Cougs battle OSU in Corvallis

WSU looks to take advantage of conference’s worst rushing defense ahead of bye week



Freshman running back Max Borghi makes his way down the field in the midst of oncoming Utah defenders Saturday at Martin Stadium.

JOHN SPELLMAN, Evergreen reporter

When WSU football heads to Corvallis on Saturday to face Oregon State University, they will be heavily favored to walk away with a victory but the Cougs aren’t taking the one win Beavers lightly.

Head Coach Mike Leach said OSU has been steadily improving this season.

“You just try to keep getting better which they are,” Head Coach Mike Leach said. “They are getting better at every phase each time I watch them play … every team searches for an identity in their team and I think they are starting to get tougher and tougher.”

Leach was very happy with his team’s performance this past weekend after the Cougars (4-1, 1-1) came back against University of Utah, highlighted by the game-winning 89-yard touchdown pass from graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew II to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Easop Winston Jr. late in the fourth quarter.

“Utah is a very good team and they are one of the toughest teams to move the ball against, but then we became tough to move the ball against, so it was a good battle,” Leach said.

Oregon State, on the other hand, is still looking for its first win in conference play after falling to 1-4 overall this season after a blowout 52-24 loss last weekend on the road against Arizona State University, which followed a 35-14 loss at home to the University of Arizona.

The Beavers one win this season came against Southern Utah University 48-25 after opening the season with a 77-31 loss against Ohio State University.

Despite their record, the Beavers have quite a few playmakers on their team.

Oregon State is led by true freshman running back Jermar Jefferson who has been unstoppable through five games so far. In his first year of college, Jefferson leads all Pac-12 running backs in rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns.

Jefferson is coming off a 254-yard rushing game with 31 carries, the second-most rushing yards in a game in school history. Not only that, but he already has two of the top four rushing games in school history, making it imperative that the WSU defense stops him if the Cougs want to improve to 5-1.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Conor Blount looks to be the leader of the offense for the Beavers, throwing for seven touchdowns and one interception. His favorite target is wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who already has 362 receiving yards, 100 more than he had all last season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Beavers have struggled against the run. Oregon State gave up 396 yards on the ground last weekend to Arizona State and even though WSU uses the Air Raid offense, the Cougars will have an opportunity to be successful running the ball Saturday.

Oregon State is looking to get its first conference win since 2016 and the man tasked with this job is first-year Head Coach Jonathan Smith.

Smith, who previously spent four seasons as offensive coordinator at the University of Washington, looks to turn things around in Corvallis after the past few years have been rough for Oregon State.

Surprisingly, the Beavers are looking for a turnaround similar to the one Leach has accomplished here in Pullman.

“If [Smith] thinks it’s tough down there, he should’ve been here at Washington State for the first year,” Leach said. “They weren’t in quite as big of a hole as us because they have been pretty decent in recent years.”

The WSU football program has not played any other football team more than they have played the Beavers. They have battled on the football field 102 times, with the Cougs holding the series edge at 52-47-3.

The Cougars have also won the last four meetings against the Beavers and are looking to extend the streak to five Saturday. This will not be easy with Oregon State looking to turn its luck around against WSU.

“We just got to play well,” Leach said. “We need to get better and we do not have a lot of time to do that. We hung in there, played well and beat them last time. Sometimes we just have to punch through it.”

Will the Cougars own a 5-1 record going into their bye week or will the Beavers find some Pac-12 magic for the first time since 2016?

The game is 6 p.m. Saturday at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon, and will be live televised on Pac-12 Networks.