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Texas Oklahoma St Football

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy will lead his Cowboys into Reser Stadium for the season opener against Oregon State on Aug. 30.

Jonathan Smith and the Oregon State football team faced a daunting task taking on Ohio State in the Horseshoe in his first game as the Beavers’ head coach last season.

The result was probably as to be expected as the Buckeyes rolled to a 77-31 victory.

While this year’s opponent — Oklahoma State — may not be of the same caliber of last year’s Buckeyes team, the Cowboys are still a formidable foe to be sure.

The Aug. 30 game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. 

The Beavers, coming off a 2-10 season, host the Cowboys, who finished 7-6 after winning the Liberty Bowl, 38-33, over Missouri.

Still, Smith said it’s a little better situation than last season.

“I know guys are excited about it to be a night game at home to start the season, great opponent coming from a good distance, and got a ton of respect for them,” Smith said Wednesday at Pac-12 media day. “So yeah, I feel better about this setup than last year's game. Not that last year's game wasn't a good experience for the kids traveling, but to open at home with a fresh start, new season, there is excitement.”

Oklahoma State is picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 this season while Oregon State is picked to finish sixth in the North Division of the Pac-12 and received the fewest points of any team in either division.

The Beavers have lost their last three openers. Oregon State’s last win to start a season came at home in 2015 against Weber State.

Tough division

The North Division should once again be tough to navigate for all the teams, not just Oregon State.

Oregon edged Washington in the preseason poll by one vote, with Stanford and Washington State a distant third and fourth, respectively. California was farther back in fifth.

“Yeah, it's tough, it really is,” Smith said. “You're talking about some good programs, some good coaches that have done it for the last few years, because I do, I look at like the Ducks, starting with that quarterback coming back. Justin (Herbert) is a really good player. Any time you've got that type of quarterback, you've got a chance to be pretty good.

“What UW has done, they're reloading over there. Mike Leach at Washington State and that style of offense and really the scheme defensively, they know how to get things done. So impressed with Justin (Wilcox). When he took that job over at Cal, defense looks totally different.”

While it is certainly a challenge, especially for an Oregon State program trying to rebuild, Smith said he is optimistic.

“I think it's good that it's competitive, that anyone can get up there and that we do got some balance,” he said. “I think top to bottom, week in and week out in this league you've got to bring your ‘A’ game or you're going to get beat. I don't care which two teams. I think it makes it exciting.”

Hands on or off

It has been an adjustment for Smith to not have as much input on the offense as he did when he was the offensive coordinator at Washington and Boise State under Chris Petersen.

“It's tough at times, yeah,” Smith said, admitting he does keep a close eye on practice and pops into the occasional meeting.

It helps that Smith has been pleased with the job offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren has done.

“So that's actually made it easier to not be around as much, knowing how well he does with them,” Smith said.

So far it appears Lindgren has been OK with those occasional drop-ins because he has yet to kick Smith out of a meeting.

“He's probably going to come and try,” Smith said. “Now that I've got this head coach title, I don't get kicked out.”

Does he do the same thing with the defense?

“No, I'm definitely not hands on,” Smith said. “There are some big-picture items early on that I kind of liked defensively because I know what it was offensively. But I’ve got great confidence in the group of coaches we've got over there and the way they work and the way they teach their guys, not just the scheme we're running.

“So I'll give them some insights, though. I'll say, hey, we need to do this, I think that makes it hard on offense, some small tidbits, but I'm definitely hands off.”

Hughes-Murray on watch list

Senior linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray is the latest Beaver to be selected to a preseason watch list as he was named to the Wuerffel Trophy watch list Thursday, an award based on community service, athletic and academic achievement.

Hughes-Murray has participated in numerous community service projects and was a part of the university’s Beavers Without Borders trip to the Dominican Republic last month.

He has twice received honorable mention to the conference’s all-academic team and has played in each game the past two seasons, making 19 starts.

Other Beavers to make watch lists are Gus Lavaka (Outland Trophy for interior linemen); Jermar Jefferson (Doak Walker Award for running backs; Isaiah Hodgins (Biletnikoff Award for receivers); and Noah Togiai (John Mackey Award for tight ends).

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald