Utes prepare for Giant Killers

By Chris Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

Beavers are known for being carpenters and builders. Slaying giants is certainly not a well-known forte of the aquatic rodent.

Over the past three seasons, the Beavers of Oregon State have taken on the role of Jack in the classic fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“Oregon State, a very impressive win,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said regarding the recent knockoff of former No. 1 USC last week. “It was a very, very well-played ball game. Oregon State was no fluke.”

As the Beavers make their way to Rice-Eccles Stadium tonight to face yet another top ranked opponent, will they play the role of Jack once again? “Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!” has yet to scare Oregon State. In fact, the Beavers have taken this idiom and applied it to their repertoire over the course of the past three years.

“Fee!” took place in 2006 when the No. 3 USC Trojans made their way to Corvallis, Ore., and had a streak of 27 straight PAC-10 wins taken away from them. Ditto for 38 regular-season wins and 13 straight PAC-10 road victories. Troy had fallen.

“Fie!” came in 2007 against No. 2 California. The Golden Bears were 5-0 and riding high, but plummeted back to reality the second quarterback Kevin Riley took off scrambling for the end zone with no time outs left. Oregon State prevailed 31-28.

And nobody saw “Foe!” coming. The 1-2 Beavers had been smashed by No. 19 Oregon and No. 6 Penn State in back-to-back weeks. Well, the miniscule, true freshman Jacquizz Rodgers made certain Troy would fall once again in Corvallis after he trampled No. 1 USC for 186 yards en route to a historic 27-21 victory.

So, going into tonight’s game, will the No. 15 Utes be the next labeled “giant” to fall at the hands of the mighty Beavers?

That remains to be seen.

The Utes come into this game riding high off a 5-0 record, hoping that this non-conference game will help boost their confidence for now and the future.

The task at hand? Corralling a 5-foot-6-inch “mighty mouse” and making sure the offense has enough time on the field to give the Utes’ top five overall defense a rest.

“If (Oregon State) can’t stop our run, we’ll be driving down the field and eating up some clock to give our defense a rest,” tight end Colt Sampson said.

If the Utes are to coincide their game plan with keeping control of the ball as long as possible, it shouldn’t be anything new8212;they have done so in four out of their five games so far this season.

“We have to stop the run, more so than any other week this season,” Whittingham said. “We have to control the ball between Matt (Asiata) and Darrell (Mack) and control the clock like we’ve been doing.”

The Utes are also looking to enact revenge on yet another opponent who beat them last year. After already besting UNLV and Air Force8212;two of the four teams that beat Utah in 20078212;the team that sent the Utes to 0-1 last year is now leaving the green hills near the Oregon coast and making its way to the Wasatch Front.

“I just want to go out and play well, and get the win,” said quarterback Brian Johnson. “What happened last year was obviously last year. I just want to come out and play well in front of our crowd.”

Johnson suffered a shoulder sprain in Utah’s 24-7 loss last year, something that would hamper him for the rest of the season. To add literal insult to injury, Asiata broke his fibula in the second quarter of last year’s loss to the Beavers, leaving him out for the year.

One thing the Utah defense must focus on is not giving up big plays to Oregon State’s big-play potential. The offense, which can be stagnant at times, has explosive wide receivers such as seniors Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales, alongside Jacquizz’s older brother James.

“It’s a big test every week,” said linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. “You know, they knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation. Everyone is wondering what we’re all about, so we gotta come show them.”

Besides the Beaver wideouts, the task at hand that everyone is talking about is Rodgers. The front-seven of Utah is quick off the ball, something they certainly will have to be when it comes to finding Rodgers in the mess of linemen.

“We just gotta be disciplined, this team is very disciplined,” Sylvester said. “If we stay true to schemes, we know coach (Gary) Andersen will cook something up for us.”

The recent abundance of upsets has showcased specific non-BCS conference schools such as Utah, BYU and Boise State as teams with an extremely high chance to make it to a BCS bowl.

With Michigan’s win over former No. 9 Wisconsin and Oregon State’s bouncing of USC, the Utes’ current strength of schedule in the national spotlight is still impressive.

The only question remaining, will the Utes be Oregon State’s “Fum?”

“It’s a huge test,” said defensive tackle Greg Newman. “If we beat these guys, it’s gonna be a huge thing for us.”

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Thien Sok

Matt Asiata has shared the rushing duties with Darrell Mack and they have made the Utes running game No. 43 in the nation.