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BEAVERS NOTES: Assessing, remembering WSU; injury report; and more
CORVALLIS - Notes, quotes and stats following Tuesday's Oregon State media day ...
• How things have changed since 2008, Paul Wulff's first year as head coach at Washington State, when Oregon State could have pretty much written the final score of a 66-13 walloping of the Cougars at Reser Stadium.
The next year, Oregon State won 42-10 before 16,167 at Pullman, with maybe a couple of thousand hardy souls still around at game's end.
Then last season, Washington State returned to Corvallis a 23-point underdog and walked away with a 31-14 victory - probably the biggest upset in the Pac-10 all season.
Which bring us to Saturday's meeting between Oregon State (1-5 overall, 1-2 in Pac-12 action) and Washington State (3-3, 1-2) at Seattle's CenturyLink Field, with the Cougars a three-point favorite.
'It is exactly what it is right now, with the good wins (the Cougars) have had,' Oregon State coach Mike Riley said Tuesday. 'That's probably natural.'
Washington State's wins this season have come against Idaho State (64-21), Nevada-Las Vegas (59-7) and Colorado (31-27). WSU lost 42-24 to San Diego State and 28-25 to UCLA and trailed seventh-ranked Stanford 10-7 at halftime before falling 44-14 last Saturday.
Wulff inherited a mess when he took over for Bill Doba in 2008. His first season, Wulff had only 72 scholarships to work with, 13 short of the Division I-A limit.
'That's why I admire what he has done,' Riley said. 'They had to make a lot of changes when they first got started. They stayed the course and recruited well and smart, and didn't stray from what they wanted to do. It's all paying off.'
• Wulff wasn't happy that OSU's Sean Canfield - in the first appearance of his junior season - threw a late touchdown pass to reserve Damola Adeniji late in the 2008 game. Or that freshman Markus Wheaton, also a reserve, scored on a fly sweep toward the end of the 2009 meeting between the teams. WSU radio analyst Jim Walden exasperated the situation by complaining vociferously that Riley was 'running it up' in unsportsmanlike fashion in the '08 game.
So when Wazoo visited Corvallis late last season, emotions ran high on the visitor's side, typified by a couple of late hits by the Cougars early. After their 31-14 win - snapping a 16-game conference losing streak - Wulff said his team 'dominated the game in every aspect.'
It seemed the Cougars were doing their best to intimidate the Beavers with physical play.
'I don't know about that,' Riley said. 'They played better than us. They made plays offensively and were disruptive on defense. That was the bottom line as far as I saw it.'
Asked whether the Beavers might have reason for added motivation going into Saturday's game, those on the Orange side had varying opinions.
'For sure, for some people,' Riley said. 'That's the great thing about a year-to-year rivalry. You use (past results) either way - for information or motivation.'
Cameron Collins sees it a different way.
'Each year, you're playing a different team,' the senior linebacker said. 'It's some of the same players, but a different team, a new identity. We're going to be as motivated as if we play any other team.
'If you think about that kind of stuff too much, there's going to be something for every game you play. I look back at the overall results of last season. That's what sticks with me.'
At least one teammate strongly differs with Collins on whether last year's game provides added motivation for Saturday's date with the Cougars.
'It definitely does,' cornerback Jordan Poyer said. 'We got embarrassed by them last year. We'll come in with a chip on our shoulder. Maybe more than a chip - a lot.'
Quarterback Sean Mannion, who redshirted as a true freshman a year ago, played it more in his typical down-the-middle fashion.
'It's not our biggest motivation,' the redshirt freshman said. 'To get better and keep improving, that's our greatest motivation. But (the 2010 loss) is an underlying factor.'
Allow Riley a final comment on the subject:
'Last year's (WSU) game was 'a season-changer for us. Not taking anything away from them. They flat-out played better than we did that day. That's the nature of football. You can never taking anything for granted.
'It's a game through the years we'll look back on as very disappointing, but this is a new team, a new opportunity. I'm excited for our team to grow and win. That's all we're focusing on this week.'
• Junior quarterback Jeff Tuel, who made his return in the Stanford game after suffering a fractured clavicle in the opener against Idaho State, was Washington State's biggest star against OSU last season. Tuel completed 10 of 15 passes for 157 yards and a TD and rushed for 103 yards, minus 24 yards in sacks.
'He gives them more stuff' than the replacement starter, senior Marshall Lobbestael, Riley said. 'He is that X factor for them.
'We're going to have to account for him,' Riley said. 'Last year, a lot of (his rushing yardage) was off the zone-read play. We're going to have to do a sound job against that, for sure. (A called QB run) has to be defended like all other running plays are defended. And if it's a scramble, you have to have discipline and fill those gaps.'
Collins said facing Tuel is different than going against BYU's Riley Nelson, who ran several quarterback draws against OSU.
'Tuel is a pass-first quarterback,' Collins said. 'He has the potential to scramble. He is a great athlete. But I don't think they'll have designed draw plays for him like BYU did' for Nelson.
• Washington State boasts two of the Pac-12's top six receivers in 6-4, 185-pound sophomore Marquess Wilson (36 catches, 688 yards, 5 TDs) and 6-1, 185-pound senior Isiah Barton (33, 380, 4). Barton also leads the conference in kickoff-return average at 27.6.
OSU had troubling covering BYU's Cody Hoffman, who snared nine balls for 162 yards and a TD.
'When we had undercoverage (with linebackers) on Hoffman, we didn't always get it done,' Riley said. 'We have to give our corners more help, and we have to make plays downfield. We made some plays on deep balls, but got outpositioned sometimes, too. And we have to get a bit more pressure (with the pass rush), keeping the quarterback throwing the ball on times.
'But Washington State has pretty good weapons, and those two receivers are big guys. We'll have our hands full.'
• Injury report: D-tackle Castro Masaniai (fractured fibula) is out for the season. Kevin Frahm and Andrew Seumalo will start at the tackle spots, with Ben Motter the No. 3 player there. 'And (sophomore) Mana Rosa slips into the rotation,' Riley said.
There is hope the rest of the Beaver wounded can play Saturday.
On BYU's first play from scrimmage, middle linebacker Feti Unga strained a ligament that runs from the calf to the knee in his left leg.
'It's a lot better,' said Unga, who practiced on a limited basis Tuesday. 'I'm pretty sure I'll be able to play.'
Unga's replacement, Tony Wilson, went out with a hip contusion late in the first quarter.
'I'm fine,' Wilson said Tuesday. 'I'll be in there Saturday.'
Collins, who strained a groin in the third quarter, said he is 'day by day.'
'I'm doing everything I can to get back this week,' he said. 'I want to play, and I'm making progress.'
Safeties Ryan Murphy and Anthony Watkins, both nursing sore shoulders, 'optimistically will play,' Riley said.
As for safety Lance Mitchell, hobbled with an injury in the abdominal and groin areas, 'he will play, but we'll see what kind of role that is as we go through the week,' Riley said. 'We kind of know through the week he is limited, and then find out how much he's capable of.'
Guard Josh Andrews, who was available for duty but didn't play against BYU after rehabbing from a knee injury, could start. But OSU coaches have been pleased with the performance of his replacement, sophomore Grant Enger.
'Josh and Grant will battle for that spot this week, and we'll see what happens,' OSU O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh said.
• Oregon State is starting three seniors who began their careers as walk-ons - center Grant Johnson, guard Burke Ellis and tackle Mike Remmers. But Cavanaugh takes issue with the theory that the Beavers didn't recruit O-linemen for a couple of years.
'We went after the best (O-linemen) in the country every year,' he said. 'We play with who we get.'
There has been more of a premium, though, on recruiting to those positions the last few years. Witness sophomores Enger, Andrews and Geoff Garner and freshmen Darryl Jackson, Michael Beaton and Roman Sapolu, all brought in on scholarship. And the Beavers have five prep O-linemen who have verbally committed for next season.
• Riley was asked if he has ever had an Oregon State team more decimated by injury on the defensive side of the ball. And if D-coordinator Mark Banker has had to adjust his philosophy because of the injuries.
'No (to the first question) and yes (to the second),' Riley said. 'Mark and the defensive staff are always adapting to who's available. They're doing a good job in utilization of talent. Against BYU, we played a lot of nickel.
'You adapt and get the best players you can on the field, with the best opportunity to defend the (opponent). Our coaches are working hard at adapting and doing that and teaching our base to some of the younger players on the defense.'
• Riley was asked about the performance against BYU of Mannion, who completed 27 of 43 passes for 306 yards and a TD with two interceptions.
'He threw a couple of interceptions, one off a tipped ball on a checkdown,' Riley said. 'He completed about 65 percent of his passes, with four balls dropped and 300-plus yards. That's a pretty good day. Take the interceptions back, and it would be darn near perfect.'
• WSU's Alex Hoffman-Ellis, a 6-1, 230-pound senior outside linebacker, has a team-high 42 tackles, with six tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception he returned 67 yards for a touchdown.
'He's a versatile player,' Riley said. 'He can come off the edge. They put him in position to run. At that spot, it's almost like a safety. He gives you some problems.'
NOTES: Oregon State has been outscored 21-9 in the first quarter of games this year, with no touchdowns and three field goals. 'We've had some big drives to get down (to the red zone), but we've had to kick field goals,' Riley said. Last season, Oregon State outscored opponents only 72-62 in the first quarter last season, but traditionally it's been a big advantage for the Beavers - 112-48 in 2009, 76-57 in 2008, 134-30 in 2007 and 129-55 in 2006. And more often than not, the Beavers scored on their first possession of a game. ... Riley said he has never been to a game at CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. 'I have not been there, but it looks good on TV,' he said. ... With 195 receptions, James Rodgers needs 19 catches to pass James Newson (213) and move into second place on the OSU career list. ... WSU's Andrew Furney is 9 for 9 on field-goal attempts this season. ... Mannion (125 for 191 passing for 1,634 yards and five TDs with nine interceptions) has moved up to fifth on the Pac-12 list in passing yardage per game at 264.7. ... The Cougars are high on the Pac-12 list in scoring average (36.2, fourth), total offense (453.3, fourth), pass offense (326.7, second) and red-zone efficiency (20 for 23, 14 TDs and six field goals, fourth).