Memo to The Worldwide Leader: Shove it

THE SELF-PROCLAIMED Worldwide Leader in Sports has been cruel to the Beavers the last two years. In games televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU, Oregon State is just 3-5 since 2013. Several have been blowout defeats - the Beavs just tend to have off-nights with ESPN cameras rolling. And guess what? When No. 6 Arizona State visits Corvallis this Saturday at 7:45 p.m., ESPN will be there, too.

It didn’t start out badly: The Beavers recorded back-to-back wins their first two games on the ESPN family of networks in 2013, beating WSU (52-24) and Cal (49-17) in October of last year.

But the only other nationally televised win on ESPN for Oregon State since: a 38-23 victory over Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl.

That was a solid win for OSU as the Beavs broke a five-game losing streak. However, the Hawaii Bowl was just the 27th-most watched bowl game that year (of 35 bowl games), so it’s not like the audience was huge.

Of OSU’s five losses, the only nationally televised game on an ESPN channel that wasn’t a blowout came against then-No. 8 Stanford. The Beavers lost, 20-12, after failing to force overtime in the final seconds. OSU was 1-5 going for it on fourth down in the game.

The rest of the ESPN games have been even uglier. In 2013, Oregon State was rolled 31-14 by USC before a soul-crushing, 69-27 loss to Washington -- OSU’s most lopsided defeat since 1991.

This year hasn’t seen a turnaround.

The Beavers got blown out by USC on ESPN, 35-10, and the story repeated itself against Stanford on ESPN2, 38-14.

As this year’s squad gets ready to play No. 6 Arizona State, there are different mindsets as to how OSU is approaching this game. You have Mike Riley, who claims that the mindset doesn’t change from week-to-week, and that the Beavers prepare for every game like it’s the Super Bowl.

You have Sean Mannion, essentially echoing Riley’s thoughts, saying, “I wouldn’t say there’s much motivation to knock (Arizona State) off. We’re not worried about them or their scenarios, that kind of thing. We’re thinking about our own team, what we want to do as a football team. We don’t need any extra motivation to spoil something for them.”

Then you have Michael Doctor, who is excited for the spotlight.

“We’ve got the No. 6 team coming into our house, that’s big time. ESPN at 7:45, we’ve got to go out there and get it,” says Doctor.

Whichever the approach, OSU has their work cut out for them. Arizona State is in the middle of a five-game winning streak, including four wins against ranked opponents (No. 16 USC, No. 23 Stanford, No. 17 Utah and No. 10 Notre Dame).

They’ve already survived an injury to starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, who missed three games in late September and early October, going 2-1 with backup quarterback Mike Bercovici. In Kelly’s place, Bercovici averaged 414 yards, 3 touchdowns and less than one interception per game over those three starts.

Kelly has since returned and though he isn’t running as much as he was before the injury, he’s looked as sharp passing the ball as he was prior to the injury. On the year, Kelly has completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,234 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. He has 248 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns for an Arizona State offense that with or without a QB who will take off and run from time to time, is as balanced as they come.

The Sun Devils average 36.7 points per game (No. 20 in the nation), with 283 passing yards (26th), and 192 rushing yards (44th). Junior receiver Jaelen Strong and junior running back D.J. Foster help lead the way on offense.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Strong has 62 receptions, 879 receiving yards and nine touchdowns this season. Foster, who stands 5-foot-11 and 203 pounds, has 141 carries for 821 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 39 receptions for 462 yards and two touchdowns.

All three players figure to be heavily involved in the Arizona State’s offense,. And if the Beavers’ history with ESPN is any indication, they could all make life miserable for Oregon State and their fans. Maybe it’s not too late to see if Public Access could carry the game instead.


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