‘It’s just something playing up here in November you have to deal with:’ Beavers prepare for atmospheric river on Friday against the Huskies

Oregon+State+University+offensive+lineman+Jake+Levengood+%28%2370%29%2C+snapping+the+ball+to+quarterback+Ben+Gulbranson+%28%2317%29+in+the+first+quarter+on+October+22%2C+2022+in+the+game+against+the+University+of+Colorado+Boulder+at+Reser+Stadium.+OSU+won+with+an+ending+score+of+42-9.+

Kate Zinke: OMN Photographer

Oregon State University offensive lineman Jake Levengood (#70), snapping the ball to quarterback Ben Gulbranson (#17) in the first quarter on October 22, 2022 in the game against the University of Colorado Boulder at Reser Stadium. OSU won with an ending score of 42-9.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Contributor

After a week that saw Oregon State enter the Associated Press college football top-25 rankings at No. 24, the Beavers return to play after their bye week with a road matchup against the University of Washington Huskies. 

The Beavers were also ranked in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings at No. 23, which is the first time that Oregon State has been ranked by the College Football Playoff Committee in school history. 

The game between the No. 24 Oregon State Beavers (6-2, 3-2 PAC-12) and the University of Washington Huskies (6-2, 3-2 PAC-12) will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Husky Stadium and will be broadcasted on ESPN2.  

The Beavers used the bye week to retool and rest as they head into the home stretch of their regular season. 

The bye week not only gave the coaching staff extra time to prepare for their upcoming game but also to self-reflect on where the team can still improve with four games left in the regular season. 

The last matchup between both teams saw the Beavers snap a nine-game losing streak to the Huskies with a 27-24 win at Reser Stadium. The last time the Beavers won on the road in Seattle was back in 2008. 

The Beavers also enter this week with clarity at the quarterback position as quarterback Ben Gulbranson will once again be the starter for Friday’s matchup against the Huskies with Nolan sidelined. 

So far, Gulbranson in his three starts for the Beavers is undefeated as a starter and will make his fourth consecutive start of the season on the road against Washington. Gulbranson through those three starts has thrown for 818 passing yards and five touchdowns. 

“I think, overall, just my comfort level. I think I’ve gotten better with that, the game seems to be slowing down start after start.” Gulbranson said ahead of his fourth start, “Just getting the extra reps at practice, even at walk-through, they all kind of stack on each other and you feel more comfortable.”

Head coach Jonathan Smith did mention that even with Gulbranson starting on Friday, quarterback Chance Nolan has been cleared to return to practice from concussion protocol.   

Smith also mentioned on Monday that Nolan did practice in a limited fashion, but Gulbranson would get the start against the Huskies as Nolan has not been a full participant in practices.  

“Where it’s at today, yeah it’d be Ben, but we’ll see how he responds and works through it,” Smith said in a presser on Monday. 

There’s a possibility that Nolan could start again for the Beavers, but if Gulbranson keeps winning games the decision to turn to Nolan becomes more difficult for the coaching staff to make according to offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren.  

“I think it’s just evaluating the guy that’s currently playing and how he’s doing and how we’re doing as a team,” Lindgren said. “I’m a big believer in not losing your position due to injury, you’ve earned that position initially, when you come back if you’re full go and ready to go and you’re healthy.” 

The news of Nolan returning from concussion protocol comes as the Beavers face more injury news. The Beavers will be without offensive lineman Marco Brewer due to a season-ending injury. Brewer will likely be replaced by offensive lineman Heleni Bloomfield for the rest of the season. 

The status of tight end Luke Musgrave’s knee injury has not changed since the bye week, no decision has been made on whether he’ll play another game this season. Running back Trey Lowe practiced on Monday but won’t be available for Friday.

Safety Alton Julian has been shut down for the season as his recovery was not going the way the coaching staff was hoping for according to Smith. Julian sustained a knee injury last October in a matchup against the University of Utah Utes. 

Kicker Everett Hayes has missed the past three games as he’s still working through his groin injury and will likely be a game-time decision again if he can’t go, kicker Atticus Sappington will likely handle kicking duties again on Friday. 

Washington has a bevy of playmakers on both sides of the football, and they can pose challenges to the Beavers in trying to slow them down during the game. 

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. through eight games has thrown for 2,934 yards and 22 touchdowns. Penix Jr. is also the nation’s leading passer averaging 379 passing yards per game.    

Wide receiver Rome Odzune is the leading receiver for the Huskies, Odzune has 765 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Odzune also has four games this season with over 100 yards receiving.  

Even with the challenges that Washington’s passing offense poses, they might be forced to run the ball more on Friday. The National Weather Service forecasted an atmospheric river to pass through Seattle on Friday with winds over 40 mph and very wet conditions for the game.

The weather forecast will likely play a role in the offensive and defensive strategies that both teams will likely use during the game. 

The forecasted weather if it carries into kickoff may likely slow down the Huskies’ passing attack as the Huskies have averaged 44 passes a game under new head coach Kalen DeBoer. 

For the Beaver defense, that will present plenty of opportunities to generate turnovers. 

“Ball has a chance to come out, so when the ball carrier is there making sure we are hunting the football,” said defensive coordinator Trent Bray about the weather. “How it affects us isn’t very big, now how it affects the offense, we can’t control that, but we got to take the ball away when they give us the chance to.” 

Regardless of the weather conditions, the Beavers are prepared to handle the weather on Friday having simulated these conditions during practice this week with wet weather drills.  

“We got some guys out with squirt guns and water bottles to hose the ball down,” Lindgren said. “Our guys have done it, both teams have to deal with it, it’s just something playing up here in November you have to deal with.” 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Huskies have two pass rushers that can pose challenges for the Beavers offensive line in the game. 

Defensive lineman Bralen Trice and Jerimiah Martin as both players have earned PAC-12 defensive lineman of the week honors. Trice has 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss while Martin has 6 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.  

“Those edge guys are really talented players, and they present a lot of issues, they can get home with only rushing four,” Lindgren said of Trice and Martin. 

The stakes for these two teams and their records are the same heading into Friday’s matchup. Both teams are bowl game eligible and could finish the season with 10 wins if they win out against their remaining opponents. 

This game is the most significant matchup between both schools for the first time since 2000 when both schools finished top ten in the Associated Press Top-25 college football poll. 

The winner of this game would be in the hunt for a berth in the PAC-12 conference championship game