Can Beavs pull off upset?

OREGON STATE'S SCHEDULE takes them on the road to Arizona State after opening with three straight losses, and there doesn't seem to be much reason for optimism about the state of the Beavers out in cyberspace. So how do the Beavs avoid that feeling of gloom and doom and get a win this Saturday?

"Keeping an enthusiasm, keeping a hunger for getting better is a key issue at this time," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "If we have that, we're going to be fine."

The mental aspect of the game seems to be about as important as anything the Beavers do physically, though they have some issues to resolve with blocking for running plays and defending against the pass. Still, three consecutive losses "hurts bad," as senior safety Lance Mitchell said, and the Beavers can't help but wonder where the first win comes from as the calendar turns to October.

"We have always preached the importance of getting better every week," Riley said. "There's no magic to it. Every week is a new game and a new opportunity. It's up to the team and our coaching staff to make it the best possible week and make every plan to win the game."

The Beavers could draw some confidence from three consecutive wins over ASU, and they have been on the road already to play a talented team (Wisconsin) in a hostile environment. And, Riley insisted, the Beavers have improved from week to week … just not enough to earn that first victory.

"Obviously our biggest issue is keeping these guys in a positive frame of mind to continue to work," Riley said. "You won't get anything done otherwise. I feel good about that right now."

NOTES:
-- The 0-3 start means the Beavers will enter October without a winning record for the eighth consecutive season. OSU's five-game losing streak stretching back to last season is the longest since the 1997 season ended with six consecutive defeats.

--ASU coach Dennis Erickson and six of his assistants all worked at Oregon State previously in his career. That group of assistants with connections to OSU includes both coordinators, Craig Bray on defense and Noel Mazzone on offense.

SERIES HISTORY: Arizona State leads 24-12-1, through Oregon State has won the past three games.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Oregon State's desire to have a balanced offense has come up short in the past two games, with the Beavers rushing 52 times for 112 yards. That included a 10-yard total in the first half against UCLA, when the offense didn't score a touchdown. The Beavers must have the threat of the run to keep ASU's defense, and others in future games, from teeing off in the pass rush.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: OSU's pass defense ranks 119th in the nation, and that's after playing a couple of teams that focus on the run in Wisconsin and UCLA. The Beavers didn't have an interception in either game, and gave up completed passes in situations where the coverage was good, but the defender didn't make a play on the football.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Oregon State at Arizona State, Oct. 1 -- There can't be two teams farther apart on the confidence spectrum. The Beavers are reeling after an 0-3 start, while ASU has won all three of its home games and leads the Pac-12's Southern Division. OSU needs to get off to a good start to slow the momentum of the Sun Devils.

THE QUESTION: How do the Beavers handle the defensive front seven of the Sun Devils? If OSU can't get its offense moving, the Sun Devils will increase the pressure and feel free to gamble and stay aggressive up front.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DE Scott Crichton -- The redshirt freshman leads the Beavers in tackles for lost yardage with four, and the Beavers need a pass rush to aid a secondary that has struggled in coverage. Crichton shows great energy on the field and with some game experience, he's put it to use to make big plays.
WR James Rodgers -- OSU coach Mike Riley said the Beavers did a good job of "breaking in" Rodgers in his return to the lineup, with five receptions and a run. With Rodgers proving there are no obvious issues with his surgically repaired knee and showing his conditioning level is fine, he seems likely to play more of a role in his second game.
MLB Feti Unga -- The first-year starter not only leads OSU in tackles but tops the Pac-12, averaging 10.3 per game. He had his best game against UCLA with 14 tackles, but the challenge becomes bigger against ASU's varied offense.
RB Malcolm Agnew – Will Beaver starter return and if so, how close will he be to game shape having missed the last two games.

ROSTER REPORT:
--Jordan Poyer was named Special Teams Player of the Week by the Pac-12 after his 85-yard punt return against UCLA, and seems set in holding down that job. He also returns kickoffs, though the Beavers fear using him too much on special teams and possibly impacting his role as a starting cornerback.
--Starting C Grant Johnson slightly injured his back while lifting weights and missed practice time in preparation for the ASU game. Also still out is LG Josh Andrews, though he has begun to do some light running in his recovery from a knee injury suffered Sept. 10.
--As reported on BF.C, the Beavers had a recruiting setback when previously committed Junior Espitia said he was switching from OSU to California. That kind of thing happens in recruiting, but this one hits OSU a little harder since he is from a nearby high school (South Salem) and is one of the top prospects in the state of Oregon.


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