USC-Oregon State: Beavers Look to Passing Game in Upset Bid


Coached by Corvallis native Mike Riley, the Oregon State Beavers are 1-2 this season, upset by Stanford, 36-28, in their opener and then run over and trampled by Penn State, 45-14, before beating a very weak Hawaii Warriors team two weeks ago, 45-7.


Usually OSU has a run-oriented offense, but not this year. The Beavers’ complex passing schemes and dynamic receivers are the strength behind the nation’s No. 9 passing offense.

All-Pac-10 wide receiver Sammie Stroughter caught 74 passes for 1,293 yards and five touchdowns in 2006 but missed last year with a kidney problem. So far in 2008, he has caught 21 passes for 255 yards and is also a dangerous punt returner. He holds the school record for touchdowns on punt returns.

Stroughter’s speed deep and his big play ability should give the Trojan secondary their biggest test so far this season.

Senior Shane Morales, the Beavers’ slot receiver, currently leads the team with 22 receptions and 284 yards while scoring two touchdowns. He had a game-high 13 catches for 151 yards against Stanford.

The third receiver, James Rodgers, is known for his trick plays and reverses as well as receptions. Last year, he ran the ball 50 times for 586 yards and three TDs.

Throwing to this talented threesome will be Lyle Moevao. A pocket passer with limited mobility, Moevao has hit on 61 percent of his passes (79 of 129) in three games for 922 yards and six touchdowns against four interceptions. Moevao completed 20 of 34 for 268 yards and three TDs against Hawaii.

Backup QB Sean Canfield, who is coming off a shoulder injury, just began working with the second unit two weeks ago.

The Beavers’ running game is led by a couple of true freshmen. All-Texas tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, the brother of Beaver receiver James Rodgers, has rushed for 263 yards on 62 carries for a 4.2 average in his first three games.

Rodgers’ backup is somewhat larger. At 6’1″, 240 pounds, Ryan McCants is another acclaimed true freshman and is considered the “thunder” to Rodgers’ “lightning.” In three games this season, McCants has carried 22 times for 79 yards.

The O-line is anchored by one of the nation’s top tackles, senior left tackle Andy Levitre (6’3”, 325 pounds). Levitre has made 25 consecutive starts and 29 overall. He has played every position on the O-line except center.

One of the best guards in the nation, Jeremy Perry, has been sidelined with injuries, so right guard Adam Speer, a 16-game starter, has moved over to left guard. Although Perry has been rehabilitating, it is not known if he will play against USC.

Completing the O-line are center Alex Linnenkohl (6’2″, 288), right guard No. 73 Gregg Peat (6’3″, 296), and right tackle Mike Remmers (6’4″, 286). John Reese (6’3″, 234) will start at tight end. His backup, Howard Croom (6’3″, 254), should see plenty of action as well.


On the other side of the ball, the Beavers have lost eight quality starters from the 2007 roster, including the entire front seven. However, they still have last year’s designated pass rushers off the bench, Victor Butler (6’2”, 240 pounds) and Slade Norris (6’3”, 250 pounds). They finished first and second in quarterback sacks with 10.5 and nine respectively.

Joining Butler and Norris upfront will be Pernell Booth and JC transfer Stephen Paea.

The secondary is led by hard-hitting strong safety Al Afalava from Hawaii. Afalava was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 player last season and has a pretty good nose for the ball. He has 131 career tackles, the most on the active roster.

The starters at cornerback, Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis, were considered terrific cover defenders last season, but Penn State’s Daryll Clark picked them apart earlier this year. Look for Mark Sanchez to do the same with his talented corps of receivers.

Free safety Greg Laybourn completes the secondary for the Beavers.

Special Teams

Joining Sammie Stroughter, the punt returner on special teams, is James Rodgers, the kickoff returner. He averages 24 yards per return, while Stroughter averages 12 yards on punt returns.

Placekicker Justin Kahut missed on three field goal attempts last week against Hawaii and was replaced late in the game by Sean Sehnem, who connected on a 32-yarder.

Johnny Hekker is the punter and has had one of his attempts blocked already this season. Hekker averages 31 yards per kick.

James Rodgers is the Beaver kick return specialist, averaging 24 yards per return.

The Three Keys of the Game

For OSU: Stroughter, Morales, and Rodgers. Can they get open early and often? And can his O-line give Moevao enough time to hit the open receiver?

For USC: Mark Sanchez and his receiving corps…Stanley Havili and the diversified running backs…Big, big, big D.