BY SPNW Staff 12:38PM 11/18/2011

Sarkisian Calls OSU Game “Gut-Check Time”

Although bowl eligible, the Huskies have been trending in all the wrong directions as they meet 2-8 Oregon Saturday with frosh QB Nick Montana running the show for the first time.

Washington linebacker Cort Dennison is leading the Pac-12 in tackles with 93. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Norwest

GAME: Washington (6-4) at Oregon State (2-8). WHEN: Saturday, Reser Stadium, Corvallis, 12:30 p.m. MEETING: 96th (Washington leads 58-33-4). RANKINGS: UW unranked; Oregon State unranked. LINE: UW by  3 1/2. TV/RADIO: Root Sports; KJR-950 AM

University of Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian, faced with ending the 2011 season with a four-game losing streak, summed up his team’s situation this week this way: “This is gut-check time. We’re going to find out if we’re a resilient group or not. It’s easy to say that we are. Now we have to go out and prove it.”

Washington’s assignment Saturday would seem to be easier than the ones the Huskies faced the past two weeks. UW flunked both, losing to Oregon 34-17 and Southern California 40-17. In Oregon State, Washington confronts a 2-8 team riding a three-game losing streak.

“Oregon State has been a little bit unlucky,” Sarkisian said this week. “And, we are playing them at Reser Stadium.”

The Huskies will also take on the Beavers with a redshirt freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start. Sarkisian said Thursday that Nick Montana would take over for Keith Price, disabled with an injured knee.

Montana has seen action in four games. He has completed 13 of 20 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He has a passer efficiency rating of 133.2.

“Nick has gotten better every time he’s gotten in a game,” Sarkisian said. “In the last three weeks he’s had his best days of practice. He’s played fast and been decisive in his decision making. He has really improved. He did a nice job last Saturday (against USC). I feel great about Nick Montana because I have some experience with him.”

Oregon State’s record is a little deceiving. While the Beavers have lost eight times, they have been blown out only once — 35-0 at Wisconsin back on Sept. 10. Washington has been blown out three times — in the past four weeks.

The Huskies will also enter the game allowing 272.2 passing yards on average, while Oregon State features the 20th-ranked passing offense in the country (best for a Beaver team since 2005) at 280.7.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion pilots that offense. He is on track to finish the season with 3,228 yards, which would be an OSU record for a freshman and the fifth-highest total for a single season in OSU history (Derek Anderson owns the school mark with 4,058 yards in 2003).

The Huskies will need a big rushing performance out of Chris Polk against the Beavers. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

For Husky fans who recall the aerial bombardments put on by Eastern Washington (Bo Mitchell 39 for 69, 473 yards and 3 TDs) and Hawaii (Bryant Moniz 333 yards, 1 TD) earlier this season, be advised that against Arizona State Mannion aired it out 66 times, completing 40.

Another note about Oregon State: The Beavers have not allowed a first-quarter point in five games (Sacramento State, Arizona State, Arizona, Washington State and Stanford) this season and have allowed just 31 total in the first quarter. On the other hand, the Beavers need to quit playing the second quarter: they have allowed 135 points in that period.

RIVALRY: The Washington-Oregon State rivalry dates to Dec. 4, 1897, when Oregon State Agricultural College defeated Washington 16-0 in Corvallis. Prior to last year’s 35-34, two-overtime victory, Washington had lost six in a row to the Beavers. In the 28 games prior to OSU’s six-game winning streak, Washington won 25 of the 27 meetings.

LAST MEETING: On Oct. 16, 2010, Washington defeated Oregon State 35-34 in two overtimes as Jake Locker matched a school record with five touchdown passes, four to Jermaine Kearse, a single-game UW record. Jacquizz Rogers of the Beavers, now with the Atlanta Falcons, ran for 140 yards and scored four touchdowns on runs of 6, 10, 4 and 2 yards.

LAST WEEK: Washington was hammered by Southern California 40-17 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and the Beavers were clocked by the California Bears 23-6 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

TRENDS: Washington has lost three of its past four following a 5-1 start, while Oregon State has lost three in a row and four of its past five.

COMMON OPPONENTS: Washington and Oregon State have played four common opponents. The Huskies defeated California 31-23, and the Beavers lost to the Bears 23-6; the Huskies lost to Stanford 65-21, and the Beavers lost to the Cardinal 38-13; Washington defeated Utah 31-14, and the Beavers lost to the Utes, 27-8; Washington beat Arizona 42-31, a team the Beavers defeated 37-27.

COACHES: Steve Sarkisian is in his third season as head coach of the Huskies. A former USC assistant under Pete Carroll, Sarkisian has compiled a 17-12 record in his nearly three full years leading the UW program.

Mike Riley is in his 11th season as head coach of the Beavers. The 58-year-old Riley has guided the Beavers to six bowl games in the past eight years, winning five. His resume sparkles with achievements, including the 2008 AFCA and Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year, and his teams have appeared in the final Associated Press top-25 rankings in three of the last five years.

UW STATS/ NOTES: Washington is scoring 31.9 points per game and allowing 34.1 . . . Freshman Kasen Williams has led UW in receptions for two consecutive games, over which he has 11 catches for 123 yards. . . The Huskies are 15-6 all-time at Reser (Parker) Stadium . . . Washington won the final two games of the season in each of Sarkisian’s first two seasons . . . Senior P Kiel Rasp punted eight times for 52.2-yard average at USC, a 10 yards per punt average better than his 42.2 yard average heading into the game . . . Running back Chris Polk, who had just nine rushing attempts against USC, will enter the Oregon State game with 1,132 rushing yards — and 3,693 for his career. Polk needs 413 rushing yards over his final two games to match Napoleon Kaufman’s school record of 4,106. Polk rushed for 105 yards in Washington’s 35-34 win over the Beavers last year . . . Senior linebacker Cort Dennison leads the Pac-12 in tackles with 93.

OSU STATS / NOTES: Senior receiver James Rodgers is closing in on the OSU record for career receptions, currently standing second with 218 (9th among active FBS players). Rogers needs two more to tie the all-time leader – 2005 Biletnikoff Award recipient Mike Hass. He also needs two TD receptions to tie the record of 20 by James Newson and Hass. Rodgers already holds the school record for all-purpose yards with 6,336 (fifth among active NCAA FBS players) . . . Junior corner Jordan Poyer is tied for second in the nation and first in the Pac-12 with 15 passes defended (breakups + INT), including four against Arizona. Poyer is closing in on the school record for one season of 19 held by Andrae Holland (1998) . . . Over its last 96 games, Oregon State is 36-8 when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent, 9-28 when committing more and 9-7 when even . . . USC owns the most victories in the Pac-12 Conference this century with 118 (104 with vacated wins). The Beavers are third (87) behind Oregon (108) and ahead of Cal (82), Arizona State (77), UCLA (76), Stanford (68), WSU (63), Washington (62), Arizona (58). Utah has 102 victories this century and Colorado has 65 . . . Oregon State has blocked five kicks this season, including 2 FGs, 2 punts and a PAT.

Art Thiel

ART THIEL’S TAKE: Coach Steve Sarkisian is nearing a flop-sweat over his team’s decline. After a 5-1 start, the Huskies have lost three of four, all to quality opponents, but by uncompetitive margins and via mistake-filled performances. On top of that, the Huskies travel to Corvallis with a rookie at the helm. Freshman Nick Montana will make his first start at quarterback in place of Keith Price, who has a sprained left knee and lingering leg soreness.

At 2-8, the Beavers seem a much more manageable foe, but in a Pac-12 season rich in upsets, weaker teams are finding ways to win. Oregon State nearly won in Seattle last year, finally falling in the second overtime of a 35-34 decision when the Beavs went for a two-point conversion and failed.

This is the game for RB Chris Polk to run 40 times, the QB to throw 18 times and the defense to be just a little more stout than a negligee. Unattractive but efficient wins it. Washington 30, Oregon State 27.

Steve Rudman

STEVE RUDMAN’S TAKE: In order for Steve Sarkisian to call the 2011 season a step forward in his efforts to rebuild Washington football, he’s got to beat Oregon State on Saturday afternoon and then polish off Washington State in the Apple Cup.

After a splendid start (5-1), the Huskies have come apart the past month, admittedly against a spate of ranked teams (Stanford, Oregon, USC). But they’ve got to regroup against the 2-8 Beavers in order to maintaincredibility. This is a huge game for Sarkisian in that regard: No, his Huskies can’t yet run with the likes of Stanford, Oregon and USC, but if they can’t run with the likes of the Beavers, Sarkisian is coaching a regressing football team.

My expectation is that we’ll see a lot more of Chris Polk against the Beavers than we did against the Trojans (nine attempts), and that Washington will look a lot more like the team we saw early in the season as opposed to the one we’ve seen the past four weeks. The oddsmakers aren’t so sure, having made the Huskies just 3 1/2-point favorites. I’m a little more confident than that. Washington 30, Oregon State 17.

COMING UP: Washington has one regular-season game remaining after facing Oregon State. The Huskies play Washington State in the Apple Cup Nov. 27 at CenturyLink Field (game moved due to the $250 million renovation at Husky Stadium).

University of Washington 2011 Schedule/Results

Date Opponent UW Rnk Opp Rnk W/L Score Rec.
9/3/11 vs. Eastern Washington W 30-27 1-0
9/10/11 vs. Hawaii W 40-32 2-0
9/17/11 at Nebraska 11 L 51-38 2-1
9/24/11 vs. California W 31-23 3-1
10/1/11 at Utah W 31-14 4-1
10/15/11 vs. Colorado W 52-24 5-1
10/22/11 at Stanford 22 6 L 65-21 5-2
10/29/11 vs. Arizona W 42-31 6-2
11/5/11 vs. Oregon 6 L 34-17 6-3
11/12/11 at Southern Cal 18 L 40-17 6-4
11/19/11 at Oregon State
11/26/11 vs. Washington St.


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