Oregon State may not be facing a team anywhere near the caliber of Ohio State this Saturday when Southern Utah comes to come for the home opener in Reser Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.
But the Beavers, who were drubbed 77-31 at Ohio Stadium in Jonathan Smith’s debut as coach, planned to treat this week of practice as if they were once again preparing for the Buckeyes.
“Obviously it’s kind of a relief but I think the mindset has got to be that you’re playing an Ohio State every week,” quarterback Conor Blount said Tuesday. “… If you treat every team like that, I think that we can do some good things.”
The Thunderbirds are certainly not the powerhouse that Ohio State is, but they have won or shared two of the last three Big Sky titles and have plenty of experience returning.
Several of the Beavers’ current coaches have spent time in the Big Sky.
“That’s good football and they do a really nice job,” said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks Brian Lindgren, who was at Northern Arizona from 2006-11. “I think they really fly to the ball and do some nice things so I think we’ll have our hands full and we’re going to have to have a great week of practice and show up Saturday ready to roll.”
Defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar said that the players saw plenty of talent on the Southern Utah tape.
“Not the same caliber by any stretch, but they’re also looking at it and seeing guys make plays and they’ve been able to score quite a few points on offense and they’re real consistent,” Tibesar said. “We know we have to go out play a good game of football and that’s what we’re trying to focus on every single week.”
Southern Utah is coming off a disappointing 34-30 home loss to a North Alabama team playing its first game at the FCS level after being a Division II program.
Coming off the tough loss, Thunderbirds coach Demario Warren liked the resolve he saw from his team this week.
“I thought they responded well,” he said. “I mean obviously it sucks to lose at home, we’re not used to that, but I think the guys came out and showed some great effort, some great intensity and we know our backs are against the wall. If we don’t come out swinging we’ll get embarrassed, so we’re preparing to play the best game we can this weekend.”
The Thunderbirds did rack up plenty of yards on offense and showed they have a balanced attack — rushing for 216 on 45 carries and passing for 316 on 38 attempts.
“They’ve got some talented players that can move the ball,” Tibesar said. “They’ve got almost every single guy back other than the quarterback on offense. So they’ve played together, they’ve been in the same situation for a long time, the coaching staff has been together a long time. We’re going to have our work cut out for us to go out there and compete and be able to slow them down.”
James Felila lead the rushing attack with 83 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown while Terrance Beasley added 67 yards on nine carries.
Quarterback Chris Helbig was 28-for-38 passing with 316 yards and two touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.
Helbig also added 31 yards on 13 rushing attempts.
Ty Rutledge had a monster game, catching seven passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.
Helbig completed passes to 11 different players.
“He had a great game, I thought he did really well,” Warren said of Helbig, making his first start. “He commanded the offense, scored when we needed to score to try to win the ball game. He played well and got the ball to the right places. Obviously there’s some mistakes and he’s got to get better at those but I was pleased with his first start.”
As of Thursday, Smith said he was still unsure who would start at quarterback for the Beavers after Jake Luton suffered a concussion on the first series against Ohio State.
Blount came on and played the rest of the first half, completing 12 of 19 passes for 169 yards and two scores against the Buckeyes. Trevon Bradford finished with six catches for 104 yards and two scores.
Artavis Pierce had 168 rushing yards on 11 carries with touchdown runs of 80 and 78 yards in the third quarter. He finished with 209 all-purpose yards.
As a whole, the Beavers finished with 392 yards total offense against the Buckeyes.
The Beavers won’t change too much up offensively, but will likely add a few wrinkles against the Thunderbirds.
“We tell the guys always it’s about us and what we do and there will be some things that Southern Utah does on defense that we’ll have some things we didn’t necessarily show in the Ohio State game to attack what they do,” Lindgren said. “But a lot of it is we’re operating our offense and our system and it’s about how we execute it and prepare.”
Warren knows his team will have to play a lot better to pull off the upset on the road.
“They’ve got a lot of speed on offense,” he said. “Defensively they fly around and play a three-down front, which is something we don’t practice against all the time so that’s something our offense has to prepare for. They’re a good team, they’re a Pac-12 team, so they’ve got a lot of talent and they’re going to be a lot better than North Alabama so we’ve really got to step our game up.”