CORVALLIS, Ore. – Whether Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith can provide the intel the Beavers need to finally beat Washington remains to be seen this season. But one thing is certain: The Beavers are sure energized.
That’s because they have four wins, more than they’ve had in the last two years combined. Some players are whispering about a possible bowl bid and receiver Isaiah Hodgins is proclaiming it out loud on television.
“We’re getting ready to go bowling,” he said in the postgame interview following Oregon State’s 56-38 victory on the road last weekend against Arizona.
Smith, a former assistant for Washington, seemed to be tamp down a bit on such talk heading into Friday night’s game against the Huskies.
“They (the players) are very aware of where we’re at, they know that. But the reality is, where we want to go to, it’s about the task at hand,” Smith said. “The mental energy of thinking about this or that or the other – we’ve got a game in front of us and that’s where we need to focus.”
Now in his second season at Oregon State, Smith’s insights as the former quarterbacks coach at Washington didn’t help the Beavers get a win last year when they fell 42-23 in Seattle.
But there’s a new twist: Oregon State (4-4, 3-2 Pac-12) has more conference wins than Washington (5-4, 2-4) heading into this season’s meeting.
“I think it’s awesome for Jonathan and those guys down there. That’s a lot of hard work and those guys have been building that thing up. Setting their process in place all last year and now you are kind of starting to see the fruits of their labor,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “Those kids play hard down there and it’s showing up. That’s why they’re winning.”
Smith isn’t sure his background will make much of a difference.
“I’m familiar with a lot of faces up there, but they’ve got a bunch of new guys I don’t know. I go back to having a ton of respect for them. But once this game is kicked off, it’s all about the players against each other,” he said.
The Huskies go into the game with a two-game losing streak.
Jermar Jefferson, last season’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, has been dealing with an ankle injury, but he returned against the Wildcats and rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns. Together with Artavis Pierce, who rushed for 114 yards and a score, the Beavers pose a threat on the ground.
“It’s a bonus to have multiple backs in the style we play,” Smith said.
One of the bright spots for Washington is the continued development of tight end Hunter Bryant. With the speed of a wide receiver but the size of a tight end, Bryant has become a favored target for Jacob Eason. Last week against Utah, Bryant had six catches for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The six receptions tied a season high and it was his second 100-yard receiving day of the season.
Bryant is second nationally in yards receiving by tight ends with 557.
“He’s a natural catcher and a really competitive guy when the ball is in the air. That’s what you really like about him,” Petersen said.
Oregon State has committed two turnovers all season, both coming on interceptions. The Beavers have yet to lose a fumble and lead the country in fewest total turnovers. Washington has forced 15 turnovers, with 13 of those coming in its five victories. The Huskies forced a pair of second-half turnovers last week against Utah but were unable to capitalize on the two miscues.
Three in a row
Four times during Petersen’s tenure at Washington, the Huskies have lost two straight. It’s never become a three-game losing streak. Throughout his coaching career at both Boise State and Washington, Petersen has never lost more than two games in a row. There haven’t been many losses overall in Petersen’s coaching career, but a loss to the Beavers would create a first.
The Huskies have won seven straight against the Beavers.
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