Beavers will try to get back on track
Injuries force linemen to change positions
As Oregon State mounted impressive victories against lesser opposition and Beaver Nation swelled with pride and high expectations, Dennis Erickson maintained, 'We haven't played anybody yet.'
The Beavers have now.
Southern California popped the Beaver bubble and exposed a suspect offensive line, and those Rose Bowl dreams are on hold.
After watching tape of Saturday's 22-0 shutout Ñ Erickson's first regular-season whitewash in 21 years as a college and NFL head coach, he didn't feel any better.
'Offensively, we were ridiculous,' he says.
Erickson says he doesn't believe his players had read their news clippings and gotten full of themselves. He doesn't think they underestimated the challenge the Trojan defense presented. Nerves, perhaps, going into the Pac-10 opener?
'Yeah, probably, and we just didn't execute,' he says. 'It wasn't effort. The things we did technique-wise the first four games, we just didn't do (against USC). It was like it was our first game of the season. We didn't block, we had some sacks, there were three or four dropped balls, there were some bad throws. É It's a crime, because we did play well defensively.'
One problem is at offensive left tackle. Starter Brian Kilkenny went down to a knee injury against Fresno State and is expected out another four to five weeks. His replacement, Lee Davis, injured a knee against the Trojans and is feared lost for the season. The Beavers wound up using little-used Jake Pratt, a redshirt freshman from Sprague High, in the second half.
OSU probably will move starting left guard Mike Kuykendall, a senior who played tackle as a freshman and sophomore, to left tackle. The best remaining reserve lineman, junior David Lose, probably will move into Kuykendall's guard spot.
The Trojans laid a blueprint for other teams to follow.
'The first four weeks, we played against defenses that were one-dimensional,' Kuykendall says. 'They either tried to stop the run or stop the pass. These guys, they did both.'
On Sunday night, as he gathered his players for a meeting, Erickson told them: 'We are a better team than we showed against SC. We can't play a lot better than we did defensively. Offensively, we have to re-up and get going. We can do it. We have done it. Now let's go out and do it again.'
nÊUSC's mission was to control the ball on offense and put the heat on OSU's Derek Anderson and Steven Jackson. It couldn't have gone more smoothly for Pete Carroll's crew.
In the first half, the Trojans had drives of 14, 13 and 10 plays, leading to a 51-31 advantage in plays before intermission.
The final numbers are mind-boggling. USC finished with the advantage in plays (90-60), time of possession (37:55 to 22:05), first downs (25-8) and total offense (330-131). Jackson ran 15 times for 67 yards Ñ almost all of it in the second quarter Ñ but had six carries for negative yardage. And the Beavers were 1 for 15 on third-down conversions.
'I don't think I have ever had an offense play so inefficiently in my career,' Erickson says.
nÊFor the second time in three years, Erickson has had the luxury of redshirting his entire freshman class (last year, the Beavers played true freshmen Anderson, Jackson, Bill Swancutt, Josh Hawkins and Cole Clasen).
But the OSU coach has been extremely impressed with three members of his freshman recruiting class of '02: 6-3, 185-pound cornerback Brandon Browner from Sylmar, Calif.; 6-4, 225-pound defensive end Brandon Scales from North Hills, Calif.; and 6-7, 240-pound tight end Joe Newton from Roseburg.
'Browner is as good an athlete as we have had in a long time,' Erickson says of the son of Keith Browner, a 1980-83 linebacker at USC. 'He is a tall kid who can run fast. Scales can run, he is very athletic, and he will put on a lot of weight. And Joe Newton is going to play some great football for us before he is through.'
The Beavers also have added a potential replacement for senior defensive tackle Eric Manning in 6-2, 320-pound Alvin Smith, who has transferred from Tulane and will have three years of eligibility left. Smith has been practicing with the Beavers the past week.
'He has to get in shape Ñ I'd like him at about 300 Ñ but he has a chance to be good,' Erickson says.
nÊErickson, on Anderson's performance: 'It was OK. We dropped some passes on him. He rushed some throws, but they had a good rush on him. I just told him to digest it all and learn from his mistakes.'