Cougs likely to face banged up OSU squad

THE ROLES WERE reversed a couple years ago. But when Oregon State meets Washington State in Seattle on Saturday night, (TV: FSN, 7:30 pm), it will be the Beavers who will be playing at less than full strength -- with a number of starters out or at less than full-go.

OSU had six players on defense go down to injury during the BYU game.

The two biggest blows were DT Castro Masaniai and MLB Feti Unga. Masaniai is likely gone for the year, but Ungs could return in time for the Cougs' game, with results of an MRI pending.

Middle linebacker Tony Wilson had a hip contusion, outside linebacker Cameron Collins a groin injury and DE Taylor Henry a bruised shoulder. None of the three has been ruled out for the WSU game, though if they play it's reasonable to expect they won't be absolutely 100 percent.

Reserve linebacker Shaydon Akuna suffered a concussion, his availability won't be known until late in the week.

WHAT THE INJURIES may mean is that the middle of the OSU defense, which wasn't ultra strong to begin with, just became that much more tenuous.

DT Ben Motter is expected to rotate in with starters Kevin Frahm and Andrew Seumalo on the OSU d-line with Masaniai out. Unga had done solid work in the middle, as had Masaniai -- not flashy but they were getting the job done more often than not. Now, losing two key cogs makes it a completely different ballgame.

WSU's strength offensively is in their passing game, and OSU's secondary has had some rough outings, but the Cougs might want to try running the ball more than they have. OSU has had plenty of difficulty stopping the run and that was again the case last week. Indeed, BYU out-rushed OSU by a shocking margin: 282-59.

DEFENSIVELY, THE COUGS' main worry might be Malcolm Agnew.

The running back was eased into last week's action for the first time since the OSU opener, having missed four games with hamstring issues.

If Agnew is ready to go and carry the ball a lot, the Cougs might see a steady diet of him, and he's a running back who is excellent at yards after contact.

Still, that's hard to see based on how often Mike Riley has talked during the week about wanting to run the ball, only to go into Saturday, abandon the run and throw it all over the place, and then throw it some more.

If the Beavs continue to go to the air, it figures to be feast or famine, as it has all year for QB Sean Mannion.

Mannion is a redshirt freshman and he's playing like one -- good plays followed by bad ones. He can throw a perfect pass following a perfect read, and then follow it up by tossing a pick into triple coverage.

As the game slows down for him, Mannion should develop into a good one down the road. But he is learning on the fly this season, and he doesn't have a surrounding cast that can take over a game just yet.

All in all, Washington State has an excellent opportunity for a solid, confidence building win this week. But they have to reach out and grab it.

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