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Tuesday, September 18, 2012
First look: Oregon State at UCLA

By Peter Yoon

Here is what the No. 19 UCLA Bruins know about this week's opponent, Oregon State:

1. The team nickname is the Beavers
2. The Beavers defeated Wisconsin in Week 2
3. Oregon State is in Corvallis, Ore.

Although that might be a slight exaggeration, it's not all that far off, considering that victory over Wisconsin is the only game Oregon State has played this season. The Beavers (1-0) are coming off of a previously-scheduled bye week and had their first game against Nicholls State postponed because the Louisiana school had travel problems caused by Hurricane Issac.

Apparently, the Beavers don't think much of themselves because they rescheduled that game for Dec. 1, the day after the Pac-12 championship game. UCLA coach Jim Mora however, thinks plenty of the team he will face at the Rose Bowl Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in a Pac-12 conference opener that will be televised on ABC and ESPN2.

"They're a good football team," Mora said. "They’re a very physical team, they run the ball well and play excellent on defense and they are very well coached. They tackle well. It’ll be a stiff test for us, but I think we’re excited for it."

Mora and his coaching staff are almost all new, so most weren't around for UCLA's 27-19 victory over the Beavers in Corvallis last year. That's even more of an issue considering the lack of game film available on this year's Oregon State team.

The Beavers surprised the country with their 10-7 victory over a Wisconsin team that was ranked No. 13 at the time. In that game they held Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy candidate and 1,923-yard rusher last season, to 61 yards in 15 carries.

It's that type of run defense that stood out on film to Mora and has him worried about Oregon State's ability to take away a UCLA run game that currently ranks No. 5 in the nation at 311.33 yards per game.

"I don't know if I want to see more than one game the way they payed Wisconsin," Mora said. "They really looked good. Really good."

The strength of Oregon State's 4-3 defense is a stout line, led by end Scott Chricton, a freshman All-American last season. Dylan Wynn, the other end, is also a high energy guy that will cause problems and tackle Castro Masaniai is a 350-pound space eater. Oregon State held Wisconsin to 35 yards rushing as a team, thanks to three sacks.

On the back end, corner back Jordan Poyer is among the best in the nation at his position. He was a second-team all Pac-12 selection last year and UCLA will remember his 85-yard punt return for a touchdown just before halftime last season.

On offense, Oregon State runs a balanced attack. Quarterback Sean Mannion, who made his first career start against UCLA last year, returns after earning freshman All-American honors last year. He passed for 3,328 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman and had 276 against Wisconsin.

His top target figures to be Markus Wheaton, a multi-talented athlete who led the team in receptions last season and is equally dangerous when running the fly sweeps and end-arounds that are a staple of the Oregon State offense. Freshman Storm Woods and sophomore Malcolm Agnew split the tailback duties, though Oregon State rushed for only 78 yards against the Badgers two weeks ago.

"They're different than any of the three teams that we've faced," said Mora, whose squad has gone up against three spread offenses so far. "They're a little more conventional."

As far as who has the advantage in a situation where one team has played three games and the other has played only one, Mora wasn't quite sure.

"It probably works in the favor of both," Mora said. "They'll be well-prepared, they'll have a lot of film on us. Our guys will have played a little bit more in games. I still think it just comes down to who executes, who plays harder, who makes tackles, who tries to stay away from costly penalties, things like that."