WSU Game Preview

What: Washington State (2-7 overall, 1-5 Pac-12) at Oregon State (4-4, 1-4)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Reser Stadium

On the Air: Pac-12 Network/Beaver Sports Network

Series: 48-47-3, Washington State. OSU has won three straight games in the series, and six of the last seven games.

Last season: The Beavers scored 35 unanswered points late in the second half to pull away for a 52-24 victory in Pullman. Sean Mannion completed 34 of 54 passes for 493 yards and four touchdowns. Brandin Cooks caught 11 passes for 137 yards and two TDs, and also had an 8-yard rushing TD, while Storm Woods ran for two TDs. The Beaver D intercepted WSU quarterback Connor Halliday three times.

WSU’s last game: WSU is coming off a 44-17 loss to USC, during which Halliday suffered a broken ankle in the first quarter. South California QB Cody Kessler torched the Cougars defense for 400 yards and five TDs. Freshman Luke Falk, a walk-on, threw for 370 and two scores in relief of Halliday.

Notes: The Beavers scored a school-record 66 points against WSU in 2008. Mannion’s 493 passing yards last year versus the Cougars is the most in team history. Before getting hurt last weekend, Halliday was leading the nation in passing yards (3,873). Senior WR Vince Mayle leads the Pac-12 with 1,009 receiving yards and is second in receptions (80) and TDs (8).

5 Keys to Victory

1. Score on first series. The Beavers are coming off another demoralizing loss and fan apathy is at an all-time high. So the team needs to get the crowd into it by scoring on its opening drive. Even better would be if it came in spectacular fashion — such as a deep bomb to Jordan Villamin or a trick play. Regardless, the Beavers need to set the tone early.

2. Rattle Falk. Luke Falk filled in admirably when Connor Halliday went down last weekend, throwing for 370 yards and two scores. More impressively, he completed 38 of 57 passes with only one interception against a pretty tough USC defense. He has plenty of weapons to throw to, so the Beavers need to make sure he doesn’t get comfortable and in rhythm, or it could be another Cal game scenario.

3. Take advantage of TOs. As much as WSU throws the ball, the Beavers should be able to force some turnovers, whether a sack causes a fumble or a pass is picked off. The key will be to convert off those turnovers. They can’t afford to leave points on the board against an offense that can score in a hurry.

4. Make adjustments. If the Cougs take a page out of Cal’s gameplan against the Beavers and run the ball against a defense set up to stop the pass, OSU needs to adjust sooner rather than later. It would be a difficult pill to swallow if a WSU running back had a field day against the Beavers, because the Cougars haven’t really had running game since Mike Leech took over.

5. Stay calm. The Beavers are in the midst of four-game losing streak. It’s totally understandable that players might be feeling pressure to produce. But the last thing they need to do is press too hard. That only leads to dropped passes, missed assignments. The team needs to play loose and worry about one thing at time.

Game prediction: 38-17, OSU. The Beavers defense should be able to handle WSU’s offensive line and prevent Falk from going off. Meanwhile, Mannion will have another stellar game against the Cougars to help the offense finish drives.

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