BEAVER NOTEBOOK: Nichols steps up

WITH CASEY KJOS sidelined walk-on Aaron Nichols figures to see more action, and his play has been a pleasant surprise. Plus, TE Joe Halahuni could be set to break out, WR Darrell Catchings could start and the importance of home wins to the postseason.

ONE OF THE UNSUNG:  With junior slotback Casey Kjos sitting out due to back issues junior walk-on Aaron Nichols is expected to see plenty of more action.  Last weekend he caught two passes for 20 yards, including a diving catch on fourth down, while doing a splendid job of blocking for the running game.

"Aaron Nichols stepped up and made a big fourth-down catch," receiver James Rodgers said.  "Those guys are coming along really well."

HOME GAMES:  It's early, but if the Men in Black want to go bowling for the fourth consecutive year (which would be a school record) they will be well served to win as many home games as is humanly possible. 

"We always want to win at home because the hardest thing is going on the road and winning in other teams' territories," receiver James Rodgers said.  "So winning at home is a must."

OSU has not lost two games at home since the 2006 season and have not had a losing home record in the second Riley era.  During the second Riley era the Beavers are 28-11 (72%) in Reser Stadium.

"We always want to take advantage of your home opportunities and win at home," coach Mike Riley said.

THIRD AND SHORT:  The Beaver offense has struggled converting on third and short.  On third and one and third and two the offense is just 6 of 11 (55%).  For comparisons sake the offense is 6 of 9 (67%) on third and seven and third and eight.

READY TO BREAKOUT:  Before the start of the season coach Mike Riley said he wanted to get the tight ends more involved.  Last year the tight ends grabbed 29 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns while two years ago they caught 34 passes for 364 yards and four scores.

This season the tight ends have been quiet once again combing for six receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown.  Despite the low numbers sophomore Joe Halahuni, who caught four passes for 32 yards against Cincinnati, has taken big steps to becoming a potent offensive threat.

"He's got good hands, good body control, a low center of gravity – you see people just bounce off him,'' tight ends coach Robin Ross told The Oregonian. "Things just come naturally for him."

3-1 WOULD BE GOOD: After a disappointing loss last week to Cincinnati, Oregon State could still have its best record after four games since 2003 (started 5-1) with a win against Arizona. Since 2003, OSU has posted 2-2 marks every year, except 1-3 in '04.

SACKS:  With two new players manning the left side of the line it isn't surprising that the o-line has yielded a conference high 10 sacks.  As a result offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh was rough on his buffet busters in practice this week.

"There's no doubt about that group is a work in progress," coach Mike Riley told The Oregonian. "It's full of ability, but performance is another thing."

Quarterback Sean Canfield was sacked five times last weekend and thrown to the turf many more times.  Part of the sacks were the offensive line's fault and part of them were Canfields.

"The sacks are not one person's fault," Canfield said.  "There were a lot of times where I should have gotten rid of the ball faster."

CATCHINGS TO START?:  After missing several weeks of practice with a hand injury junior receiver Darrell Catchings suited up for the first time last weekend.  Despite being rusty he caught one pass for 18 yards while having a 26-yard gain wiped out by a penalty.

With two weeks of practice under his belt he could return to the starting lineup.  Catchings, who one of Canfield's favorite targets in the spring and fall, could help take some of the focus off of the Rodgers brothers while providing the offense with another offensive threat.

PRESSURE:  With a conference low two sacks through three games the front seven is looking for ways to help out the secondary that has given up an average of 240 passing yards, which ranks 109th in the country.

"There were a couple of times (last week) when the defensive backs were in coverage for probably about five seconds and the quarterback had all the time in the world," linebacker Keaton Kristick said.  "It would really help to get some pressure."

MOVIN' UP:  RB Jacquizz Rodgers is about to move into the school's career top 10 rushing list.  He needs 27 yards to pass Billy Main (1967-69) and 94 yards to pass Bryce Oglesby (1980-83) which would move him into the top 10.

STILL IN THE RACE:  Despite having one loss, Oregon State is still in the thick of things for the Pac-10 crown.  But, the Beavers have not won a conference opener since 2003 when the OSU defeated Arizona State 45-17.

"For me, each game means the Super Bowl and we, as a team, are ready for this week," coach Mike Riley said.  "If we don't go out and play our best each week, then we are missing the boat."

NOT IDEAL:   As you probably already know if a player sporting the Orange and Black tops 100 rushing yards it almost guarantees a Beaver victory.  In fact, OSU has won 15 of its last 16 contests when a rusher goes over the century mark.

Last weekend RB Jacquizz Rodgers tallied just 73 yards - a statistic that isn't surprising considering the Beavers lost.

"That stat was a pretty good picture of the non-rhythm we had as a team," coach Mike Riley told The Gazette Times. "It's hard to play our game and get Quizz the touches we'd like him to have that way. The bad plays last week messed us up."

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