Photo courtesy of Oregon State Athletics
CORVALLIS, Ore. (Sports Network) - The improbable run of the No. 14 Oregon State Beavers continues this week as the Washington State Cougars come to town for a Pac-12 conference tangle at Reser Stadium.
With the hiring of Mike Leach optimism was pumped back into the fans in Pullman, Washington but thus far the Leach era has gotten off to a slow start. The Cougars are just 2-3 after the first five weeks of the season including an 0-2 mark in the Pac-12. Leach's patented Air Raid offensive attack has taken some time to gel although in a 51-26 loss last weekend to No. 2 Oregon the Cougars hung around before falling apart in the second half.
There was very little hype surrounding Oregon State entering this season and even after downing a then nationally ranked Wisconsin team there was still questions about how legitimate the Beavers really were. After wins against a nationally ranked UCLA squad and Arizona last weekend the Beavers have officially proven they are for real. Oregon State is now 3-0 for the first time since 2002 and the team's No. 14 ranking in the top-25 is the highest ranking for an Oregon State squad since 2001.
"I thought that the approach and everything has been good since day one. They haven't really changed," head coach Mike Riley said of how his team has been affected by the early success,"This team seems to be pretty grounded and guys are pretty hungry. They know they're not perfect."
Last season Sean Mannion threw four touchdown passes to lift Oregon State over the Cougars 44-21 at CenturyLink Field. The win pulled the Beavers closer in the all-time series which they trailed 48-45-3 to Washington State. The Cougars have won two of their last three games in Corvallis.
Passing the ball is the top priority for the Washington State offense under Leach, just as it has been the past few seasons. The Cougars are still transitioning into Leach's system but have begun to improve in recent weeks. The Cougars have moved up to eighth in the Pac-12 in total offense this season (378.6 ypg), while ranking second in the conference in passing yards (1,665).
Marquess Wilson has been one of the best receivers in the country over the last few years and against Oregon he became arguably the best in Washington State history. Wilson caught 12 passes for 182 yards and now has 2,893 career receiving yards which is the most in school history. This season he has caught 30 passes for 499 yards and five touchdowns.