INSIDE SLANT: OSU vs. Utah

OREGON STATE AGAIN takes some momentum and a positive feeling into a game on Saturday (TV: Root Sports-NW, 4:00 p.m.), but this time around the Beavers aren't thinking a win has been a season-changing event. Two wins in a row, however, might change that.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Oregon State at Utah, Oct. 29 -- The Beavers, now with a win at home and one on a neutral field, will attempt to win a road game for the first time this season while trying to keep the Utes winless in Pac-12 games.

CRITICAL TO THE GAME: Which team runs the football better? The Utes are primarily a running team since the loss of starting QB Jordan Wynn, while OSU wants a semblance of a running game to keep the Utah pass rush at bay.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
LB Tony Wilson -- With starter Feti Unga out and not part of the travel squad as he recovers from a leg injury, Wilson will start for the second consecutive game at middle linebacker. That's an essential spot in OSU's defensive scheme against a power running team such as Utah, and Wilson will have to hold up. He did and then some against Washington State.

C Grant Johnson -- His sprained right ankle will need to be back close to full strength as he deals with the power of the Utes in the middle of the defensive line, blocking either 325-pound Star Lotulelei or Dave Kruger. That's a challenge, as is making the blocking calls against a disruptive front four of the Utes.

CB/KR Jordan Poyer -- Besides being expected to hold his own on defense, Poyer is the primary kick returner for the Beavers. He goes against a Utah coverage group that leads the Pac-12 by limiting kickoff returns to an average of 18.6 yards.

ROSTER REPORT
--The Beavers expect starting OLB Cameron Collins (groin) to play, but starting MIK Unga (leg) is out. The Beavers are hopeful RB Jovan Stevenson (knee) will be back, while fellow RB Jordan Jenkins (concussion symptoms) has practiced this week.

--Of OSU's five touchdowns scored against WSU, two came from former walk-on players Jordan Jenkins and Clayton York, each on a pass reception. The Beavers now start four players who arrived at OSU without scholarship aid, with DT Andrew Seumalo moving into the first unit. The offensive starters who weren't scholarship players when they arrived are all offensive linemen: OT Mike Remmers, C Grant Johnson and G Burke Ellis.

--The Beavers now list 23 freshmen who have played in a game this season. That includes four current starters in QB Sean Mannion, RB Malcolm Agnew and DEs Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton. Freshmen are also the primary backups at eight positions.

After the first win of the season, over Arizona, the Beavers were suddenly talking about rescuing their record and even becoming bowl eligible. Then came the loss to BYU.

With a win over Washington State now doubling the victory total, where does that put the Beavers?

"I'm not going to make any pronouncements about what we can do," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "We just want to win the next game."

The Beavers (2-5 overall, 2-2 in the Pac-12) will attempt to win two games for the first time since 2010, and win on the road for the first time since a victory last season at California.

The Beavers are in a group of Pac-12 teams with their bowl lives hanging precariously. That group includes Utah (3-4 overall) along with Washington State (3-4), UCLA (3-4) and Arizona (2-5). OSU has enough to worry about with its own situation. The Beavers need four more wins in their final five games, and that includes road games at Utah and California, along with matchups against top-10 teams Stanford and Oregon.

The Beavers, Riley insists, are thinking only of the Utes.

"This is very capable football team," Riley said of Utah. "It will be all the physical matchup that we need."

NOTES:
--James Rodgers is one reception away from becoming the third OSU player to ever record 200 receptions in his career. With five games left in the season, and Rodgers averaging 4.4 receptions, he's on pace to eke past Mike Hass for the school record of 220 receptions. Rodgers also is three touchdowns short of matching Hass and James Newson for the most career TD receptions (20).

--OSU became the nation's most penalized team with 14 penalties for 120 yards against WSU, raising the average for the Beavers to 77.9 penalty yards through seven games.

--Two OSU freshmen were named Players of the Week by the Pac-12, with QB Sean Mannion passing for 376 yards and four touchdowns to win the offensive honor, and DE Scott Crichton recording two more tackles for lost yardage among his seven total tackles. He also forced two fumbles.

SERIES HISTORY: Oregon State leads the series 9-5-1, with this the first meeting between the two in the same league, as Utah joined the Pac-12 this season.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: What a difference some balance made for the Beavers against Washington State. With the threat of the run, QB Sean Mannion had time to pass and completed 26-of-34 attempts without being sacked. The choice of a run or a pass for a play call also resulted in OSU converting 8-of-12 third downs. But can the Beavers continue that balance against Utah, a much better defensive team than WSU?

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Beavers have struggled against teams that run the football well inside, such as Wisconsin and UCLA. OSU will have to find a way to stand up to that power running game, which has become more of a task without 334-pound DT Castro Masaniai, out for the season with a broken leg, and the absence of Unga, still tied for the team lead in tackles despite missing most of the past two games.


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