Mannion starts; Halahuni and probably Rodgers return
CORVALLIS - In his first 10 seasons at the helm at Oregon State, Mike Riley never started a season 0-3.
The OSU coach runs the risk of doing it for the first time Saturday when the Beavers (0-2) play host to UCLA (1-2) at Reser Stadium in the Pac-12 opener for both schools.
It's one of many reasons why Saturday's upcoming contest against the Bruins has a 'must-win' feel.
'Every win is a chance to grow and build that confidence,' Riley said. 'The breakthrough in getting that first win, whenever that comes, is a big deal. And the sooner the better.'
Saturday's game is a big deal to UCLA, too, and embattled Rick Neuheisel, who is 16-24 in his three-plus years as the Bruins' head coach.
UCLA lost at Houston 38-34 in its opener, won 27-17 at home against San Jose State and got drilled 49-20 at Texas last Saturday.
Oregon State's offense will have a new look.
It will be the first start for redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion, and senior tight end Joe Halahuni will make his 2011 debut after rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. So, too, should senior flanker James Rodgers, who is rebounding from a pair of surgeries on his left knee.
Rodgers has practiced with the first team the last two days, but Riley wanted to consult with surgeon Jason Dragoo on Tuesday before making the receiver's return against UCLA official.
'It would be very positive emotionally for our team to have James back,' Riley says. 'He has provided a ton of leadership and playmaking to this team.
'We would not put him out there if we didn't think he'd be whatever 100 percent is as far as productivity.'
• Utilizing the 'pistol' offense behind first-year offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, UCLA ranks second in the Pac-12 in rushing with 215.0 yards per game.
Johnathan Franklin, a 5-10, 195-pound junior, and Derrick Coleman, a 5-11, 240-pound senior, share the running back duties. Franklin, fifth in the Pac-10 with 1,127 yards in 2010, has rushed for 267 yards and a 5.7-yard average and two touchdowns this season. Coleman is at 199 yards with a 7.1-yard average and four TDs.
'You have to control not only the running back but the quarterback, and you have to be careful with the play-action pass,' Riley said. 'Hopefully we can take some growth from the Wisconsin game and do a nice job against the run, and you have to be able to cover' the pass.
Oregon State was 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Pac-10 play when it fell 17-14 at UCLA last season after Kai Forbath kicked a 51-yard field goal on the final play. The Bruins had taken the ball on their own 17-yard line with 48 seconds to play.
Quarterback Richard Brehaut, now a 6-2, 225-pound junior, threw for only 127 yards but ran for 61 yards and a TD while Franklin carried 23 times for 100 yards and a score.
'Brehaut is a good athlete,' Riley said. 'He made some things happen. On one play, he flipped the ball to a tight end for a big gain off a scramble. He's big and strong, so if you tackle him, you have to get stay with him.'
Oregon State, meanwhile, managed only 264 yards total offense.
'They ran the ball a lot against us and were effective controlling the game that way,' Riley said. 'That game was one of those pivotal moments in the season for the Beavers. We had opportunities, but couldn't sustain anything offensively.'
Brehaut operates behind an offensive line that runs 305, 330, 318, 292 and 326 across the board, along with 6-4, 270-pound tight end Cory Harkey.
'They're huge, just like Wisconsin,' said OSU defensive end Kevin Frahm, part of a Beaver defensive front that played well against the run in that game. 'The Wisconsin game has prepared us for this one, for sure.'
• Against Wisconsin, Oregon State's special teams were implosive. Johnny Hekker shanked a punt a minus-four yards; Keynan Parker stepped out of bounds while receiving a kickoff at the 3-yard line; long snapper Marcus Perry took a 15-yard personal foul penalty.
'We cannot afford the glaring errors we had in that game,' Riley said.
• Oregon State, which is likely without true freshman Malcolm Agnew at tailback, must get its running game going. The Beavers had 24 net yards on the ground against Wisconsin.
'We have to find that balance,' Riley said. 'That will help everything be better, if we can run the ball effectively. It will help get the play-action stuff going early.
'It's about UCLA, but it's about us and our consistency and improvement. We have a big job ahead of us. We have started poorly. We're looking for a big improvement; we'll need it to win this game.'
• Riley understands the impatience from Beaver Nation at Oregon State's 0-2 start. But he says the OSU coaching staff mustn't get caught up in it.
'Everybody knows the ramifications of losing games,' he said. 'There is disappointment and anger and frustration, but we can't be ruled or dominated by that. We have to coach our team.
'It brings you back to what you do, which is coaching young men. There is satisfaction in going to work and focusing on your players and what they need to do against your opponent. That's what keeps you going.'
• Agnew, who rushed for 223 yards and three TDs in his career debut against Sacramento State, remains out with a strained right hamstring. He did not practice Tuesday, though Riley was hopeful he might be able to take part in Wednesday's session.
Wednesday 'will be telling,' Riley said. 'It's leaning toward doubtful that he'll play.'
Agnew said the hamstring 'is getting better' but estimates his chances to play Saturday at 'about 30 percent.'
'I'm close to coming back, though,' he said. 'It will probably be a game-time decision.'
As a high school senior in St. Louis last season, Agnew missed the final eight games after pulling both hamstrings - the right one in the first game, the left one in the second game.
'This isn't as bad as those were,' he said.
Does he worry that he'll miss most of this season, too, because of the injury?
'No,' he said. 'We're doing a lot of treatment. We'll give up a game if necessary so I can be there the whole season. I'm not really concerned.'
• Halahuni said his shoulder 'feels 100 percent.'
'I feel really good,' the 6-2, 255-pound senior, who caught 30 passes for 390 yards and six touchdowns last season after snaring 35 for 486 yards and three TDs as a sophomore. 'I haven't taken a big hit yet, but I'll be fine after that.
'I hope I can make a significant impact, bring some energy. I should have a lot more energy than everybody. I'm excited to play some football.'
'I'm excited to have him back,' Riley said. 'Joe is a proven threat at tight end and receiver. He feels a lot better than he has in a long time. (The shoulder) bothered him a long time last season.'
• Mannion played the second half of the Sac State game and most of the Wisconsin game.
'It's good I got that playing time,' he said. 'It's going to help me be a lot more comfortable.'
Riley said Mannion has shown poise.
'He has handled it well,' the OSU coach said. 'We're looking for growth from him Saturday. He seems unfazed by the situation. He's a quiet guy who stays in and prepares himself and doesn't appear to be overwhelmed by anything.'
• Three UCLA coaches have Oregon State connections.
Johnson, offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers the past two seasons, coached quarterbacks for Riley at OSU in 1997 and '98, and they were together during Riley's time as head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001.
UCLA D-line coach Inoke Breckterfield played for Riley his final two seasons at OSU (1997-98) and served as a graduate assistant there in 2007 and '08.
Bruin secondary coach Tim Hundley coached at Oregon State under Dave Kragthorpe from 1984-89.
• Riley, on the possibility of expanding the Pac-12 to the Pac-16:
'I'm amazed at the talk right through the season about this. I'm not going to worry about it. They didn't ask me my thoughts about the last expansion, and they're not going to do it about this one. We're going to wait to see what happens. But you had a sense we were not going to be done when we expanded to 12 teams. Whatever happens, it's going to change the landscape a lot.'
• Notes: OSU senior defensive tackle Castro Masaniai will serve a one-game suspension Saturday for his role in a domestic dispute earlier this year. Freshman tight end Connor Hamlett, also due for a one-game suspension for a minor-in-possession-of-alcohol charge, will play against the Bruins. ... Sophomore Grant Enger will start at offensive left guard in place of Josh Andrews, who injured a knee against Wisconsin. Riley said Andrews, who was supposed to be out for 4-6 weeks, 'is running ahead of schedule' in his recovery. ... OSU wideout Jordan Bishop, who sprained his right ankle in the Wisconsin game, said the ankle is 'about 80 percent' recovered. 'It's feeling OK,' he said. 'The bye week helped. It's something that's probably going to be hurting the whole season. I'll just have to play through it.' ... OSU freshman linebacker D.J. Welch (elbow) will be available for duty against the Bruins.
David Douglas High grad Owa Odighizuwa, who started six games at D-end for UCLA as a true freshman last season, is running second string this season. ... Riley said the Beavers should be OK with junior Jordan Jenkins and true freshman Terron Ward at tailback. 'I feel good about it,' the OSU coach said. 'Jordan has another game under his belt; so does Terron. A lot will be how we block up front, but these guys are capable. We have to have the will to go after it.' ... Still no word on the status of OSU D-tackle Dominic Glover, who remains academically ineligible. 'I've been told today's the day,' Riley said Tuesday. 'But I've been told that before.' ... Junior QB Ryan Katz will back up Mannion. 'We don't have any intentions of substitutions,' Riley said. 'We do have a package for situations where Ryan would come into the game. He's well-prepared to do whatever we want to do.' ... OSU safety Lance Mitchell, on whether UCLA is a must-win game: 'We approach every game the same. They're all must-wins.' ... Frahm said he has no plans to trim his long locks this season. 'No real reason,' he said. 'It started with Bo (D-tackle Brendan Olander) and me last year. Our motto was, 'Long hair, don't care.' '