Beavers ailing from injuries headed into their final road game of the regular season against the Sun Devils

Redshirt+senior+inside+linebacker+Kyrei+Fisher-Morris+intercepts+a+ball+thrown+by+Californias+Jack+Plummer+intended+for+J.Michael+Sturdivant+on+Nov.+12+in+Reser+Stadium.+Fisher-Morris%2C+who+has+49+total+tackles+on+the+year%2C+looks+to+lead+a+depleted+Beavers+defense+this+Saturday+against+the+Arizona+State+Sun+Devils

Rafael Juarez: OMN Photographer

Redshirt senior inside linebacker Kyrei Fisher-Morris intercepts a ball thrown by California’s Jack Plummer intended for J.Michael Sturdivant on Nov. 12 in Reser Stadium. Fisher-Morris, who has 49 total tackles on the year, looks to lead a depleted Beavers’ defense this Saturday against the Arizona State Sun Devils

Ryan Harlan, Sports Writer

The Beavers enter this week preparing for their final road matchup of the regular season against the Arizona State Sun Devils after securing their seventh win on the season in a dominant 38-10 win over the University of California Golden Bears. 

Oregon State returned to the Associated Press Top-25 college football rankings this week at No. 25 Sunday morning after falling out of the rankings after their loss to the University of Washington Huskies. The Beavers received 81 votes in this week’s AP Top-25 poll rankings and were two spots short of cracking the Top-25 Coaches poll, receiving 62 votes. 

Following Sunday, the Beavers also rejoined the newest College Football Playoff Committee rankings at No. 23, which was released on Tuesday night.    

The seventh win of the season also earned head coach Jonathan Smith another year on his current contract. 

The clause in Smith’s contract adds a year if Oregon State wins at least seven games during his tenure as head coach and with the win, this will take Smith’s contract through the 2028 football season. 

The game between the No. 23 Oregon State Beavers (7-3, 4-3 PAC-12) and the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-7, 2-5 PAC-12) will take place at 11:15 a.m. in Sun Devil Stadium and will be broadcasted on ESPN2. 

The last matchup between Arizona State and Oregon State saw the Beavers win 24-10 over the Sun Devils in Reser Stadium. The victory gave the Beavers an undefeated 6-0 record in Reser Stadium during the 2021 football season.

The Beavers will play in Tempe, Arizona for the first time since 2018 as this is a result of scheduling due to COVID-19. 

The Beavers have played the Sun Devils three times in Corvallis, winning at home in both 2019 and 2021.

The Beavers enter this week having secured a winning season with their dominant defensive performance over the Golden Bears. 

The Golden Bears were held to 160 yards on offense, which is the lowest total of yards the Beavers have held a PAC-12 Conference opponent to since 2009. 

The dominant defensive performance helped the Beaver offense, which had struggled particularly in the passing game against the Huskies. 

Quarterback Ben Gulbranson was efficient passing the ball passing for 137 yards and threw for two touchdowns including one to wide receiver Tre’shaun Harrison. 

Harrison mentioned that consistency is starting to come along in the passing game between Gulbranson and the receiving core after some early inconsistencies this season. 

“It’s coming along,” Harrison said. “It’s really good, we work every day after practice, before practice we get some throws with Ben [Gulbranson], so I feel like our chemistry is coming together.” 

However, the win over the Golden Bears did not come without cost for the Beavers as they had several starters and players exit the game early because of injuries. 

Although the Beavers sustained a heavy injury toll in the game against California, according to Smith none of those injuries are season-ending.  

The players that exited the game early due to injuries against California were wide receiver Jesiah Irish, defensive backs Alex Austin and Jaydon Grant, utility player Jack Colletto, offensive linemen Taliese Fuaga and Heneli Bloomfield, and running back Jam Griffin.

The Beavers were already shorthanded against the Golden Bears as they were without running back Deshaun Fenwick, linebacker John McCartan, and offensive lineman Tommy Spencer due to injury. 

Despite the bevy of injuries, running back Trey Lowe returned to the field having not played since the season opener against Boise State.  

Lowe entered the game against California after Griffin exited due to an unspecified injury, but Lowe only played in a limited fashion with a handful of snaps. 

Lowe’s workload will likely increase next week against the Sun Devils especially if Colletto and Griffin are unavailable on Saturday.   

The statuses of Irish, Austin, Grant, Colletto, Fuaga, Bloomfield, Griffin, Fenwick, McCartan and Spencer are all considered day-to-day. Whether they will be available on Saturday remains to be seen and likely they are all game-time decisions against the Sun Devils.  

On the offensive line, there is the next-man-up mentality that offensive line coach Jim Michalczik preaches to his players when injuries occur during the game. 

Michalczik feels comfortable with the depth at the offensive line should any more injuries occur during the rest of the season. 

“I think there have been some guys waiting for a chance, to be able to throw them in and not worry about them is pretty good,” Michalczik said. “Any time the starters are out and the backups are in, you’re always expecting a little bit of drop off. But I’ve got guys there that know what they’re doing, and they’re ready to roll.”

Offensive lineman Jake Levengood echoed similar sentiments about the way that the backup offensive lineman played during the game against California when the Beavers lost both Bloomfield and Fuaga on consecutive snaps. 

“Everyone plays all five positions, so everyone knows if they have to step up to another position, they know what they’re doing, they know what the guy next to him is doing,” Levengood said. “I don’t really have to overly communicate that much, it’s been good.”

However, even with the injuries, Smith and the coaching staff feel confident in the depth behind the starters to step up and fill the roles of those injured players if they can’t go on Saturday. 

Smith also added that the Beavers aren’t the only team in the PAC-12 Conference dealing with injuries at this point in the year. 

“I’m confident, we’ll have a great opportunity to play with quality football guys this coming Saturday,” Smith said.

The Sun Devils dealt with a lot of early adversity to start the season, and despite it all, they were close to becoming bowl game eligible.

However, they are no longer bowl game eligible after a 28-18 loss to the Washington State University Cougars. 

This comes despite the early overhaul in coaching when former head coach Herm Edwards was fired after losing three non-conference games to start the season, which included a 30-21 loss at home to Eastern Michigan University. 

Edwards was subsequently replaced by interim head coach Shaun Aguano, who was previously the running backs coach. 

Aguano, as interim head coach, has led the Sun Devils to three wins on the season, the most notable being an upset 45-38 win over the now No. 17 ranked University of Washington Huskies at Sun Devil Stadium.  

The Sun Devils enter their matchup against the Beavers with uncertainty at the quarterback position. The Sun Devils have used two different starting quarterbacks throughout the course of the season. 

Quarterback Emory Jones was named the starting quarterback for the Sun Devils, but after a 15-14 loss to the Stanford Cardinal, Jones was benched for backup quarterback Trenton Bourguet. 

Bourguet has started three games for the Sun Devils, and through those games Bourguet has thrown for 992 yards and eight touchdowns. 

Bourguet’s availability for Saturday is currently unknown as he exited the game early against Washington State due to a leg injury. If Bourguet is not healthy enough to play, Jones will likely start against the Beavers.

Even with the injuries for the Sun Devils, they’ll look to test the Beavers defensive front with running back Xazavian Vallady, who is the focal point of the Arizona State offense. 

Vallady through 10 games has rushed for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season, but Vallady can also pose a threat in the passing game. Vallady had six receptions for 55 yards in the Sun Devils’ matchup against Washington State and tied for second in receptions on the team.  

The records for these teams are different and the stakes are different heading into this matchup. 

Despite all the challenges the Sun Devils have dealt with, they’ll look to challenge the Beavers on all sides of the ball with all the injuries that both teams are dealing with heading into Saturday. 

A win for the Beavers would give them eight wins on the season, which would be the most wins for the team since the 2012 football season, in which the Beavers had nine wins that year. 

For Arizona State, a win would snap a two-game losing streak for the Sun Devils.