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OSU focuses on improvement, not ranking

Beavers expect Arizona to atone for last week's goose egg


by: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY - Defensive end Dylan Wynn (left) celebrates a big play by the 2-0 Oregon State Beavers, who visit Arizona on Saturday.Even with accolades knifing in like shooting stars, Dylan Wynn says there is no reason for the Oregon State Beavers to be full of themselves as they prepare for Saturday’s Pac-12 date at Arizona.

Back-to-back victories over top-20 opponents Wisconsin and UCLA have merited Oregon State a No. 18 national ranking, but Wynn isn’t flipping cartwheels after the Beavers’ 27-20 upset of 19th-ranked UCLA last Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

“It just felt like another game,” says Wynn, Oregon State’s live-wire sophomore defensive end. “We know every game comes down to which team executes the game plan better. (Winning at UCLA) was special, but that’s last week. We’re looking ahead to Arizona.”

But the national ranking — doesn’t that turn on Oregon State’s fumble-recovery machine and his teammates?

“Not really,” says Wynn, who recovered a school-record five opponents’ fumbles as a freshman. “We know how good we’re going to be.

“Honestly, rankings don’t matter until the end of the season. It’s cool, but it’s not something we think about.”

Oregon State finished last season 101st in rushing defense and 104th in opponents’ third-down efficiency among the 120 FBS teams. After two games this year, the Beavers rank second in run defense at 53.5 yards per game (behind Stanford at 41.7) and lead the nation in opponents’ third-down efficiency (4 for 29).

Improved run defense, Wynn says, “was a goal for us this year. We knew that last year (opponents) were running down the middle of our defense. That was a big problem. It was something we absolutely buckled down on. We want our defense to be known for (opponents) not running up the middle on us.”

A year ago, ends Wynn and Scott Crichton were untried freshman. Andrew Seumalo was in his first season as a starter, and the other tackle, Castro Masaniai, was lost at midseason to a broken leg. Now, it has become a veteran front four.

“The year of experience with each other is a big part of it,” the 6-2, 265-pound Wynn says. “We are doing a better job trusting each other to do his own job. When people start second-guessing each other, it puts holes in the defense.

“All of us were playmakers in high school, running around trying to make every play. When you have a bunch of skilled athletes at the college level, you focus on what you can do collectively instead of individually.”

Defensive line coach Joe Seumalo has used 10 players in his rotation, including Rudolf Fifita, John Braun, Devon Kell and Rusty Fernando at end and Mana Rosa and Joe Lopez at tackle.

“We have a deep rotation,” says Wynn, who played his high school ball at storied De La Salle in Concord, Calif. “We don’t view (the substitutes) as the second unit. We have packages we use in different situations. It keeps us fresh.”

Joe Seumalo, Wynn says, “is one of the main reasons I came to Oregon State — him and Coach (Mike) Riley. I love how (Seumalo) coaches. He is very good teacher. I’m privileged to be able to learn from him.”

Oregon State had extra time to prepare for Wisconsin due to postponement of the opener against Nicholls State and for UCLA due to the bye. This week, the Beavers have only the week to prepare for Arizona. Plus, school began Monday on the OSU campus.

“I don’t think it will have a big effect on us,” Wynn says. “The first week (after the Nicholls State postponement), we did almost nothing on Wisconsin. We focused on us, sharpened what we needed to do. It was pretty much the same during the bye week.

“The coaches have done a very good job making the transition almost seamless. We’ll have plenty of time to get ready (for the Wildcats).”

Wynn watched on TV as Arizona’s offense moved well between the 20s but stalled in the red zone in a 49-0 loss at Oregon on Saturday. Six trips to the UO 20 or closer — four in the first half — went pointless.

“Reminded me of our team last year,” Wynn says. The Wildcats “are a good team that didn’t play a very good game. They have a lot of weapons.”

With junior quarterback Matt Scott at the controls of an offense that starts seven seniors, Arizona leads the Pac-12 in pass offense at 329 yards per game, followed closely by Oregon State at 327.5. The Wildcats are third in rush offense at 207 yards per contest, with tailback Ka’Deem Carey, a 5-10, 195-pound junior, third in the league with 423 yards and a 5.3-yard average.

In a 59-38 romp past Oklahoma State, Arizona amassed 32 first downs and 501 yards total offense. Receivers Dan Buckner, a 6-4, 215-pound senior, and Austin Hill, a 6-3, 210-pound junior, have combined for 48 catches thus far.

“We’ll try to shut down the run game first, but they have a very good passing game,” Wynn says. “It’s a good time to be able to test our strength in the secondary against their strength at wide receiver. It’ll be fun.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers