No. 6 Cougars host Oregon State
SPOKANE, Wash. -- When the league's No. 1 rushing team meets its top rushing defense, and its best pass offense meets the premier pass defense, something's got to give.
"We're focusing on the pass coverage this week," Oregon State linebacker Trent Bray said as the Beavers take on No. 6 Washington State on Saturday in a key Pacific-10 Conference matchup in Pullman.
"They have a lot of different looks," Bray said of the Cougars. "But I think we match up well with their offense."
Indeed, Oregon State's pass defense leads the Pac-10, holding opponents to 220 yards per game. Washington State features Matt Kegel and the top passing offense, averaging 294 yards.
With tailback Steven Jackson, the Beavers boast the league's top rushing game, gaining nearly 170 yards per game. With a big and fast defensive line, the Cougars are the league's best rush defense, limiting opponents to 76 yards per game on the ground.
"They have a great offense and a great defense, and they're just a great team overall," Jackson said of the Cougars. "They play the game in all three phases, and they play it pretty well. So it's going to be a big test for us, but I think if we do what we can, we'll come out with a win, which would be big for us."
Jackson should be a big test for the Cougars' "one sip" defense. Cornerback Jason David, who has four interceptions, including two returns for touchdowns, explains: "Give the offense one sip of water, then send them right back out there."
The Beavers (5-2, 2-1) hope to bounce back from a disappointing 38-17 loss at home to Washington last Saturday, while the Cougars (6-1, 3-0) want a sixth straight win in their quest to repeat as Pac-10 champion.
"They're the No. 1 rushing team in the conference, and we've got the best rush defense; and we're No. 1 in pass offense, and they're No. 1 in pass defense," Washington State coach Bill Doba said. "It should be a 0-0 ball game."
That's unlikely, given the offensive production of both teams.
The Beavers' Derek Anderson leads the conference in total offense, averaging 288 yards per game, just ahead of Kegel's 275. Anderson has thrown 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, while Kegel has 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Washington State has gained 10 fumbles and 16 interceptions, while losing seven fumbles and five interceptions, a margin of plus-14.
"They have an outstanding group of defensive players," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "They've been in that system for a while, and I think a big, big factor is that they get the ball back from the other team. They've gained a lot of momentum in ball games from turnovers."
Bray, the son of former WSU and OSU assistant Craig Bray, now with the San Francisco 49ers, grew up in Pullman and was recruited by Washington State.
Doba said Bray attended a WSU camp in seventh grade, when his dad was a WSU assistant.
"The little devil. I really wanted him badly," Doba said. "It was hard to see him go to Oregon State. He's kind of like a (Cougars linebacker) Will Derting. He just has natural instincts, he gets to the football, he finds the counter plays. Some kids just do that naturally."
Derting, a linebacker with 44 tackles and 3.5 sacks, is the Cougars' leading tackler.
Riley said his team hopes to rebound from the Washington loss the way they responded after an early loss at Fresno State: reeling off four straight wins.
"We responded from a similar disappointing performance earlier in the year very well. I thought we came back and put a string of pretty good football together," Riley said. "We took a step backward, and now we have a chance to respond again."
The Beavers quickly shook off the loss to Washington and immediately turned their attention to the Cougars, Bray and Jackson said.
"After the game, everyone was surprised and upset," Bray said. "But this week, everyone is ready to go. We still have a shot to be in the thick of this thing."
"Someone has to lose," Jackson said. "That's how we're feeling right now; if we can win out and go on a tear throughout the conference, we do control our own destiny and the Rose Bowl is still within our grasp."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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