A rebuilding team that looks more like an established program is up next for the Oregon State football team.
The Beavers face No. 19 UCLA at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Rose Bowl in the Pacific-12 Conference opener for both teams.
UCLA has dominated most of the competition early in coach Jim Mora’s first season.
The Bruins (3-0) haven’t fed on lower-level teams, and even pulled out a close upset of then-No. 17 Nebraska, 36-30, in Week 2.
The other wins were 49-24 at Rice and 37-6 at home against Houston.
UCLA is a seasoned operation at this point compared to OSU. The Beavers have only played one game, but a good one with a 10-7 upset of then-No. 13 Wisconsin 10 days ago.
“They are a real good team,” OSU coach Mike Riley said. “The offensive production speaks for itself. They average over 600 yards a game.”
That would be 622 yards a game to be exact.
Senior running back Johnathan Franklin, the primary back the last three seasons, is running at his peak.
He is averaging 222.3 all-purpose yards, including 180.3 rushing, per game. Both numbers lead the nation.
However, several players carry the ball. Receiver Damien Thigpen averages 50.3 rushing yards a game, and quarterback Brett Hundley (39.7 ypg) and running back Jordon James (26.0) are significant contributors.
“They are a pretty good team, fast-paced and they spread the ball out so we have to make individual plays, and then get the cavalry there to make the hit,” linebacker Michael Doctor said.
However, it is Hundley, a redshirt freshman, who makes the offense go. He has completed 69 of 103 passes for 827 yards and eight touchdowns to just three interceptions.
His ability to run keeps defenses guessing, and he fits in with offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s spread scheme.
Mora, as a defensive-minded coach, was impressed with what Mazzone did at his last stop, Arizona State, and hired him.
The Beavers know what to expect from Mazzone and had success stopping the Sun Devils two of the last three years he was there.
But these Bruins are a different animal.
“It’s an identical offense that Arizona State ran, but it seems to be higher octane,” OSU defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. “They have a better offensive line at this point than ASU did last year. They have a lot of team speed.”
UCLA’s defense has allowed 395 yards a game, including a conference-worst 191 yards on the ground. And that’s with 10 sacks for minus-62 yards factored in.
Seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries have helped to save the Bruins.
“It looks like they are playing with a ton of confidence defensively,” Riley said. “They are all over the place there athletically. They are a good-looking team. What they’ve done so far is for real.”
Mora is an aggressive coach when it comes to defensive play-calling. However, he admits that has gotten his team in trouble early.
Opponents have scored 60 points on the Bruins, with 48 coming in the first half.
“We like to pressure the quarterback early,” Mora said. “We’ve pressured and been gashed and it’s taken a half to figure that out. Then we give the players a chance when we’ve dialed back on the pressure and focus on the fundamentals. They’ve responded (in the second half). What we need to do is start faster.”
The Sept. 29 game at Arizona will kick off at 7 p.m. and be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks (420, 421). ... Starting center Isaac Seumalo (hip) returned to practice Monday after taking the bye week off to rest. ... Starting running back Storm Woods (foot) returned to practice after missing Thursday’s workout.