defensive tackle. He has 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks this season. At the other tackle spot is senior Siale Hautau with just nine total tackles and a sack. Juniors Lavonte Barnett and Jaswha James hold down the end spots. James has just 10 tackles and a sack, while Barnett is marginally better with 14 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
The linebacking corps for OSU is the strongest position group. All three linebackers are second, third and fourth on the team in tackles. Senior outside linebacker Michael Doctor has 54 tackles, five tackles for loss and two interceptions. Right behind him is senior D.J. Alexander who leads the team with seven tackles for loss and also has two sacks and 52 tackles. Senior Jabral Johnson adds 46 tackles as well. If any group were to hit the Sun Devils where it hurts it would be this group. How does Arizona State make sure that doesn't happen? Make sure the offensive linemen are getting to the second level on their run blocks and effectively picking up blitzes. Taylor Kelly will also need to look off linebackers while making his reads.
The secondary is also a pretty experienced group for the Beavers. Senior Steven Nelson and junior Larry Scott will start at corner. Nelson has 45 tackles, two interceptions and six passes defended. Scott has 33 tackles and eight passes defended. Senior Tyrequek Zimmerman will roam at free safety, he leads the team in tackles with 68 and also has two interceptions. At strong safety is another senior in Ryan Murphy. He has 39 tackles and nine passes defended.
The defense as a whole is much stronger in the passing game, only giving up an average 232 yards through the air this season, while allowing 152 yards per game on the ground. Still, that's over 380 yards of total yards allowed per game, a number that could easily rise with a potent Sun Devil offense.
Oregon State on special teams
The punting is handled by senior Keith Kostol who has 50 punts, averaging 39.5 yards while landing 20 of them inside the 20-yard line. Kickoffs and field goal duties have been split between senior Trevor Romaine and redshirt freshman Garrett Owens. On 28 kickoffs, Romaine has 15 touchbacks while Owens has six touchbacks on 23 kickoffs. When it comes to field goals, Romaine is 8 of 9 with a long of 49 yards this season while Owens is 10 of 12 with a long of 46.
Kickoff return duties have been split between seniors Ryan Murphy and Malcolm Marable. Murphy has returned 13 kicks for 22.7 yards while Marable has returned it 10 times for 27 yards. Punt returns have been handled by freshman Rahmel Dockery who has eight returns, averaging just 6.1 yards per return.