What: San Diego State (1-1) vs. Oregon State (2-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20
Where: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Oregon
TV/Radio: Fox Sports 1/Beaver Sports Radio
Series Record: 2-2. Last year, the Beavers rallied from nine points down in the 4th quarter to escape Qualcomm Stadium with a 34-30 victory. Steven Nelson’s 16-yard interception return for touchdown with 2:31 remaining in the game was the go-ahead score. Sean Mannion completed 38 of 55 passes for 367 yards and three TDs. Terron Ward scored two TDs, and Brandin Cooks had 14 catches for 141 for the Beavers. Meanwhile, the OSU defense recorded five sacks and two interceptions.
Notes: San Diego State is coming off a 31-27 loss to ranked North Carolina on the road. SDSU coach Rocky Long, who served as OSU’s defensive coordinator from 1991-1995, is 8-4 following a loss in his three years at the helm of the Aztecs. Long isn’t the only SDSU coach with OSU ties. Defensive line coach Osia Lewis played linebacker at OSU from 1982-85, during which he was a team captain, an All Pac-10 Conference selection, and an honorable All-American. He later coached linebackers and special teams from 1991-96 at OSU. Aztecs quarterback Quinn Kaehler has thrown for at least 200 yards in 14 consecutive games, the third longest streak in the nation. Guess who is ahead of him at 15 games? Sean Mannion.
5 Keys to Victory
1. Contain Pumphery: Sophomore running back Donnel Pumphery has rushed for 100 or more yards in both games this season for San Diego State. At 5-9, 170 pounds, he’s not the biggest, imposing back, but he’s speedy and shifty. Least season against the Beavers, he caught a 23-yard pass for a touchdown, the game’s opening score. Pumphery will be a good test for the OSU linebackers, and the Beavers need to stuff him early on to keep the Aztecs from getting momentum on offense.
2. Pressure Kaehler: The Beavers sacked SDSU quarterback Quinn Kaehler five times during last year’s matchup, but that didn’t stop him from making plays. He threw for 251 yards on only 16 completions and two TDs. So the OSU defense needs to get to him early this time around. One thing that will help is that the Aztecs will be without one of their top targets, Ezell Ruffin, due to injury.
3. Maintain Offensive Intensity: Rocky Long’s teams always play strong on the defensive side of the ball. They are physical and sound. So the Beavers need to get into a groove offensively early on and not let up. If the offense sputters in the same matter that it did two weekends ago at Hawaii, the Beavers might not be so lucky.
4. Hit the Home Run Play: The Aztecs will likely bring the heat on defense Saturday. As a result, Sean Mannion and Co. should have opportunities to take advantage of SDSU’s aggressive and go for the big play. The key will be to convert some of those plays and break the defense. The Beavers are due for a big pass-play touchdown, and they may need all the offense they can get this weekend.
5. Run the Ball: The OSU running game is still searching for consistency, especially in the red zone, but so far so good in terms of yardage, as Terron Ward and Storm Woods have both turned in 100-yard games this season. The Beavers could use another 100+ yard effort from one of them, or both, to take pressure off Mannion and keep the SDSU defense honest. There also could be a chance for Ward and Woods to do damage in passing game.
Game prediction: 31-21 Beavers.
Any other keys that you think will be crucial for a Beavers’ victory?