Rushing attacks of ASU and Oregon State to take center stage in Corvallis
Progress toward a high-caliber bowl game for Arizona State will have to go through a place where many Sun Devil dreams have died before: Corvallis, Oregon.
ASU will take on the back half of its two-game road trip in the Pacific Northwest against the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday.
The Sun Devils came back from a 24-14 deficit to escape Washington with a 35-30 win last week.
OSU is 5-0 at home this season, its best mark since 2012. The Beavers are coming off of a 35-14 home victory last week against Stanford. That win made the team bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.
A win against the Sun Devils would mark OSU’s first undefeated home season since 2000.
In order to avoid that, ASU would have to win its second consecutive game in Corvallis after last year’s 46-33 win at Reser Stadium. The Sun Devils have not managed consecutive wins at Corvallis since 1996-1997.
What: Arizona State (7-3, 5-2) at Oregon State (6-4, 4-3)
When: Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Betting line via FanDuel: ASU -3.5
Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station
Battle of rushing attacks
If you like good running plays, Saturday night in Corvallis will provide plenty of entertainment.
Both the Sun Devils and the Beavers enter this weekend with top-20 rushing attacks nationally.
ASU is fourth in the Pac-12 and 19th in the country with 212.5 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Beavers lead the conference and are seventh in the nation with 228.7 yards per game.
Arizona State’s hot hand, redshirt senior running back Rachaad White, recently accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl. His production has equated to at least 55% of the Sun Devils’ total offensive production in each of their past two games.
Oregon State’s rushing attack starts with redshirt junior running back B.J. Baylor. Baylor leads the Pac-12 with 105 rushing yards per game. He eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark last weekend, becoming the ninth player in OSU history to have a 1,000-yard season.
ASU head coach Herm Edwards said part of the Beavers’ success comes from its offensive versatility.
“They’re multi-dimensional and use a lot of formations and a lot of movement,” Edwards said.
That versatility does not stop with formations. A second running back, redshirt sophomore Deshaun Fenwick, has handled carries on occasion.
Fenwick ran the ball six times for 50 yards against Stanford last week. He has 430 yards for the season with four touchdowns. His best single-game performance was a 127-yard performance on 15 carries against Washington State on Oct. 9.
Butler and other linebackers to step into spotlight
With two fantastic rushing attacks on display, the ability to stop runners will be crucial. That means linebackers will be in the spotlight.
For Arizona State, senior linebacker Darian Butler leads the group with performance and veteran experience. His eight tackles last week led the Sun Devils.
For the season, Butler leads the team with 68 tackles and 8.5 tackles for a loss. He also has two sacks and three interceptions.
Butler has come a long way in his ASU career, and Edwards said his physical build is just part of it.
“He’s just a different person,” Edwards said. “You watch our tape and you watch him flash. That’s the confidence the guy has and he understands the defense and gets guys lined up.”
Even with that, Butler always has a point he wants to get across on the field.
“He’s always going to be that guy that has to try to prove himself,” Edwards said. “All I know is that when the ball gets thrown or they run it, Butler’s around.”
Butler’s not the only one leading the charge.
Graduate senior linebacker Kyle Soelle also performed well in Seattle with six tackles. He’s second on the team with 61 tackles, with 5.5 of those going for a loss.
Senior linebacker Merlin Robertson had the pick-six that sealed last weekend’s win. He, like Butler, has three interceptions on the season. Robertson also has 50 tackles this year.
Edwards said that big plays like Robertson’s down the stretch may need to come up again given previous history against the Beavers.
“It always goes down to the fourth quarter it seems with these guys, so we’re excited about the opportunity,” Edwards said.