Beavers try to keep October perfect at Washington

It’s October. Time for Oregon State to reinsert itself into

contention for a Pac-10 Conference title.

But the almost clockwork way in which the Beavers make a yearly

surge in the second month of the season comes with a hitch this

time around.

One of their best and most versatile players – receiver/returner

James Rodgers – is done for the season.

”It’s hard to imagine. We’ve had three years of him all over

the place, so the finality of not having him for this season

probably is just hitting home to a lot of guys,” Oregon State

coach Mike Riley said. ”I think that James Rodgers, for this 2010

team, his impact will remain.”

Just as the Beavers (3-2, 2-0 Pac-10) re-entered the AP Top 25

this week at No. 24, they’re trying to figure how to deal with the

loss of Rodgers heading into Saturday’s game at Washington.

The older of the two dynamic Rodgers brothers, James Rodgers

suffered a season-ending knee injury last Saturday in the Beavers’

upset of Arizona. Now Oregon State must find a way to replace his

177 all-purpose yards per game, between receptions, rushes and

returns.

”I know that the young guys on our team, like Markus Wheaton,

are stepping up to fill that spot in absence of James, with the

main focus of getting better every week,” said James’ brother,

running back Jacquizz Rodgers.

And it’s the presence of Jacquizz Rodgers that makes it possible

for the Beavers to still hold hopes of a Rose Bowl trip. Rodgers

has yet to have a huge breakout game in his junior season, although

his season-best 145 yards and two touchdowns were keys in the

Beavers’ 31-28 win over Arizona State two weeks ago.

Last year, Rodgers went off on Washington for 159 yards and two

scores on just 18 carries. In his three seasons at Oregon State,

that effort in the Beavers’ 48-21 win over Washington was Rodgers’

best night in yards per carry.

”For the most part, you have to stay in your gap, but he does

get lost behind the big (offensive) linemen and runs really low to

the ground,” Washington linebacker Mason Foster said. ”The big

thing about him is he’s just a really good back. It’s not about

losing him or whatever, he just runs hard, hits his holes hard,

breaks tackles and he can wear you down.”

Along with Rodgers, the improvement of quarterback Ryan Katz is

a big reason the Beavers remain hopeful. Katz is coming off a

career-best 393 yards and two TD passes against Arizona and has

thrown just one interception all season.

A win on Saturday would make Oregon State 3-0 in conference play

for the first time since 1968, when the Beavers started 4-0 in the

Pac-8. Considering Oregon State has played rival Oregon with a Rose

Bowl berth on the line each of the last two seasons, a quick start

would be a heady accomplishment, especially with USC, Stanford and

the Ducks looming the final three weeks of the season.

While the Beavers can still think of New Year’s Day in Pasadena,

the Huskies (2-3, 1-1) may have their bowl hopes resting on a win

Saturday. Facing Oregon State begins a gauntlet of four straight

weeks against potential ranked teams – Oregon State, at Arizona,

vs. Stanford and at Oregon.

After last week’s lackluster 24-14 loss to Arizona State,

finding enough likely victories for Washington to get to six wins

is difficult. Dropping all four of their upcoming games would

eliminate the Huskies from bowl eligibility before the second week

of November.

”We need to have the ability to focus on the snap at hand and

not get caught up looking at what’s ahead in the ball game, or not

get caught looking at what just happened … just focus on the task

at hand,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said.

Washington should have Jake Locker healthy after he was slowed

last week with an illness that forced him to go to a local hospital

to get fluids following the loss to Arizona State. Locker accounted

for just 215 total yards a week after throwing for 310 and rushing

for 110 against USC. He also suffered a thigh bruise against the

Sun Devils that limited some of his reps in practice this week.

Washington’s offense has followed a roller coaster pattern most

of the season, struggling against BYU, Nebraska and Arizona State

and looking great against Syracuse and USC. Sarkisian would like to

see another uptick, followed by some consistency.

”We just have to have a confidence in what we’re doing, no

matter who our opponent is,” Locker said. ”Worry less about the

guys across the ball from us, and more about ourselves, and I think

we’ll be all right.”