Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns for Oregon St. Saturday. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
There was plenty of everything in Saturday's 31-28 Beaver win over the Sun Devils. You want a big plays? How about Jacquizz Rodgers' 74 yard field reversing romp for what proved to the winning touchdown?
Prefer to see a sustained drive? Arizona St.'s 19 play drive that took up the whole second half of the third quarter was impressive.
Like to see a goal line stand? Oregon St. stopping the Sun Devils twice from the one yard line at the end of the that drive to force Arizona St. to settle for a field goal was as crucial as ‘Quizz's game changing run moments later.
When blitzing Keith Pankey caused Arizona St. QB Steven Threet, a 6'5", 240 lb. bruiser who had already converted multiple short yardage situations into first downs, to redirect himself, and come up short, it saved four points in a game the Beavers won by three.
Steven Threet was stopped twice from the one yard line, including here, after a poor snap.
Despite Oregon St.'s Ryan Katz out-passing Threet, and ‘Quizz's 16th. 100 yard rushing game, Arizona St. was still in the game until James Dockery's game ending interception with 17 seconds left.
The reasons included Oregon St.'s lingering problems at controlling opponents' ground games, and a blocked punt with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Beavers' gap non-cancellation defense gave up 208 rushing yards, including 105 yards and a touchdown by Deantre Lewis, and an almost uncontested 21 yard scoring stroll to Cameron Marshall immediately after the Sun Devils had blocked Johnny Hekker's punt.
The blocked punt negated a Lance Mitchell interception in the Beavers' end zone (above) that had staved off the Sun Devils' previous drive, and produced a total shift in momentum, as Oregon St. appeared totally unprepared on Marshall's scoring run (below), and Threet's two point conversion throw to Marshall that pulled Arizona St. within a field goal.
Fortunately, Hekker redeemed himself, with a 45 yard punt to the sideline that forced Threet to start the game deciding drive at the Sun Devils' 12 yard line.
Brennen Olander's 10 yard sack on the next play, which was the Beavers' sixth on the day, after registering only two in the first three games of the season, forced Threet into having to try for big throws, and two plays later, Dockery had his second pickoff of the game.
It was also his second game deciding interception in the last three weeks, having ended Louisville's last drive with a pick as well.
And it was time to cue the band!
Quarterbacking Coming Along
Katz (12, above) took another significant step in his development, completing 19 of 29 passes, for 260 yards and two touchdowns, including a crucial scoring toss 20 seconds before halftime to tight end Joe Halahuni.
Katz completed 66% of his attempts, and was up to 70% at one point in the third quarter, a big improvement over the <49% he averaged over his first three games. And he found eight different receivers in the process. The best game so far this season by the offensive line was certainly a contributing factor.
Not bad considering James Rodgers was held out of the game over concerns about concussion effects that might have been lingering from his being knocked out of the Boise St. game, despite having passed all the tests to measure his recovery.
One thing didn't change though, Katz again did not throw an interception, and Oregon St. is one third of the way through the season, and still hasn't suffered a single turnover.
Receiving Corps Makes A Difference
Rodgers was helping with the offense in pregame drills, and on the sideline all afternoon, and had some words on strategy for the Beavers' offense.
"I told them we've got to attack today. The last couple weeks we've just been playing, instead of attacking. We've been waiting for somebody else to throw a punch."
James is anticipated to be back on the field next week in Tucson when Oregon St. takes on the unbeaten Arizona Wildcats.
Jacquizz added "James was down in the beginning of the morning, but he knew that it was his responsibility to get the receivers going, by coaching, and just being supportive from the sidelines."
The Beavers depth at wide receiver was essential, as Aaron Nichols shifted to James Rodgers' position, and Marcus Wheaton stepped into a starting role. Wheaton, while fast, isn't the threat that James is on the fly sweep, though, and was only able to gain 5 yards on 6 attempts.
Wheaton did however have a 52 yard return on a reverse from Jordan Poyer on a punt return, which set up Katz's scoring throw to Halahuni just before the end of the first half.
Oregon St. coach Mike Riley noted "The reverse that (special teams coach) Bruce Read put together was a major play in the game. And it was a big, big score, right before halftime."
Nichols (above) had a couple of big catches, including a 27 yard reception early in the second quarter for Oregon St.'s second touchdown. Nichols subsequently suffered a blow to the head, similar to what James Rodgers suffered against Boise St., though, but the Beavers' receiving corps didn't miss a beat.
Nichols did appear ok after the game, and explained "We had a great game plan coming into the game. Arizona State runs pretty much the same defense as we do, so we were well prepared for what they had to show us."
Jordan Bishop led Oregon St. in receiving, with four catches for 86 yards, including the one above.
Arizona St. coach Dennis Erickson noted "We had some breakdowns, but Oregon St. did some different things as far as depth of routes that caused some problems, especially in the first half, before we could make an adjustment. They had a very good plan coming in. I knew they were a good offensive team, but it kind of surprised me how well they moved the ball on us."
Katz commented that "I think we're just getting more comfortable. I think the receivers are seeing the open lanes better, and the line's giving me time to throw the ball. We've corrected a lot of things since the TCU game. I think we're just scratching the surface. We definitely want James out there, he's a big part of our offense, and a big part of our team. So it was definitely a blow not to have him out there, but I think a lot of guys rallied behind that."
Big Crowd Honors 2000 Team
45,409 were on hand on a sunny afternoon, the fourth largest in the history of Reser Stadium, as Oregon St. honored the 2000 team, which went 11-1, and won the Fiesta Bowl, with Erickson coaching. Nearly half of the players from that team were on hand to be honored at halftime.
Slippery ‘Quizz Caused Problems
Both of ‘Quizz's touchdowns came on field reversals, and ended in the elusive Beaver running back out-running the entire Sun Devil defense. Both coaches took note afterwards.
Riley observed "'Quizz got faster this year, and that was a great run," referring to the second score. "We actually put that play in at halftime. It was one that we looked at, thought that we needed this play, a play like this in the second half, so the coaches talked and put this thing together, and we ran it and it turned out okay."
Jacquizz Rodgers breaks away for a 74 yard touchdown.
Erickson commented that "He's a great player. It's scary. It seems like he's been there 25 years. He makes me feel like I've been here 25 years. He's just so hard to tackle. He's so strong in his lower body, and he breaks tackles. That run he made was unbelievable. You have to give him credit, he's a very, very good player."
The win was the Beavers, and ‘Quizz's, third straight against the Sun Devils.
Jacquizz Rodgers started left,
but reversed his direction to score Oregon St.'s first touchdown.
"I was just trying to make something out of nothing," Quizz commented. "Getting the touchdown for my team was my goal."
'Quizz was all business in another day at the office.
It was Oregon St.'s first win in a Pac-10 opener in seven years, and squared the Beavers' record at 2-2 heading into a two game road trip, first to Arizona, who had the week off, and then on to Seattle, to face the Huskies, who downed USC 32-31. It was the second year in a row Washington has handed the Trojans a loss on a field goal as the game ended.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)