The Beavers will test our defense and our offense will need to continue to be productive against a fast OSU defense. We hope that playing in front of our great home crowd will give us an edge. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — For whatever reason, Utah and Oregon State have developed what Ute coach Kyle Whittingham called “a rivalry in a sense.” Since 2007, the Utes and Beavers have split four meetings, with each team winning twice on their home field.
“It’s been very competitive,” said Whittingham, who was at a loss for explaining exactly why. “I can’t answer that other than it’s been a great ballgame for the fans and most likely this year will be the same.”
The rubber match of sorts is set for Saturday night (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m.) at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The game pits a Utah team coming off victories over Utah State (30-26) and Weber State (70-7) against an Oregon State squad that bounced back from a 49-46 upset loss to Eastern Washington with a 33-14 win over Hawaii.
“The Beavers will test our defense and our offense will need to continue to be productive against a fast OSU defense,” Whittingham said in Utah’s weekly press release. “We hope that playing in front of our great home crowd will give us an edge.”
Oregon State’s passing offense is off to an effective start with quarterback Sean Mannion headlining an attack that includes wide receiver Brandin Cooks, running back Storm Woods and tight end Connor Hamlett. All four rank among Pac-12 statistical leaders early on.
Utah is also putting up impressive numbers. The Utes have outscored the opposition 100-33 after two games.
“We’re playing a good football team,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley.
As evidenced by the recent 2-2 split, the mutual respect is warranted.
“It’s been a back-and-forth battle for the last couple of years,” said Utah co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, who has the unique perspective of playing in two of the meetings and coaching in the other pair. “We’ve had some great games. The last four games have all been really good games.”
Johnson added that the teams are similar in a lot of ways. Both programs, he explained, have a very tough group of kids and recruit the same type of players.
“It’s always a battle when we play,” Johnson said.
As for nonconference and Pac-12 meetings between Utah and Oregon State, Johnson hasn’t detected a noticeable difference. Of the last four games in the series, only the past two were league affairs.
“It’s still a battle. It was tense before we joined the league,” Johnson said. “We know they’ve been consistent in what they’ve done the last — however long, 10 years or so that Coach Riley has been there. You know we’re going to get their best shot every time.”
A look at the last four meetings:
2007 — OREGON STATE 24, UTAH 7: At Corvallis, Yvenson Bernard ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Beavers past the Utes. Utah’s offense struggled after losing running back Matt Asiata to a broken leg and quarterback Brian Johnson to a shoulder injury.
2008 — UTAH 31, OREGON STATE 28: At Salt Lake City, Louie Sakoda kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired as the 15th-ranked Utes capped a furious comeback to top the Beavers. Brian Johnson tied the score on a two-point conversion with 1:29 remaining after connecting with Bradon Godfrey on a 25-yard touchdown pass.
2011 — UTAH 27, OREGON STATE 8: At Salt Lake City, John White rushed for a career-high 205 yards as the Utes won their first Pac-12 game after opening conference play with four consecutive losses. Utah’s defense sacked Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion six times and intercepted him on three occasions.
2012 — OREGON STATE 21, UTAH 7: At Corvallis, Storm Woods scored on three short touchdown runs as the eighth-ranked Beavers slipped past the Utes. Two of the scores followed back-to-back turnovers by Utah that gave Oregon State the ball inside the 20-yard line.