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Washington State at OSU

When, where: 4 p.m. Saturday, Reser Stadium

TV, radio: FSN Northwest, KEX (1190 AM)

• Mike Riley and defensive coordinator Mark Banker might implement a nickel package in passing situations. The philosophy under Riley always has been to stay with the normal 4-3-4 alignment in all situations, but the Beavers have worked in practice with adding a fifth defensive back on third-and-long. The nickel back probably would be sophomore safety Bryan Payton, who has played well enough to merit more playing time in OSU's regular defensive package.

• Strong safety Sabby Piscitelli had his best game of the season against Cal with nine tackles and a 35-yard interception return. Free safety Al Afalava had a much different experience.

'Al was out of position sometimes, trying to make too many things happen,' Banker says of his 5-11, 200-pound sophomore. 'Sometimes a player gets all fired up and gung-ho, and it doesn't work out. I told Al, 'Let the game come to you. Relax and let the game play out.' '

• Oregon State's offensive line must pay special attention to Washington State's Mkristo Bruce, a 6-7, 250-pound senior defensive end who leads the nation with eight sacks in five games. OSU coaches would prefer Adam Koets, the Beavers' 6-6, 295-pound senior left tackle, block Bruce, but he switches from side to side.

'Bruce is a heck of a player,' Riley says. 'We have to make sure he doesn't disrupt (the OSU passing game).'

• Tailback Yvenson Bernard has averaged 104 yards a game but only 20.8 carries. In routs of Eastern Washington and Idaho, his time was limited. In one-sided losses to Boise State and California, the Beavers had to pass in the second half. OSU coaches would like Bernard to get between 25 and 30 carries a contest.

• One of the problems with the offense has been the lack of the long ball. With Biletnikoff Award winner Mike Hass departed, the Beavers have had no deep threat. Washington State plays a cover-two defense, with a pair of safeties defending deep in a zone.

'(The Cougars') safeties play so deep, they want to keep everything in front of them,' QB Matt Moore says. 'We'll try to get some big chunks, but I know we'll take what their defense gives us, too.'

- Kerry Eggers