We were face to face with DT Stephen Paea after Tuesday’s practice, demanding answers, demanding to know why a highly-regarded future NFL draft pick isn’t just tossing aside linemen and swallowing up quarterbacks. Why isn’t Paea dominating games like Ndamukong Suh did last year for Nebraska?
The Banker defense isn’t designed for a single DT – even a Stephen Paea – to make ESPN highlight plays on every down, I get that. But I also know that fans are disappointed that this OSU defense isn't kicking butt and taking names like some previous versions did, especially in Reser. And judging from the talk I had with Paea, the players are also aware that there is much work to be done if they want to contend for the conference championship again.
Paea sounded confident that OSU will play better. It’s that or face the consequences of being an afterthought in the Pac-10 race. Paea said Pac-10 games are going to be a war. “I mean, look at Oregon,’’ he said. “They were kicking butt and they showed up and they struggled vs. ASU. It’s a very competitive conference.’’
Paea said some frustration spilled over on the plane ride home from Boise and players spoke openly about what needs to be done. He called it an informal team meeting. “Enough talking,’’ said Paea. “Just do it, is all I’m trying to say. We’ve got to fix some stuff. … we’re still trying to find that lost piece of the puzzle. We’ve got to put it back together.’’
Paea praised the play of fellow DTs Kevin Frahm and Brennan Olander in the Boise State game, and said he certainly isn’t blameless when it comes to pointing fingers and trying to determine why this OSU defense is statistically getting killed (it ranks 108th in total defense among 120 FBS teams)
“I’ve had problems, too, like some stunt problems,’’ said Paea.
Are the double teams frustrating?
“It’s a compliment pretty much, a sign of respect,’’ he said. “But at the same time, I’ve got to step my game up. Double teams shouldn’t be an issue for me. I should go through those double-teams because I go through them every day here (in practice).’’
Why just two sacks in three games? Paea can partially answer this. And he said it doesn’t necessarily mean the defensive front is terrible.
For starters, he said, “we’ve played two of the top teams in the nation. … and that three-step drop and all that, it’s just the nature of (spread offenses). That ball is going to come out fast, like it did at Boise State (with QB Kellen Moore). You can line up and go untouched to the quarterback and the ball’s coming out. You can’t do anything about it. And Kellen Moore, talk about a (Heisman-type) quarterback. Dalton, too.
“We stopped ‘em (BSU) a few times, but it wasn’t enough to win the game. That’s why they’re No. 3 in the nation. And we’re not at that level yet.’’
The OSU offense ran fewer plays after three games than any FBS team in the country, which meant the defense was on the field for LONG stretches.
“We get tired, but we’ve got to find a way,’’ said Paea, who said being on the field for extra snaps isn’t a huge issue for the Beavers because the team rotates so many players.
Paea said the beleaguered cornerbacks, “have to help us,’’ by covering better.
He said the defensive line must help out the cornerbacks, “by pressuring the passer and getting some sacks.’’
None of it is rocket science. And one bang-up afternoon against Arizona State will take some heat off the defense, said Paea.
“We talked (on the plane home) about not letting Boise State get us down,’’ said No. 54.
“One of the guys made a good point, that a lot of people thought we were going to get blown out by Boise State. But we hung in there, and we even had a chance to win at the end. … we made some simple mistakes that we’ve got to fix.
“Less talk, more action,’’ said Paea.
“It starts with Arizona State, and carries all the way to the Oregon game.
“It starts with ASU, then it’s one game at a time.’’