WHAT OREGON STATE'S 3--0 shutout of Pittsburgh in last year's Brut(al) Sun Bowl lacked in style points, it made up for in sweet redemption for the Beavers' defense. In its previous outing the unit had allowed 694 yards in a 65--38 home loss to Oregon, a rout that cost Oregon State its first Rose Bowl berth since 1965. Instead of sulking, the players used the Sun Bowl, says defensive coordinator Mark Banker, "to show the world who they were."
Who are they? Well, entering the fifth season of Mike Riley's second tour as coach, the Beavers are coming off the best three-year stretch in school history—28 wins, including three in bowls. That success would appear to be threatened by the loss of eight starters from a defense that was second in the Pac-10 in sacks, limited No. 1 USC to 86 yards rushing in the biggest upset of the year and finished 23rd in the nation in total defense (despite that no-show in the Civil War). But anyone who saw Oregon State's D at the final spring scrimmage knows this unit should be fine in '09.
No Beaver had a better spring than senior Keaton Kristick, the fleet, instinctive strongside linebacker who, like most of his fellow 'backers, seems a tad light (6'3", 230) for that position. To counter spread attacks, however, Banker prefers speed over strength and bulk. Kristick was a high school tailback. Weakside linebacker Dwight Roberson (6 feet, 231) ran the 100 meters in high school. Sophomore David Pa'aluhi III, a recreational kickboxer who is moving from outside to middle linebacker, goes 5'11", 233 and has run the 40 in 4.48.
On the subject of speedy sophomores, the Quizz Show is back for its second season in Corvallis. Super quick Jacquizz Rodgers finished last season with 1,291 yards rushing and became the first freshman to be named Pac-10 offensive player of the year. The Quizz and his older brother, James, a junior wideout, will again spark the offense.
After an 0--2 start in '08, the Beavers finished 9--4. Kristick, for one, is less interested in sustaining that level of success than in improving on it. "I'm a senior," he says. "I want to get that Rose Bowl."
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