Inside Slant: Oregon State vs. Arizona

IT'S BEEN ONE thing to talk about playing better, which Oregon State has shown. It's another to improve the results, which so far have been four defeats in as many games for the Beavers. "We've been at it for a bit," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "It would sure be great for this team to win a game." Enter Arizona, the opponent this week for the Beavers, with the game at Reser Stadium.

There's a sense that if not soon, when will this OSU team win a game?

After Arizona (1-4), the Beavers play host to BYU and then play Washington State in Seattle. This three-game stretch would appear to be the opportunity for OSU to reverse the course on this season.

The alternative is that OSU will struggle to win a game if it doesn't come in the next three weeks. The final five games of the season for the Beavers are all against likely bowl teams as OSU goes to Utah, hosts Stanford, plays California in San Francisco, hosts Washington and finishes at Oregon.

"I've been encouraged by the improvement of this team, but we need a win," Riley said.

-- On hand to present the game ball Saturday prior to the Arizona game is former OSU coach Jerry Pettibone, who led the Beavers from 1991-96. If OSU's losing streak reaches seven after Saturday, it would be the longest for OSU since the Beavers went 15 games without a win over the final 10 games of 1995 and the first five of 1996.

--The worst quarter for OSU this season has been the second, when the Beavers have been outscored 63-17. The Beavers have averaged only 58.5 yards in the second quarter and converted only 5-of-17 third downs. The result has been that OSU has trailed in all four games at halftime.

SERIES HISTORY: Arizona leads 21-12-1, with Oregon State winning 29-27 last year in Tucson.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Beavers preach a balanced attack, but it hasn't been the case on the field and why go there this week against Arizona? The Wildcats are the worst team in the Pac-12 in pass-efficiency defense, and OSU' strength is clearly in its talented group of receivers, led by junior Markus Wheaton with 32 receptions through four games. The Beavers may run it more than the nine carries by running backs against ASU, but the winning way is likely to be passing against Arizona.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: OSU continues to show an improved pass rush, led by its defensive ends, but it's difficult to get to Arizona QB Nick Foles. Still, the rush from the outside has been effective against Arizona, and DEs Scott Crichton, Dylan Wynn, Rusty Fernando and Taylor Henry, if the latter is back from an injury, will need to disrupt Foles, or it could be a long day for the OSU secondary.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This thing is growing. It hasn't resulted in a victory yet, but there are parts … that are pretty exciting." -- Oregon State coach Mike Riley, on the progress of his 0-4 team.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Arizona at Oregon State, Oct. 8 -- Are there two more desperate teams in the country? Arizona has only beaten Northern Arizona in five games this season. The Beavers have lost their first four. Arizona has that lone win in 10 games dating back to last season. OSU has but one victory in its past nine games going back to 2010.

THE BIG QUESTION: Can either defense stop the other offense? These two defenses rank near the bottom of the conference, and they're 11th and 12th against the pass.

CB Jordan Poyer -- The junior cornerback figures to be busy in pass coverage, if not returning punts this week, because Arizona should be able to avoid fourth downs against OSU. Poyer had two interceptions against Arizona State.

WR James Rodgers -- The most motivated of the Beavers might well be the senior receiver, who suffered his major knee injury that led to two surgeries when he was tackled in the end zone after scoring a touchdown last season against Arizona.

RB Terron Ward -- After making his first start against ASU, the freshman running back should be the starter again as the Beavers promise more use of their running game after the three backs used last week combined for only nine carries. Ward is the best candidate to be an every-down back with his abilities as both a runner and receiver.

--TE Tyler Perry and WR Micah Hatfield, both injured during preseason practices, have been cleared to return to workouts. Perry also had to serve a one-game suspension for an alcohol-related offense. While neither is on the two-deep, they add depth and possible help on special teams.

--Starting LG Josh Andrews, out since Sept. 10 with a knee injury, returned to participating in full pads, though his status for Saturday's game remains to be determined.

--RB Malcolm Agnew, expected back last week from a hamstring injury until he aggravated the muscle in a late-week workout, is doubtful for Saturday's game. OSU coach Mike Riley said that while Agnew hasn't played since the opening game, the coaches aren't yet thinking of a possible medical redshirt, instead focusing on strengthening the hamstring.

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