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September 4, 2009In the Portland State University, the Beavers found an ideal opponent to open the 2009 football season against.
Get past the fact the Vikings are a Division IAA team. Any team that runs the Run and Shoot offense and returns a quarterback who threw for nearly 3,000 yards last year will be good test for the Beavers, who are breaking in an entirely new secondary this season.
"They've been very effective throwing the ball," OSU coach Mike Riley said at Tuesday's press conference. "It'll be a very good test for our brand-new secondary. It's a very good matchup that way. We have a pretty good idea of how they throw the ball and now what they're going to add to it will be very interesting. We'll prepare for the kitchen sink and I'm sure they'll throw it at us."
Added senior linebacker Keaton Kristick: "It's a very potent offense. They have a lot of passes going on. They're strictly passing, for the most part. It's really going to come down to how we align the passing routes and if we pressure the quarterback."
Starting at quarterback for PSU is sophomore Drew Hubel, a 2007 Corvallis High School graduate. He completed 226-of-393 passes for 2,912 yards and 18 touchdowns. Riley said he wanted Hubel to walk on, but when the Vikings offered him a scholarship, OSU encouraged him to take it.
"It was a better deal for him at the time," Riley said. "I'm excited for his success, I think he's a heck of a guy and I think he's very talented. He's a good thrower, a natural thrower, threw a great ball and still does."
Other connections between the Beavers and PSU: Former OSU players Justin Engstrom, Carl Sommers and Jake Weber now play for the Vikings. Senior wide receiver Taylor Kavanaugh's younger brother, Conner, is a backup QB for PSU.
Add the fact that safeties Lance Mitchell, Cameron Collins and Anthony Watkins all missed time during fall camp, its no wonder Riley doesn't consider Saturday's game an automatic win. Fortunately for him, his players seem to be on the same page as many of them insisted Tuesday they weren't overlooking the Vikings.
"For us, the preparation stays the same," senior quarterback Sean Canfield said. "The focus stays the same week after week. We approach this just like any other game."
The good news is the Beavers should be able to put up enough points to defeat PSU even if the defense struggles. After all, the Rodgers brothers were impressive during fall camp and look stronger and faster this season. And while the line is breaking in three new starters, it should be able to handle PSU's defense long enough to open up some holes and give Canfield enough time to throw.
No matter what happens Saturday, the players won't use the 11:35 a.m. start, believed to be the earliest start time in program history, as an excuse. Canfield said there's an easy way to adjust to that time.
"It's just a matter of going to bed early the night before," Canfield said.
And then of course, showing up to play.
BeaverBlitz's Three Keys to Victory
** Rattle Hubel: There's a chance Hubel may psych himself out playing in front of his family and friends, but the Beavers need to get to him early and often. Not only will that prevent the Vikings from getting into a rhythm on offense, it will take pressure off OSU's young secondary. Forcing few turnovers would also boost the Beaver defense, which is looking to establish itself this season.
** Offensive consistency: The Beavers don't need to put up 75 points or 500 yards of offense. That probably won't happen considering Canfield won't have WR Darrell Catchings to throw to. The pair had a strong rapport during fall camp before the junior hurt his wrist. All the offense needs to do is be consistent and not turn the ball over. It can't let PSU get early momentum in its "big" game of the season.
** Stick with what you know: OSU shouldn't try to be too cute and fancy in this game. If the offense struggles, it needs to ride Quizz. And in the process maybe identify a backup running back. Defensively, the Beavers need to be aggressive even if it means giving up a big play here and there.