Oregon Sate football coach Mike Riley learned his lesson after the last win.
The Beavers were looking to turn the season around after the first victory of the season over Arizona more than two weeks ago, and then proceeded to fall flat in a loss BYU.
Between those two games, Riley started talking about the possibility of being in contention for a bowl game if the team could string a few wins together.
Not this time.
The Beavers (2-5, 2-2) need four wins in the last five games to reach the postseason. Riley is being more cautious this time as they prepare for Saturday’s game.
OSU faces Utah in the first Pacific-12 Conference game between the two teams. The Utes (3-4, 0-4) are first-year members of the conference after 11 years in the Mountain West.
“The proof will be in the pudding,” Riley said when asked if the team can string wins together now. “I won’t make any pronouncements of what we can do. I just want to win the next game.”
There’s some familiarity between the programs, having played a two-game series in 2007 and 2008 with each team winning at home.
Riley and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham off in those contests, so those games will be scoured over as much as this season’s to figure out a game plan.
“We will,” Riley said of looking back at the video of the last meeting. “The staff has remained fairly consistent. So we’ll see how that compares to what they are doing now.”
OSU is coming off its most complete game, a 44-21 victory over Washington State. Utah, however, is reeling after a 24-point loss to California.
Season-ending injuries to starting quarterback Jordan Wynn and other key players have made a shambles of Utah’s offense.
The Utes average 309 yards total offense a game, which ranks as the worst in the conference and 108th nationally.
“That’s a trap and we can’t fall into any traps,” Riley said of being too confident going into the game. “We are not in any position to do that. We have to prepare for their best, and I’m sure we’ll get it.”
Utah has not won a Pac-12 game, but played well against tough nonconference opponents. The Utes dominated in-state rival BYU in a 54-10 blowout, and went to Pittsburgh and soundly beat the Panthers by 12 points.
The Beavers had issues with BYU when they couldn’t match up physically. They couldn’t run the ball or stop the run.
“I’m sure the BYU game will get our team’s attention,” Riley said. “We are going to their place. We’ve been there, and that’s a solid program. We have to play a good game to beat them. They beat BYU by a ton of points.”
OSU’s defense played well against Washington State on Saturday, even with three starters out due to injuries.
Linebackers Cameron Collins (groin) and Kevin Unga (calf) are expected to return to practice this week, Riley said. That should help the group continue the development its made over the last month.
“We were just getting to the point that we made pretty good improvements and lost a tough game to BYU,” Riley said. “Then we lost three guys. That was a difficult situation going in. But with the adjustments the defensive coaches made putting the defensive groups together (the players) were ready to play against the Cougars. We have to keep that up for the next game.”
How the Beavers prepare this week for the Utes remains mostly about what they do.
The young team hopes to build on the latest success and not take a step back like last time.
“We just have to keep working in the week,” quarterback Sean Mannion said. “We got another great week of practice (last week) and it paid off. That’s always what we are trying to do, that and executing the plays.”