No. 19 Oregon State looks to fix passing woes against No. 10 Utah

Offensive linemen Heneli Bloomfield (#58), Jake Levengood (#70), and Joshua Gray celebrate Grays touchdown on September 16, 2023
Offensive linemen Heneli Bloomfield (#58), Jake Levengood (#70), and Joshua Gray celebrate Gray’s touchdown on September 16, 2023
Jason May

The Beavers enter a home matchup against the University of Utah Utes on Friday, coming off a hard-fought game against the Washington State University Cougars that ended in a 38-35 loss. 

The defeat dropped the Beavers down the rankings to No. 19 in the AP Top 25 poll and to No. 21 in the coaches poll this week.

“The margin for error against a really good team, that’s playing really well, we had too many self-inflicted wounds to make up for that. That caught up to us and we lost by three points, we’ve gotten to tight up our mistakes to give us a better chance to win against good opponents,” head coach Jonathan Smith said.

Smith added that he was pleased with the response of the team in practice this week after the loss.

The game between the No. 19 Oregon State Beavers (3-1, 0-1 PAC-12) and the No. 10 University of Utah Utes (4-0, 1-0 PAC-12) will kick off at 6:00 p.m. and televised on FS1.

The last matchup between Oregon State and Utah saw the Beavers suffer a 42-17 loss on the road. The Beaver’s most recent victory over Utah at Reser Stadium occurred in 2021, with a final of 42-34.

Through three games, the Beavers have had consistent production from the running game but as of late have struggled to be consistent in the passing game.

The players and coaching staff acknowledged these struggles, especially after the loss to Washington State.

In his weekly Monday press conference, Smith added that he wants to see the offense make significant strides in improving the passing game.  

“DJ did some good things in the game and got us back into the game. Could he play better? 100%. We need to protect him better and make some plays on the ball,” Smith said.

Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren echoed similar statements to Smith and wants to help quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei get in a rhythm early to help alleviate some of those struggles.

“That’s the challenge, we’ve been running the ball so well and that is the strength of our offense, sometimes it’s tough as a quarterback when you run the ball so well and you’re only throwing the ball on third down,” Lindgren said. “I think that’s what we’re looking at, ways we can get him some quick passes to help him get in rhythm early.”

Oregon State wide receiver Silas Bolden sees room for improvement in the passing game through three games for the Beavers.  

“There’s a little frustration here and there with timing and execution, but we’re getting open and we’re making plays when we can. Once we get that down and pat, we should be good,” Bolden said.

The Beavers this week enter with a nearly healthy roster ahead of their matchup against the Utes with no new injuries. However, they’ll be without another one of their players for the rest of the season.

Oregon State tight end Jake Overman announced that he would be redshirting the rest of the season and enter the transfer portal at the end of the season. Overman has eight receptions for 70 yards in his Oregon State career.  

Oregon State kicker Everett Hayes practiced more this week and could likely return soon for the Beavers according to Smith.

The Utes enter this week with uncertainty on the status of two of their star players ahead of Friday’s matchup against the Beavers.

Quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe have not played yet this season as they are both rehabbing from knee injuries.

Rising has practiced more the past week as he split first-team reps with quarterback Nate Johnson prior to their 14-7 win over the University of California Los Angeles Bruins. Rising warmed up for the game but ultimately did not play.  

Rising’s status for Friday’s game is unclear but regardless of who plays at quarterback for Utah, the Beavers will prepare for both quarterbacks to play in the game ahead of Friday’s matchup.

“You go off of what they’ve done in four games on tape, that guy (Johnson) is a good player. He’s athletic and can extend plays,” Smith said. “Obviously, Cam Rising is there and has a long history of being a good player and winning games, we haven’t seen him this year on tape and are preparing for the four games we’ve seen.”

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

On the offensive side of the ball, the Utes have two dynamic running backs in Jaylon Glove and Ja’Quinden Jackson. Jackson currently leads the Utes in rushing yards with 239 yards on the season, but Glove handled most of the rushing yards against their matchup with the Bruins.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Utes have two linemen who will present issues to the Beavers offensive line in both pass and run protection.

Utah defensive linemen Keanu Tanuvasa and Jonah Elliss have presented challenges to both the Bruins and their non-conference opponents this season. Elliss has 5.5 sacks and is tied on the team in tackles with 19, while Tanuvasa has two sacks and 14 tackles.

For the Beavers, they look to secure their first win of PAC-12 conference play and bounce back after Saturday’s loss to Washington State.

“Every game we go in with the same mentality of it being a must-win. There’s no panic here, we prepare well and have to play aggressively. We know these games are going to be tight,” Smith said.


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