Oregon St.-Arizona St. Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- Dennis Erickson insists that Arizona State's Pac-12 matchup against winless Oregon State is anything but a mismatch.
His 25th-ranked Sun Devils have lost their last three meetings with the Beavers heading into Saturday night's contest in Tempe.
Arizona State (3-1, 1-0) was ranked 22nd two weeks ago before losing at Illinois, but moved back into the Top 25 with a 43-22 win over then-No. 23 USC last Saturday behind 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns from tailback Cameron Marshall.
Oregon State (0-3, 0-1), meanwhile, has scored five TDs and 47 points - the lowest totals among BCS teams. The Beavers are trying to avoid their first 0-4 start since 1996.
Erickson, who coached Oregon State from 1999-2002, is instead focusing on how Arizona State is enduring its longest losing streak in the series' 37-game history.
"I know that program pretty well and we haven't beaten them in three years," Erickson said. "I know Mike (Riley) very well, and I know the foundation of that program. They're warriors and they're competitors. They have a lot of pride in what they're doing. I've seen that for a long time."
Riley, the coach who succeeded Erickson in Corvallis, realizes he needs to be patient after using 17 first-time starters through three games.
"We understand they're good players, and they are learning on the run," Riley said. "We have not coached this young of a team at Oregon State. However, they are really fun to coach."
The Beavers ended a 16-game road losing streak to Arizona State in their last visit to Tempe two years ago. They rode Jacquizz Rodgers' 145 yards rushing and two touchdowns for a 31-28 home win over the Sun Devils last season.
While Ryan Katz was the starting quarterback for Oregon State in that contest and was under center in the Beavers' first two defeats, Sean Mannion took over in last Saturday's 27-19 home loss to UCLA. Mannion completed 24 of 40 passes for 287 yards, one touchdown and one interception in becoming the first freshman quarterback to start for Oregon State since 1998.
"We had a lot of good stuff out there," Mannion said. "We just need to put it all together."
Star receiver James Rodgers had five catches for 76 yards in his season debut after coming off two knee surgeries. H-back Joe Halahuni also saw his first action after being out with a shoulder injury.
"When you have a guy like Rodgers coming back, and the H-back, who's been big in their offense, just having their presence makes a big difference for them," Erickson said.
With trips to Utah and No. 9 Oregon up next, the Sun Devils are trying to avoid a letdown. They beat then-No. 21 Missouri 37-30 in overtime Sept. 9 before losing to the Fighting Illini, who currently sit one spot above Erickson's team in the Top 25.
Arizona State responded to that defeat by ending an 11-game slide against the Trojans.
"The Illinois game might have been a blessing in disguise," said 6-foot-8 Brock Osweiler, the tallest quarterback in the FBS. "Sometimes a game like that is really good for a team."
Marshall gained 5.5 yards per carry the last two games after averaging 2.9 in his first two. He's still limited due to an ankle injury suffered in the preseason.
"He just brings us a force in there," Erickson said about Marshall. "He's 215 pounds, he breaks tackles. The biggest thing that he's missing right now is changing direction because of that ankle."
The Beavers will welcome back defensive tackle Castro Masaniai from a one-game suspension. Freshman running back Malcolm Agnew, who ran for 223 yards in a season-opening overtime loss to Sacramento State, could also return after missing two games with a hamstring injury.
Updated September 27, 2011