Oregon St. defensive end Scott Crichton could be just the ticket for the Beavers to control both the Utah passing and running attacks. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
Oregon St. returns home to Reser Stadium for a Homecoming Blackout against visiting Utah. It's also the conclusion of this year's 2 week Utahfest, after a trip to Provo last weekend, where the Beavers beat BYU 42-24.
Conquering Cougars on consecutive weekends elevated Oregon St. to #8 in the nation, the highest they have been since the end of the 2000 season, after the Beavers won the Fiesta Bowl. As a result, Oregon St. is a 10.5 point favorite against the Utes. That's a big number, and being such a sizable favorite is something very unfamiliar to Beaver Nation.
It also resulted in Oregon St.'s first 5-0 start to a season since 1939. Another win today will produce a 6-0 start that's only happened once before for the Beavers, in their 6-0 1907 season 105 years ago. It will also ensure a bowl trip for the first time in 3 years.
Utah comes into Corvallis off a 21-14 loss at UCLA, and the Utes have lost 3 games in a row, since they beat BYU 24-21. It's not quite a must win, with no one left on their schedule after tonight that currently has a winning record, but an upset win would give Utah some breathing room in their quest to qualify for a bowl for the 10th. year in a row.
Last year's game was a "Blackout" as well, and it was Utah that blacked out the Beavers, routing an uncompetitive Oregon St. squad 27-8.
The Ute's John White IV, above, had a career night, running for 205 yards, including 151 and a touchdown before halftime. Utah's Jon Hays only completed 6 passes, but 2 went for touchdowns, to Dres Anderson, below, and DeVonte Christopher.
White, Anderson, and Christopher are all back this season, but they have a different quarterback. Hays, who again took over for an injured Jordan Wynn as he did last season, was replaced as the starter last week by freshman Travis Wilson.
Utah was 3-4 at the time, and 0-4 in the Pac-12, but the win over Oregon St. was a turning point for both team's seasons. The victory started a 4 game winning streak that sent the Utes to a bowl game, and started the Beavers on a 3 game losing streak.
It was one of the worst games of the season for Sean Mannion, who threw for 231 yards, but completed only 27 of 49 throws, and also tossed 3 interceptions against only 1 touchdown.
This year, Oregon St. is a completely different team, despite being composes of mostly the same players.
Mannion has been a different quarterback, leading the Beavers to a 4-0 start, but of course, will miss this game, still rehabbing his left knee after surgery to clean up the meniscus in his left knee, after injuring it in Oregon St.'s last home game, a 19-6 win over Washington St. 2 weeks ago in Reser.
Vaz, above, had a lot of help from his own pair of top-tier wide receivers, as Brandin Cooks had 8 catches, for 173 yards, and Markus Wheaton caught 2 passes for touchdowns, and took a double reverse from Cooks to run for another, below, against BYU.
In Anderson and Christopher, and Cooks and Wheaton, fans will see the best matchup of tandem's or wide receivers the Beavers will be involved in this year, at least in the regular season.
Oregon St. leads the series, which dates back to 1931, 9-6-1, but has lost the last 2 games, both of which were in Salt Lake City. In addition to last year, the Beavers fell 31-28 in 2008, a week after upsetting USC. That was the Utah team that went undefeated, and defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The last game in the series in Corvallis was the 2007 season opener, which ended a 15 year hiatus in the series, and Oregon St. won that one 24-7.
In other Homecoming news, it's the Atlanta Falcons bye week, and so both Jacquizz and James Rodgers are attending this week's festivities.
Buildingthedam.com will be at the game, and will be back afterwards with reaction and analysis, and again in the morning, with full coverage.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)