Preview: Arizona State can’t let momentum freeze in chilly Oregon State matchup

Nov 14, 2014, 3:52 PM | Updated: 3:52 pm
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It’s easy to forget about Oregon State.

Their in-state rival is Phil-Knight-Ville the No.2 Oregon Ducks. Ever heard of them?

The Beavers are currently in a four-game slide, and are 4-5 on the season.

They haven’t yet had a noteworthy win this season, and this season they’re probably best known for their senior quarterback, Sean Mannion, breaking the Pac-12 record for career passing yards on Nov. 1.

But still, Arizona State should not discount the Beavers.

The Sun Devils have proved against Stanford, USC and Notre Dame that they are pretty good under pressure when the stakes are high and the thin line they walk starts to shake.

But how will they handle a should-win situation?

Last week, ASU had a comfortable lead at halftime against Notre Dame. More than comfortable. And then, when they seemed to let themselves catch a breath after firing away touchdown after touchdown, their metaphorical boot lifted off the Fighting Irish’s throat.

Notre Dame put up 28 unanswered points, and then, with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils flexed their muscles again to shake off the Irish and blow open the game.

Maybe those 20-or-so minutes aren’t enough cause for worry, though. After all, Oregon State is as far from Notre Dame as, well, Corvalis is from South Bend.

On paper, Arizona State already has the Beavers beat. It’s a no-brainer, really, with the momentum in the Sun Devils’ favor and injuries and inconsistency plaguing Oregon State.

But at this point in the season, ASU needs to really avoid being this guy:

The Sun Devils passed their test in the national spotlight with flying colors last week. Now, another test awaits: How will they fare with a lack of pressure, a lack of spotlight?

A game in the cold, wet Northwest against a team they should handily beat that’s on TV at a time when most of the nation is tucking itself in for the night, well, seems just like it could be…

Head coach Todd Graham says his team is on the same page — “These guys have had a lot of close and emotional wins, and I think they understand that they need to always be prepared, especially in a conference like the Pac-12 where every team can beat you.”

Added redshirt junior cornerback Lloyd Carrington, “The main thing, we just come out, we take care of our business like we’re supposed to, everything will take care of itself.”

What can be expected on both sides of the ball?

Sun Devil Offense

Taylor Kelly looks like his old, consistent self

After spending about a month on the sideline and another few weeks shaking off the rust, Arizona State’s quarterback situation is solid once more.

Kelly completed about 61 percent of his passes and threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns and ran for an additional score against Notre Dame. He did throw an interception as well, but probably will complete plenty against the Beavers, who just allowed 471 passing yards and five touchdowns to Wazzu freshman Luke Falk in his first collegiate start last week.

Busting open the ground game

Oregon State gave up 271 rushing yards to Cal on Nov. 1.

Let that sink in for a second. Cal. Home of the “Bear Raid”.

D.J. Foster will be solid as usual, but we might see more of him in the slot and handoffs will fall to Demario Richard.

Richard, a freshman and budding star on ASU’s offense, had 13 carries for 50 yards and both a rushing and receiving touchdown against Notre Dame. The week prior, Richard notched his first 100-yard rushing game against Utah.

Still too Strong

Jaelen Strong received a lot of hype after his one-handed catch against Notre Dame, and he’s probably been on the radar of every single team ASU has faced thus far.

Since tackling and the pass defense has become an issue for Oregon State in recent weeks, the 6-foot-3, 212-pound spring-loaded Strong might be too much for the secondary to handle.

Sun Devil Defense

“You blitz…all…night!”

Who else thinks about this when ASU’s defense is on the field?

The Sun Devils love to blitz.

In fact, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson estimates that the Sun Devils have blitzed on 83 percent of their defensive snaps in the last two games.

This is problematic for Mannion, as he isn’t known for being a mobile quarterback and his offensive line has suffered a huge loss in Issac Seumalo as he still hasn’t recovered from a knee injury suffered last season and Oregon State has struggled to replace a player of his caliber.

Oregon State head coach Mike Riley is experienced as they come, so will probably instruct his quarterback to dish the rock quickly into short screens — meaning the resulting space needs to be covered well by Carrington, Jordan Simone and the rest of their crew.

Out of the Woods

Oregon State running back Storm Woods will be back in the lineup after missing two games due to injury (Stanford and Washington State). At 11th in the Pac-12 in stopping the run, ASU has to close some space and prepare for Woods, whose potential was seen in 2012, when he rushed for 940 yards and 13 touchdowns (it also was the last time Oregon State beat ASU).

Sean the Mannion

Mannion may be the Pac-12’s leading passer, but he hasn’t had many people to throw the ball to after receiver Brandin Cooks left Oregon State for the NFL.

The Beavers rank 30th in the FBS in passing yards, and their top receiver, Victor Bolden, has only 568 yards on the season (12th in the Pac-12).

Still, when Mannion is on, he’s really on — he threw for 419 yards against Washington State despite the loss.

Just for fun

-Arizona state will wear these uniforms Saturday:

-For an awesome graphic set of Arizona State’s history against Oregon State, click here:

Penguin Air

Arizona State Football

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)...
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Preview: Arizona State can’t let momentum freeze in chilly Oregon State matchup