Beavers look to end an eight-game losing streak to the Cougars, Saturday at 6 p.m.


Jason May

Senior wide receiver Tre’Shaun Harrison eludes the Montana State Bobcats defense in an earlier matchup in Providence Park, Portland on Sept. 17. Harrison looks to lead the Beavers in receiving for a second consecutive game this Saturday against the Washington State Cougars in Reser Stadium.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Contributor

The Beavers won their first game of PAC-12 conference play thrillingly against the Stanford Cardinal and enter this week with uncertainty at the quarterback position once again as they head into their matchup at home against Washington State.

The game against the Oregon State Beavers (4-2, 1-2 PAC-12) and the Washington State Cougars (4-2, 1-2 PAC-12) will take place at 6 p.m. in Reser Stadium and will be broadcasted on the PAC-12 Network.

Quarterback Ben Gulbranson made his first start for the Beavers as starting quarterback Chance Nolan did not make the trip with the team to Stanford, due to a neck injury sustained in the first quarter against the Utah Utes on Oct. 1.

Nolan was considered day-to-day last week and his status remains up in the air once again for the matchup against the Washington State Cougars. According to head coach Jonathan Smith, Nolan could return to practice by midweek, but Gulbranson will get a lot of reps in practice even if Nolan is cleared for activity.

With some familiarity on offense with Gulbranson starting, Smith feels confident heading into the game if Nolan is not available on Saturday.

“He did some good things in the game, for a first start you know, two touchdowns, no picks,” said Smith, “decision making was solid throughout the night, where he was going with the ball, for the most part, he did a lot of good things.”

Gulbranson in his first start for the Beavers went 20-28 throwing for 250-yards and two touchdowns in the 28-27 win against Stanford, including the game-winning touchdown throw to wide receiver Tre’shaun Harrison.

Even while throwing two key touchdown passes in the game, Gulbranson also acknowledged that there are still some areas for improvement if he gets the nod to start against Washington State.

“I felt pretty prepared, I was definitely nervous making my first start, a lot of the sacks were on me. There were other plays where I got antsy in the pocket, where I could’ve kept progressing and we had guys open, I think that just comes with taking snaps and reps in-game,” said Gulbranson.

Headed into the matchup against Washington State, the Beavers might be without two of their three special teams’ starters in kicker Everett Hayes and long snapper Dylan Black.

Hayes has been working through a groin injury and was out for the games against Utah and Stanford. He’s currently working his way back in practice, but Freshman kicker Atticus Sappington will handle kicking duties against Washington State.

Black exited the game against Stanford early in the fourth quarter with a cut on his snapping hand, which prompted Smith to go for the 2-point attempt rather than kick the extra point as a result. According to Smith, Black’s status is day-to-day with the cut healing, and backup long snapper Peyton Hogan will likely take over snapping duties if Black cannot go on Saturday.

“My thinking at the time to go for two, long snapper is down, we already missed two, what’s the chances, let’s go double our points,” said Smith, “credit to Peyton, I know it’s not a short snap but a long snap, we did end up doing that and he threw a strike back there.”

The Beavers once again will be without tight end Luke Musgrave and running back Trey Lowe on Saturday. Lowe will likely return to practice next week according to Smith, and Musgrave’s timetable to return to practice is still unknown.

For Washington State, the Cougars will be short-handed on offense as both wide receiver Renard Bell and running back Nakia Watson will be out due to injury against the Beavers on Saturday.

Offensive lineman Grant Stephens will miss the first half of the game against the Beavers as he was called for a targeting penalty in the second half of Washington State’s matchup against the University of Southern California Trojans.

Even though the Cougars are missing a couple of key players, the Beaver defense will face the tough task of slowing down a trio of playmakers in quarterback Cameron Ward, true freshman running back Jaylen Jenkins, and wide receiver Donovan Ollie.

Ward has thrown for 1,167 passing yards through six games and has two games with over 300-yards passing. Ward can also make plays running the ball as a dual-threat quarterback to extend plays and offensive drives, his career high as a starter is 76-rushing yards in a game.

Jenkins was named PAC-12 freshman of the week for his performance against USC and is an offensive threat in the run game as well as the passing game. Jenkins had 130-rushing yards and 45-yards receiving out of the backfield in the loss to USC, he figures to be the starting running back for the Cougars with Watson out.

In addition to Jenkins, the Cougars will rely on Ollie to replace Bell’s production in the offense. Ollie currently leads the team in receptions and receiving yards with 333-yards and 31 receptions, he looks to be a big target for Ward against the Beaver’s secondary.

On the other side of the ball, the Beaver’s run game will be tested by the Cougars’ defense. Washington State’s defense comes into the game with 49 tackles for loss and is only giving up 110.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks No.3 and No. 1 in the PAC-12 Conference.

“They’re sound in what they do, they do a lot on third down, got some exotic pressure packages, they can play man coverage, they can play some zones,” said wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator Kefense Hynson, “they’re a good defense, we haven’t beaten them since we got here, they got our full attention.”

For the offense to be successful, the Beavers will likely test the Cougars’ defense through the air in the passing game as the Cougars have given up 260-yards through the air to opposing teams. However, against USC, they limited the Trojans to 188-yards, while the Beavers held USC to just 180-yards.

The matchup between the Beavers and Cougars show similar records entering Saturday’s matchup. Both teams mirror each other in overall and conference records. The stakes are similar as well for both teams as the winner of this game will still be in the hunt for a berth in the PAC-12 conference championship game.

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