CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — There’s no way Oregon State is going to overlook season-opening opponent Portland State. The Beavers have been caught in that trap before, with losses to Eastern Washington last season and Sacramento State to kick off 2011.
Senior Obum Gwacham, who is making the switch from wide receiver to defensive end this season, said “not sleeping on any opponent” no matter what their level will be key to Oregon State’s success this season.
“Every team we play this year is a quality team. Portland State — we’ve been talking about them since this summer — that’s a great team,” he said. “If we don’t study them, if we don’t watch them, if we don’t practice hard, we’re not going to be able to beat them.”
Oregon State finished 7-6 last season. Following a stunning 49-46 loss to lower-division Eastern Washington in the opener, the Beavers reeled off six straight wins to become bowl-eligible. But they stumbled down the stretch with a five-game losing streak before a victory over Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl capped the season.
In 2011, the Beavers dropped their opener to the Big Sky’s Hornets 29-28 in overtime and finished the season 3-9.
Portland State, which went 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky last season, will play two Pac-12 foes this season: the Vikings visit Washington State in Pullman on Sept. 13.
Portland State coach Nigel Burton sees a challenge in facing Oregon State senior quarterback Sean Mannion, who set school records with 4,662 yards passing and 37 touchdown passes.
“If you’re a competitor you look forward to show how good you are versus the best opponents out there,” Burton said. “If there’s a better quarterback in the country in terms of being an NFL prospect, accuracy, experience level and all the intangibles than Sean Mannion, then I’d like to see him.”
Here are a few more things to look for when Portland State visits Corvallis on Saturday:
DUELING BACKUPS: Alabama transfer Luke Del Rio and sophomore Brent VanderVeen continue to compete for the job as Mannion’s backup, Beavers coach Mike Riley said. “We haven’t designated one as the backup, but we feel really good about the progress they’ve made during camp,” the coach said. “It’s actually a pretty close competition. It goes back and forth each day.”
SEUMALO’S OUT: Center Isaac Seumalo, who could shift positions this season with Josh Mitchell moving to center, is still recovering from a broken foot he sustained during the Hawaii Bowl last season and will sit out the game against Portland State and the next week at Hawaii. The Beavers have a bye after that, so Riley said the earliest Seumalo would play is Sept. 20 against San Diego State.
HISTORY: Portland State is 0-3 in previous meetings with the Beavers. Oregon State is the only FBS-level program to ever play at Portland State, travelling to Civic Stadium (now Providence Park) for a game in 1983 and coming away with a 51-14 win. The crowd of 26,102 on hand that day in September remains the biggest crowd ever at a Vikings home game.
SIBLEY’S LEADERSHIP: In facing the Beavers and a quarterback like Mannion, Portland State will look to its leaders on defense, including junior cornerback Aaron Sibley, who started every game last season after being propelled into the job as a freshman because of injuries. “The beauty, for Aaron, is that he has been through all the trials and tribulation of being a corner at the DI level. It’s hasn’t been smooth sailing and he’s taken his lumps,” Burton said. “So if something goes sideways he knows how to mentally pull himself out of it and help the young guys who haven’t been through the process.”
CONNECTIONS: Burton was an assistant under Riley at Oregon State from 2003-06. Vikings punter Kyle Loomis was a starter for Oregon State in 2006. He left the Beavers to join the Army before coming to Portland State last season, averaging a school-record 46.5 yards a punt. Beavers freshman running back Ryan Nall and Vikings sophomore tight end Jake Nall are brothers.
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