It's not an official NCAA statistic, but one compiled by the Florida State athletic media relations office. Still, the Utah State defense is proud to brag that it leads the nation in quarterback sacks with 4.8 per game.
That should be an advantage for the Aggies heading into tonight's game (8:05 p.m.) against Oregon State (2-2) at Romney Stadium. However, they better watch out for the Beavers' defense because the Beavers just happen to be right behind the Ags, fifth in the nation with 4.5 sacks per game.In fact, it may be a defensive battle with a lot of negative yards due to sacks when the Aggies and Beavers meet for the second year in a row. The Aggie defense, led by Tony D'Amato and Johndale Carty, has been outstanding so far this year in ranking 10th in the nation in rushing defense and 15th in total defense.
Meanwhile the Beavers are 35th in the nation in total defense against a tough schedule that includes USC and Arizona State. Although the Beavers were beaten by both schools, they only allowed 320 and 363 total yards, respectively.
"Defensively, they are very quick and they play very hard," said USU coach Dave Arslanian. "The previous (Utah State) staff felt like they were the best defensive team they played against last year. After watching them on film, I can see why."
The Beavers return nine defensive starters from last year, including their entire front four and three defensive backs. Nose guard Shawn Bell and defensive end Inoke Breckterfield each have three sacks as does linebacker Bryan Jones, who also leads the team with 43 tackles.
The key for the Aggies may be how well its offensive line of Ben Holbrook, Ken Watts, Junior Pututau, Mike Lindsay and Matt Lance can contain the OSU line and protect quarterback Riley Jensen. The Aggies have relied on their passing game all year, but they'll need to get more production from the ground game with John Roberts (118 yards last week) and Demario Brown, who should be back after missing two games.
The Aggies have used the blitz effectively this year and may do it a lot tonight after watching film of the OSU-Arizona State game where the Sun Devils blitzed all game and forced five fumbles and allowed just three points. Beaver coach Mike Riley expects the Aggies to blitz.
"I always felt in blitzing if someone couldn't handle it, they were just going to see more of it," said Riley. "So we have to be sharper."
AGNOTES: Brown has practiced all week and his ankle appears to be fine . . . Also back from injury is receiver Adrion Pierson . . . Missing today's game will be freshman receiver Adam Colbert, who is out with bruised ribs. Taking his place in the starting lineup will be Ricky Brumfield . . . Last year in Corvallis, Brown rushed for 131 yards against the Beavers . . . This will be the third-ever meeting between USU and OSU. Besides last year's 24-16 victory, the Beavers won 45-0 in 1904 . . . Next week, the Aggies meet another Pac-10 opponent when they play at Washington . . . A crowd of 20,000 to 25,000 is expected.