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October 2, 200815th ranked Utah (5-0, 2-0 MWC) will host Oregon State (2-2, 1-1 PAC 10) Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm Mountain Time and the game will be televised nationally on VERSUS.
Utah and Oregon State opened the season a year ago in Corvallis. The Beavers dominated that game on both sides of the line of scrimmage, holding the Utes to 70 yards rushing while running for 263 yards in a 24-7 win. Overall, the Beavers lead the series 9-4-1.
While Utah struggled to get going on the ground in that last game, their receivers had a difficult time against press coverage. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham went as far as to say that Oregon State's corners "dominated" Utah's receivers, and position coach Aaron Roderick agreed. "We didn't win the one-on-one match-ups last year. They're a man coverage team and we didn't win those. They're a good press coverage team. We're a year older, a year better, and we're better prepared to handle that now." Roderick went on to explain what the offense needs to do to get a win this time around. "We've got to defeat man coverage as receivers and block in the run game. Overall as an offense we need to take care of the ball and execute against a quality opponent."
Oregon State heads into the game on a high note after knocking off then-#1 ranked USC 27-21 in Corvallis. True freshman Jacquizz Rodgers ran all over the vaunted Trojans defense, racking up over 200 yards of offense on 39 touches, including 186 yards on 37 carries and 2 touchdowns. His older brother James gave the Utes fits a year ago, rushing for 62 yards on 4 carries from his slot receiver position.
Utah is on a roll as well, winning five straight to open the season and 13 of their last 14 dating back to last year. The Utes handled FCS opponent Weber State 37-21 in their previous game, with the starters sitting out most of the final quarter. Perhaps the best indicator to how well this team is playing is their 3-0 mark on the road, after struggling on the road in coach Whittingham's first three seasons (8-9 compared to 13-5 at home).
Like most games, this upcoming battle will be determined by which team is able to run the ball and stop the run. On the season, Oregon State is running for 142 yards a game on offense and 196 yards a game in games they win while holding opponents to 148 yards rushing overall and 71 yards in wins. Utah is 5th nationally in run defense allowing just 60 yards a game on the ground while rushing for 174 yards a game on offense.
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