The Oregon State Beavers have sprinted out of the blocks in 2012, starting 3-0 with some close, quality wins. They’ve built that fast start off a strong defense that has risen up and outperformed expectations. Their defensive line, in particular has been impressive, led by sophomore Scott Crichton.
Mike Leach brings his Washington State Cougars to Corvallis this weekend, who are looking to build off of a solid performance against the Oregon Ducks, and has a very Mike Leach plan for slowing down the Beaver defensive line.
“Basically have a bunch of people go to Corvallis sometime this week. Take them out. Make sure they stay out too late… Shanghai them and leave them in a foreign country. That’s what we have in mind. But there are some flaws to that and some bugs to that idea that we’re working through.”
Leave it to the Palouse Pirate come up with “Shanghai them” as an offensive gameplan.
Leach isn’t without reason to be worried. The Beavers are number one in the conference in third-down defense, allowing just 20.5 percent conversion for opponents and rank second in run defense.
The Cougars, however, may not mind that the Beavers have focused on stopping the run. WSU comes into the game running at about a 70-30 pass to run ratio, which may skew even further in favor of the pass on Saturday. They will be concerned, though, with that defensive line, which is averaging more than two sacks per game, led by Crichton who has three to go along with five tackles for loss.
So short of Leach’s plan to leave the defensive ends in a distant land, how can the Cougs combat the defensive strength of Oregon State? The screen game will be key to disrupt the pass rush of the Beavers.
Getting the ball into Marquess Wilson on a bubble or middle screen and letting him make plays in space will force the defensive line to think twice about getting a rush up the field. That extra second or two will allow the Cougars to get into their vertical passing game and open up the field.
The biggest thing that the Cougars need to do this week, though, is to continue building their confidence. Lack of confidence was a major problem early in the season, and manifested with players moping on the sideline during the opening game loss to the BYU Cougars in Provo.
Coach Leach feels like the team has gotten over that, improved in practice this week, and will build on the good things they accomplished against the Ducks in Seattle last week. However, results will need to come soon for Wazzu because as Leach told reporters, “Nobody is satisfied with just a good showing.”
So look for Washington State to try and take that next step and shock a team that has proven themselves to be a legitimate player in the Pac 12 race. And if Scott Crichton or any of the Beaver defensive line go missing before Saturday, try checking international waters.