After opening the season with a pair of uneven performances, Oregon State looks to put together a complete effort Saturday against visiting Minnesota. The Beavers, who were underwhelming in a blowout loss to Colorado State and a close win over FCS Portland State, need to see dramatic improvement against a Minnesota team led by energetic new coach P.J. Fleck.
Oregon State has given up 1,040 yards in the first two weeks of the season, including 515 in last Saturday’s 35-32 win over Portland State of the Big Sky Conference. The Beavers allowed 291 rushing yards against the Vikings and will be hard-pressed to slow down a Minnesota ground attack led by the duo of Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, who combined for 145 yards and one touchdown in last Saturday’s 17-7 triumph over Buffalo. The Beavers have committed seven turnovers in their first two games and given fans little reason to believe they can be competitive in the Pac-12 North Division. “My biggest problem right now, I would say, is there’s not one part of the run game defense that we’re playing well,” coach Gary Andersen told reporters. “We’re not tackling well. The middle of the defense is soft at times. We have to become a team that can tackle, secure the edges in the run game.”
TV: 10 p.m. ET, FS1. LINE: Oregon State -2
ABOUT MINNESOTA (1-0): Sophomore wide receiver Tyler Johnson made six catches for 141 yards against Buffalo, including a 61-yard touchdown, as Fleck became the first Golden Gophers coach to win his debut since John Gutekunst in 1986. Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft shared time at quarterback and executed a conservative gameplan in the second half, while Smith and Brooks were held to a combined 145 rushing yards and a touchdown. Fleck was most impressed by the play of Antoine Winfield Jr., who led the defense with seven tackles and one sack, broke up a long flea-flicker and blocked a field-goal attempt.
ABOUT OREGON STATE (1-1): Senior inside linebacker Manase Hungalu battled through a bruised hip and finished with a team-high nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a 21-yard TD off an interception in the win over Portland State. While Hungalu has done his part, the rest of the defense has looked awfully similar to last season’s unit, which gave up 5.3 rushing yards per carry. On offense, junior quarterback Jake Luton has thrown three touchdowns against four interceptions in his first two games while running back Ryan Nall was limited to 59 yards and a score on 16 carries against Portland State.
1. Smith rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns to lead Minnesota to a 30-23 victory over the Beavers last season.
2. Oregon State is 53-17 over its last 70 games when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent.
3. Fleck held DE Tai’yon Devers out of the season opener for undisclosed reasons and said the sophomore also could miss Saturday’s game.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 27, Oregon State 24