Oregon State Beavers play host to Colorado on Saturday, needing one more win to clinch consecutive bowl-game berths

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Rafael Juarez: OMN Photographer

Senior jack-of-all-trades Jack Colletto rushes into the endzone to score a touchdown against Washington State on Oct. 15. The Beavers look to host the Colorado Buffs this Saturday.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Contributor

The Beavers enter the week with uncertainty at the quarterback position this week as they enter their home game matchup against the University of Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday. 

The Beavers are also looking for a three-game win streak over PAC-12 Conference opponents for the first time since 2013.  

The last time the Beavers played Colorado, the Beavers lost to the Buffaloes in a 37-34 double overtime loss, and the series is tied between both schools at 6-6. 

Saturday’s game will be the first time since 2017 that Colorado has played at Reser. 

The game against the Oregon State Beavers (5-2, 2-2 PAC-12) and the University of Colorado Buffaloes (1-5, 1-2 PAC-12) will take place at 5 p.m. in Reser Stadium and will be broadcasted on the PAC-12 Network.

Headed into their second consecutive home game before their bye week, the Beavers will likely be without starting quarterback Chance Nolan once again against the University of Colorado Buffaloes.

Nolan is still considered day-to-day due to a concussion sustained in the first quarter against the Utah Utes on Oct. 1. According to head coach Jonathan Smith, Nolan will likely not be available to practice this week until he is cleared from concussion protocol.  

Quarterback Ben Gulbranson will likely make his third consecutive start of the season against the Buffaloes on Saturday. 

Smith didn’t directly name Gulbranson the starter for Saturday, but if he does start, the experience of starting two games this season will help Gulbranson against the Buffaloes. 

“We’re definitely going to prepare with the guys that are available and Ben’s that,” said Smith. 

Gulbranson in his second start for the Beavers went 12-24 on pass completions and threw for 141 yards along with a touchdown in a 24-10 win over Washington State University Cougars. 

Even with his performance against Washington State, Smith acknowledged that Gulbranson played well but that there’s room for him and the offense to improve. 

“Didn’t like the way he [Gulbranson] was protected,” said Smith, “Got a bunch of guys in his lap, throwing the ball sooner than he wanted, so we got to protect him better, he threw the interception on third down and long. Not ideal, lack of coverage recognition and is getting hit.” 

Offensive lineman Brandon Kipper echoed similar sentiments about improving pass protection. 

“Just getting up there and communicating,” said Kipper, “there’s a lot of moving pieces in pass protection, a lot of variables, so it’s just getting that communication piece really solidified, cleaned up, I think that will clear up a lot of issues we’ve had in the past.” 

The Beavers will also be without both running back Trey Lowe and tight end Luke Musgrave against Colorado. The status for both Lowe and Musgrave will likely become clear once the Beavers are in their bye week. 

Even though the Beavers will be without those players, they might have both special teams starters back for their matchup against the Buffaloes as both kicker Everett Hayes and long snapper Dylan Black are close to returning from their injuries. 

According to Smith, Hayes is close to returning to the lineup and even warmed up pre-game against Washington State but did not play. Black also did not play but with the cut on his snapping hand healing, he’ll likely return against Colorado. 

For Colorado, the Buffaloes picked up their first win of the season and first PAC-12 Conference win over the University of California Golden Bears. 

This comes after Colorado’s athletic director Rick George fired both head coach Karl Dorrell and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson after a five-game losing streak to start the season. 

Through those five games, the Buffaloes allowed 43.5 points a game and 508.5 yards of offense to opponents. The most offensive yards allowed by the defense through those games was to Arizona giving up 673 yards on offense in a 43-20 loss.

Dorrell and Wilson were subsequently replaced by interim head coach Mike Sanford, who was previously the offensive coordinator under Dorrell, and defensive line coach Gerald Chatman. 

Tight ends coach Clay Patterson was elevated to offensive coordinator with Sanford being named interim head coach. 

The overhaul of the coaching staff has paid off for the Buffaloes as Sanford earned his first win as interim head coach over Cal in a 20-13 overtime win at home in Folsom Field. 

Before their game against Cal, the Buffaloes were giving up the most rushing yards to opponents giving up an average of 294.2 yards a game and 251 passing yards. 

The Buffaloes’ defense held the golden bears to just 52 yards rushing after they had been averaging 147.4 rushing yards a game. 

The defensive turnaround for the Buffaloes is likely due to Chatman changing the defensive scheme midseason to a 3-4 defensive scheme from a 4-3 defensive scheme, which the Buffaloes ran under former defensive coordinator Wilson. 

True freshman quarterback Owen McCown will likely be the starter for the Buffaloes against Oregon State. 

McCown made his starting debut for Colorado against UCLA; through three games he has thrown for 600 yards and two touchdowns. McCown has started the past three games for Colorado after the Buffaloes started quarterbacks J.T. Shrout and Brendan Lewis to start the season. 

This is the eighth time that the Buffaloes have started three quarterbacks in a season. However, McCown has been limited in practice this week after taking a hard hit against Cal.

If he is healthy enough to play, McCown will start according to Sanford.

Another injury for the Buffaloes on the offensive side of the ball is running back Deion Smith, his status is day-to-day after being carted off with an injury in the game against the Golden Bears. Smith hasn’t been ruled out yet by the Colorado coaching staff, but he’ll likely be a game-time decision if he plays.   

Even with the injuries piling up for the Buffaloes, the change in coaching staff has dramatically improved the team from their early freefall to start the season. The Buffaloes look to keep that energy and momentum of their first win going headed into Saturday’s matchup. 

For the Beavers to be successful, the offense will likely test Colorado’s defensive front by running the ball. Through six games the Buffaloes have given up an average of 251 rushing yards on the season to opponents, even with the strong defensive performance against California. 

“They’re a big stout group man, we got to come ready to get that run game going,” said tight ends coach Brian Wozniak of Colorado’s defensive front. 

The matchup between the Beavers and Buffaloes shows different records for both teams and where their respective seasons are headed. 

The stakes are different for both teams for the Beavers they’ll have the opportunity to become bowl game eligible for the second year in a row and for the Buffaloes they’ll look to win their second consecutive game in a row.