An otherwise sharp Oregon St. practice that featured some spectacular catches by Brandin Cooks and Marcus Wheaton took on a questionable tone, and it was the injury bug, a season long problem for the Beavers, that was the culprit.
Grant Enger, who has been filling in at left guard for Josh Andrews, who is out for another couple of games himself, had to come out of practice with left shoulder pain. Enger initially hurt his shoulder in Wednesday's practice, but an initial exam by the trainers didn't find anything serious. But it forced Enger to the sidelines as practice wore on.
"It was bothering him a little bit yesterday, but we didn't think it was anything (serious)," head coach Mike Riley said. "He got it checked out, and there were no indications that anything was significant. But now, he'll get it checked further. Whether or not he's able to play, I don't know.''
Michael Lamb, a 6'3", 290 lb senior, will play if Enger can't start, or can't finish.
RB Malcolm Agnew also pulled himself out of practice, after two good days earlier in the week. Agnew, who pulled his hamstring in the first practice after the Sacramento St. game, only returned to practicing this week. He experienced a twinge in the same place, running the same play, as when he hurt himself before.
"I took myself out," Agnew explained. "I'm just a little sore."
Riley said he didn't think Agnew pulled the hamstring again, but that it had tightened up.
The status of both players will be further evaluated in the walk-thru Friday morning at 10:30, before the Beavers board the bus to the airport in Eugene.
Problems with either Enger or Agnew could prove highly problematic against the Arizona St. defense, as balancing the run with the pass is essential against the speedy Sun Devils. USC got blown out once they became one dimensional, and it will be even more important for a less experienced, and much less productive, Oregon St. offense. If LBs Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons can get a running start at plays where they know what is coming, any hopes the Beavers have of upsetting #25 Arizona St. will evaporate.
Earlier in the day, Riley spoke to mounting criticism of the Oregon St. offense under coordinator Danny Langsdorf.
"Danny's the same guy that called all the plays when we beat USC,'' said Riley, who used to handle play calling, before putting Langsdorf in charge of it in 2008.
It's worth noting just how fine a line exists between where Oregon St. is and where they had hoped to be.
Had freshman Trevor Romaine not missed a chip shot field goal, or had red shirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion and freshman running back Agnew not mis-executed the prior play that was to position the ball for an even easier chip shot, Oregon St. would have defeated Sacramento in regulation.
Had Mannion not flubbed the ball so bad that Pac-12 officials were so confused they couldn't correctly rule on a case book incomplete pass, a mistake that ultimately produced an 11 point swing (7 points that UCLA was essentially awarded, plus a change in the game situation that took the place kicker out of the equation on both a conversion and a 4th down situation), an 8 point loss to the Bruins would have been another Beaver win.
So but for 2 plays, Oregon St. would have their first ever winning record come Oct. 1 under Riley, and the media would be talking coach of the year honors for the job done to win with 11 true freshman in the mix. So its not as though its been nothing but despair.
But to think there were no concerns with Langsdorf's predictable play calling that was bailed out by the efforts of individual playmakers is revisionist history. Concerns have been mounting for some time, and the hard fact is that regardless of execution errors, Oregon St. still has only had 8 drives into the red zone this season, and only 2 have resulted in touchdowns.
Given that defensive coordinator Mark Banker's group has allowed 14 opponents' drives into the red zone, and a dozen of those into the end zone, its clear that Oregon St. is going to have to be much more productive offensively to stay ahead of their own defense. 35 points per game, not 16, might be enough.
Mannion needs to take another several steps ahead Saturday night in Tempe, and he could use Enger and Agnew's help.