No. 14 Beavers open PAC-12 Conference play on the road

Illustrated by Cat Smith
Illustrated by Cat Smith

Last Saturday, the Beaver football team secured a hard-fought 26-9 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs to close out 2023 non-conference play.

The victory moved the Beavers up in the Associated Press college football top-25 rankings to No. 14 and up to No. 15 in the coaches poll. The Beavers have now posted a 3-0 record in non-conference play for a second consecutive season.

The matchup between Oregon State and Washington State on Saturday will be the first meeting in which both schools are ranked in the AP top-25 rankings. Aside from the rankings, this game has an underlying story for both schools ahead of kickoff that is much deeper than what meets the eye.

The game between the No. 14 Oregon State Beavers (3-0) and the No. 21 Washington State Cougars (3-0) will kick off at 4:00 p.m. and be televised on Fox Sports.

Both Oregon State and Washington State are the last two members of the PAC-12 Conference and recently filed litigation two weeks ago against the 10 departing schools and PAC-12 Commissioner George Kilavkoff.

Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith and Washington State head coach Jake Dickert have expressed that both schools belong at the Power Five level even as the flurry of conference realignment moves to leave the schools’ futures in the PAC-12 beyond 2024 uncertain.

“I think there’s a proven product not just in football but in all sports, both universities have had serious success, and that success should continue,” Smith said.

Dickert has been more outspoken about his school remaining at the Power Five level compared to Smith, but he has shown support for the school during conference realignment.

“We’re focused on the task at hand, what is right in front of us. I totally agree with Coach Dickert regarding both Oregon State and Washington State belonging and competing at the highest level,” Smith said.

Oregon State and Washington State have played every year against each other since 2003 and the Beavers are looking for their first win in Pullman, Washington since 2013, a 52-24 victory.

The Beavers this week enter with a nearly healthy roster ahead of their matchup against the Cougars.

Both inside linebacker John Miller III and wide receiver Jesiah Irish are likely to play against the Cougars after sitting out last week. Defensive back Ryan Cooper Jr. is also expected to play after suffering an undisclosed injury towards the end of the game against San Diego State.

The new injury for Oregon State this week is a season-ending knee/leg injury to inside linebacker Makyia Tongue, which occurred in the second quarter of the matchup against the Aztecs.

Washington State enters this week coming off a 64-21 win over Northern Colorado University to improve their record to 3-0 in non-conference play. This is the second consecutive season that the Cougars accomplished this feat. 

The Cougars have plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball that can pose challenges for the Beavers.

Quarterback Cameron Ward is Washington State’s leading rusher with 95 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Ward has also thrown for 990 yards and nine touchdowns through three games this season.  

Last year the Beavers faced Ward at home, and he threw for 345 yards along with a touchdown in a 24-10 loss to Oregon State. The Beaver defense also forced an interception in the game from Ward as well.

“His comfortability level has improved; he looks a lot more comfortable in the offense. He has a lot of his own checks he makes and a lot of things he does that give more control of the offense. So, I think from this year to last year he’s improved in that part,” inside linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold said.

Other playmakers on the offensive side of the ball include wide receiver Lincoln Victor. Victor is the Cougar’s leading receiver with 342 yards and has scored three touchdowns this season.  

As for the defense, the Cougars have two linemen that will present issues to the Beavers offensive line in both pass and run protection.

Washington State defensive linemen Brennan Jackson and Ron Stone Jr. have presented challenges to their previous opponents. Stone has 12 tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks in three games for the Cougars.  

“They’re two really good players, been there for a long time, really high motor and are active and physical,” offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said. “They’re good with their hands and so it’s a pretty good test for us.”

For the Beavers, they look to secure their first win of PAC-12 conference play and improve their record to 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2012. 

“The meaning of game one of conference play is you want to get off to a good start,” Smith said. “It’s going to be competitive over there and obviously we’re trying to win the game. Those are the kinds of things that I think about.”




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