Football Bowl Subdivision

          === No. 8 Oregon State entertains Utah in Pac-12 action ===
 Corvallis, OR (Sports Network) - The eighth-ranked Oregon State Beavers will
 play their second straight opponent from the Beehive State when they entertain
 the Utah Utes on Saturday night at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.
 Utah kicks off the second half of the season hoping to turn things around as
 the team has lost four of its first six games, including all three conference
 bouts. Last weekend, it was the UCLA Bruins that knocked off the Utes (21-14)
 and while the slow start to Pac-12 play is disheartening, Utah began its first
 year as a member of the league in 2011 0-4 before winning its final four, the
 first of which was a 27-8 victory over Oregon State.
 The Beavers' No. 8 ranking in this week's AP poll is their highest since
 ending the 2000 season at No. 4. A win over Utah would give Oregon State its
 first 6-0 start since 1907, and would also make the team bowl eligible at the
 earliest time in school history. Furthermore, the last time the Beavers won
 their first three league games was back in 1968. Last week, OSU stepped out of
 conference to take down the BYU Cougars in Provo, 42-24. The team's path to a
 possible appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game features a slew of tough
 games as Washington, Arizona State, Stanford, California and bitter rival
 Oregon all remain on the docket.
 Oregon State owns a 9-6-1 advantage in the all-time series with Utah, but the
 Utes have won four of the last five meetings.
 Utah ranks last in the Pac-12 in total offense (302.7 ypg), with both the run
 (100.0 ypg) and pass (202.7 ypg) being equally ineffective at keeping opposing
 defenses honest. John White is the team's leading ground gainer, but he
 averages just 69 ypg and has found the end zone only once. As for the Utes'
 quarterbacks, three different guys have taken snaps this season, with Jon Hays
 throwing for 125.6 ypg with seven TDs against only one interception. Drew
 Anderson heads the receiving corps with 22 grabs for 233 yards and two TDs,
 although Kenneth Scott has taken three of his 10 receptions for scores. The
 Utes have committed just eight turnovers.
 Last week against UCLA, it was Travis Wilson's turn to see what he could do
 with the offense, and he responded by completing 23-of-33 passes for 220 yards
 with no TDs and one pick. Anderson finished with nine grabs for 70 yards and a
 TD, that scoring strike coming from Hays on his only pass attempt of the game.
 The Utes were held to 75 net rushing yards, with White gaining 44 yards on 11
 For the most part, the Utah defense has performed well this season as the unit
 currently ranks third in the conference with an average yield of only 350.7
 ypg. The Utes rank fourth against both forms of attack, but they have come up
 with only two interceptions. Seven fumble recoveries has helped, and the team
 averages nearly eight TFL per outing. Trevor Reilly is the team's top tackler,
 making 35 stops from his linebacker spot, which includes 2.5 of Utah's 13
 The Bruins used a balanced offensive attack to hand the Utes their third
 straight loss as they tallied 171 rushing yards and another 183 through the
 air. Despite seven TFL, including a pair of sacks, the Utah defense allowed
 UCLA to converted 10-of-17 third-down opportunities. Brain Blechen was the
 Utes' leading tackler in the game with eight, of which six were unassisted.
 Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is trying to remain positive in spite of his
 team's recent lack of success.
 "Obviously we came up short. The guys played hard again and this team has no
 shortage of effort or toughness. We've got a bunch of tough guys that fight
 for the full 60 minutes. However, we have to play smarter at times and have to
 be more productive."
 Oregon State's bread and butter on offense is the pass (338.0 ypg), as QB Sean
 Mannion is the Pac-12's second-ranked passer after completing 63.3 percent of
 his throws for 1,358 yards, seven TDs and four interceptions. Unfortunately
 for the sophomore signal-caller, and perhaps the Beavers, he is sidelined
 indefinitely with a knee injury, leaving the controls to junior Cody Vaz.
 Despite not taking a meaningful snap since 2010, Vaz played exceptionally well
 in last week's win at BYU, going 20-of-32 for 332 yards with three TDs and no
 interceptions. Brandin Cooks was the primary beneficiary of his new
 gunslinger's exploits, as he pulled down eight balls for 173 yards, although
 Markus Wheaton turned his five catches into 66 yards and a pair of scores.
 Storm Woods, who is OSU's leading rusher this season with 404 yards and three
 TDs, ran for 57 yards and a score, although the run game in general produced
 just 118 yards. Wheaton, who serves as the club's leading receiver with 41
 grabs for 564 yards and six scores, added a rushing score on a 12-yard jaunt
 in the fourth quarter.
 Mike Reilly, who recently became the all-time winningest coach in Oregon State
 history, had nothing but praise for Vaz.
 "I don't think anybody in our locker room was particularly surprised Cody
 played well. I think they've had faith in him as a teammate for a long time. I
 knew this was going to be a hard venue to step into but I thought guys helped
 him out and made plays."
 The Beavers held the Cougars to 81 net rushing yards last week, yielding a
 meager 2.5 yards per carry. BYU did air the ball out for 305 yards, but only
 scored one TD that way while suffering four sacks. Ryan Murphy and Michael
 Doctor both logged double digits in tackles with 11 and 10, respectively. and
 Scott Crichton had a pair of sacks. Jordan Poyner returned a fourth-quarter
 interception 49 yards for a TD to close the scoring for Oregon State.
 Oregon State is giving up just 18.4 ppg, and its effort against the run (70.0
 ypg) has it ranked first in the Pac-12 and fourth nationally. The Beavers have
 come up big on third down as well, yielding just a 27 percent success rate to
 their enemies. The team has 14 sacks, with Crichton credited with eight
 (fourth nationally). Murphy leads the way with 31 total tackles, and Poyner
 has five picks already (his 1.0 interceptions per game leads the nation).
 10/17 11:04:54 ET

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