Looking for one reason to explain Oregon State’s dominance over Arizona for more than a decade? Try this:
The Wildcats have managed to rush for only 65.4 yards per game in the past 12 meetings against the Beavers (see chart below).
That’s it right there. That’s why the Wildcats are a miserable 2-10 against the Beavers since 2000 — and you can make that a 2-11 skid when you include the 1999 game in which Arizona ran for 257 yards and still lost.
The point is, if you can’t beat a team in the trenches, you probably can’t beat them on the scoreboard.
And Arizona hasn’t beaten a Pac-10 team as infrequently as Oregon State since 1999. Surprising but true. The Cats also have only two wins over Oregon since then (but three vs. USC).
The trends aren’t promising for Arizona for Saturday’s matchup against the 18th-ranked Beavers at Arizona Stadium.
The Wildcats are facing an Oregon State defense that is always intent on stopping the run, and the Beavers have the goods to do just that. They stuffed Wisconsin’s erstwhile Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball, holding him to 61 yards on 15 carries. They limited UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, who had been leading the nation in rushing, to 45 yards on 12 carries.
Oregon State is second nationally in run defense, allowing 53.5 yards per game.
“They have good secondary players, some of the best in the country, but they are really strong up front,” said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. “They have great size and play with great effort. They have been in that system for a while. …
“I’m really impressed with how guys get off blocks and how well they’ve been tackling.”
Oregon State is big up front, with 354-pound Castro Masaniai at one of the tackle spots, turning into a beast of a defender after two seasons of injuries. Andrew Seumalo, 290 pounds, is at the other tackle spot. Sophomore defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn go about 265 and could really be scary-good in the next couple of years.
“I like their defensive line,” said Arizona sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey. “They’re big and physical up front and they like to get after you.”
After Oregon State’s win over UCLA last week, Bruins coach Jim Mora noted how the Beavers like to devote their safeties to stopping the run, which they can do at times because cornerbacks Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds are probably the best tandem in the league.
Oregon State, by yielding teeny amounts of rushing yards, forces opponents into unfavorable down-and-distance situations, which begets this stat: The Beavers lead the nation in third-down defense, allowing 13.8 percent conversions (4 of 29).
Stopping the Wildcats will be different than facing Wisconsin and, to a lesser extent, UCLA because of the way Arizona will spread out the defense with its formations and use the read-option play. At least that’s the hope, assuming Matt Scott’s hip feels good enough to handle more than a few hits in the quarterback run game.
Arizona needs Scott’s versatility and unpredictability in the run game to counter Oregon State’s strength on the line.
UA is coming off a 49-0 loss at Oregon in which it ran 32 times for just 89 yards and, according to Rodriguez, “didn’t get a lot of push up front.”
Carey is averaging 105.75 yards per game, ranking 22nd nationally, and nobody has questioned the toughness with which he runs. Sometimes, though, the creases just haven’t been there, especially in the red zone and early in games.
Arizona’s tempo seemingly wore out its first three opponents before the Cats played Oregon (nobody is going to out-tempo the Ducks). Carey has averaged 3.35 yards per rush in the first half, 7.54 yards in the second.
“I feel like it’s been successful,” Carey said of the running game. “But each game is a different story.”
The run game could very well be the story of this game.
It’s been the story of the series this millennium.