CORVALLIS — Oregon State and Washington are a lot alike: Both hit a stride earlier this season but then ran into misfortune.
The two 6-4 teams meet tonight, both jockeying for position behind Oregon and Stanford in the tough Pac-12 North.
“I made that comparison to our team. I said, ‘This is a good football team that’s been kind of like us,’” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “They were doing great and then they hit a lot of tough games with Oregon, Stanford and UCLA. They had kind of a murderer’s row in there. And they played well. They had a chance to beat Stanford just like we did.”
The Beavers (6-4, 4-3) got off to a disastrous start, losing at home to Eastern Washington in the season opener.
Then they reeled off six straight wins, before falling back with losses to Stanford, USC and Arizona State.
After the Huskies it only gets harder, with the Beavers facing No. 5 Oregon at Autzen Stadium in the annual Civil War.
Washington (6-4, 3-4) won its first four games and popped up to No. 15 in the AP Top 25, but the Huskies slumped with consecutive losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. They’re coming off a fourth conference loss to UCLA last weekend.
Against the Beavers, Washington may be without quarterback Keith Price, who injured his right (throwing) shoulder in the second quarter of the Huskies’ 41-31 loss to the Bruins.
Coach Steve Sarkisian told reporters after practice Thursday that Price’s condition had “vastly improved,” but the Huskies continued to prepare redshirt freshman Cyler Miles for his first college start.
Riley said he expects both teams to challenge the adversity they’ve faced.
“You can lose it and not play well and get worse or you can continue to try to grow and correct those things that caused those losses and play better,” Riley said. “Play your best game. That’s what it will take.”
Five things to look for when Oregon State hosts Washington:
The other QB: While Washington’s quarterback is uncertain, the Beavers are hoping starter Sean Mannion can shake off the four interceptions he threw in a 30-17 loss to Arizona State last weekend. Mannion also threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns, and he still leads the nation with an average of 386 yards passing a game and 33 total touchdowns.
A look at Cyler: After Miles replaced Price against UCLA, he responded by connecting on 15 of 22 attempts for 149 yards and a pair of TDs. Miles has appeared in six games for the Huskies this season, throwing for 250 yards and three touchdowns. But Sarkisian says he’d like to see Miles show his versatility. “He’ll run the football more. I think he’s trying to find his way some of when is the right time to run it, when is it not,” the coach said. “We need him to run it. That’s one of the assets he possesses when he’s on the field.”
Don’t speak: The Pac-12 reprimanded Sarkisian for public comments he made about officiating and for revealing private communications he had with conference officials this week. Sarkisian complained about the officiating in the game against UCLA and said that the conference apologized for a blown call that wiped out a Huskies touchdown in their 41-31 loss last week. Commissioner Larry Scott said the Pac-12 has rules that prohibit coaches from making public comments about officiating or private communications with the league. “We have an obligation to our membership to enforce the conference rules which they have approved,” Scott said in a statement.
Approaching records: Mannion has thrown for 3,860 yards this season and needs just 199 yards to pass Derek Anderson, who threw for 4,058 in 2003 for the school’s single-season record. Mannion’s favorite target, Brandin Cooks, has 1,443 yards receiving and needs 90 yards to break the record of 1,532 set by Mike Hass in 2005. Cooks already has a school-record 100 receptions.
On the line: Should the Beavers come out on top, they will secure a winning record for the season — and should Washington State lose at home to Utah, they will also clinch third place in the Pac-12 North. With the Cougars a win away from getting to six wins, the Pac-12 could have nine teams reach eligibility with seven bowl agreements: the Rose Bowl, Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas, Fight Hunger and New Mexico. Teams that don’t get into one of those bowls would be eligible for an at-large invitation.