Can Beavers get well against Arizona?
CORVALLIS — Two football teams sitting at the bottom of their divisions in the Pac-12 hope to get well against each other Saturday night at Reser Stadium.
Arizona (2-8, 0-7 Pac-12 South) hopes to end a seven-game losing streak when it takes on Oregon State (2-8, 1-6 North), which has dropped five straight, at 7:30 p.m. The contest will be televised by Pac-12 Networks.
The Beavers have won six of the last eight and 12 of the past 15 meetings in the series, but the Wildcats handed OSU a 44-7 thumping a year ago in Tucson.
“They’re another team that smacked us around last year,” said OSU head coach Gary Andersen. “That’s the bottom line. We need to be able to be prepared to be physical with a team that out-physicaled us last year.”
The Beavers hope to have sophomore running back Ryan Nall available Saturday. Nall, the former Central Catholic High standout, sat out last week’s 38-24 loss to UCLA in Pasadena with a lingering foot injury. Nall is OSU’s top rusher with 672 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 7.2 yards a carry.
Oregon State averages 178 yards rushing and 172 passing per game. Freshman Artavis Pierce (380 yards, four TDs) and senior Victor Bolden (333, two TDs) are the other running threats.
Sophomore Marcus McMaryion is expected to make his fifth start this season at quarterback for the Beavers. Freshman Conor Blount is the backup.
McMaryion has completed 72 of 131 passes for 920 yards and four TDs with five interceptions. McMaryion gave up a pick-six to UCLA’s Randall Goforth in the final minutes last week, clinching the win for the Bruins.
“The same way we did last week. There was no definitive yes or no (with Blount playing), and there won’t be this week,” Andersen said. “Marcus will take the first snap, and we’ll just continue through as we go with it.”
Bolden is the team’s top receiver with 43 catches for 528 yards and two scores, followed by Seth Collins with 36 receptions for 418 yards and one TD. Collins was hospitalized earlier this week with an undisclosed ailment and isn’t expected to play.
The Beavers are thin on the defensive side of the ball due to a rash of injuries. Starting linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu is out for the final two games with an ankle injury.
Senior linebacker Caleb Saulo is third in the conference with 8.0 tackles per game and junior linebacker Manase Hungalu ranks sixth at 7.1. Hungalu shined against UCLA, recovering two fumbles — returning one of them 40 yards for a touchdown — and intercepting a pass.
The Beavers are allowing 441.6 yards and 32.5 points a game.
Arizona has used three quarterbacks this season due to injuries. Anu Solomon or Brandon Dawkins will get the nod Saturday. The Wildcats rank 113th nationally with 22.4 points a game.
“They’re very, very good at it (read option),” Andersen said. “They put a high priority on the quarterback being able to run the ball, depending on who the quarterback is. I don’t want to say it’s more aggressive, but it’s different the way they do some things. It’s good stuff and it’s been highly successful with them a long time.”
Saturday will mark Arizona’s first trip to Corvallis under fifth-year coach Rich Rodriguez.
“You can compare them to where Colorado was a couple of years ago,” Rodriguez said of the Beavers.
“They’ve gotten better, and have been in a lot of close games. They’ve played well against some good teams and this will be a big game for them, playing at home. We’ve got to play well.”
OSU will end its season on Nov. 26 against Oregon in the Civil War at Reser Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.