The Oregon State Beavers and Arizona Wildcats are both 1-2 heading into Saturday’s matchup. Both have their sole win against Southern Utah. Both have one close loss and one blowout loss.
Overall, Oregon State and Arizona will probably be much closer than most Wildcats fans anticipated before the season. If the Beavers get some key performances on Saturday, they may be able to get a home win.
Here are the five players most likely to provide that boost to OSU.
Jermar Jefferson, RB
Based on Oregon State’s non-conference performances, Jermar Jefferson may be one of the biggest names in the Pac-12 very soon.
Jefferson is a true freshman, and one of the key commitments secured by Jonathan Smith in his abbreviated first class. Out of Narbonne High School in LA, Jefferson was considered a high three-star prospect. After three games, he has 391 rushing yards on 55 attempts, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Keep in mind, he’s doing this with a supporting cast that went 1-11 last year.
Against Arizona’s porous run defense, there is a high chance Jefferson will be as explosive as his first three games on Saturday. If he goes off again, especially with quarterback Jake Luton’s continued injury problems, the Beavers’ chances of winning will increase dramatically.
Isaiah Hodgins, WR
While Oregon State is using Jefferson as their main weapon offensively right now, when they do pass Hodgins will be their primary threat.
Like most of Oregon State’s starters, Hodgins is young, just a true sophomore. After a quiet freshman season and only catching a few passes against Ohio State and Southern Utah, Hodgins exploded for 200 yards on 14 receptions against Nevada last weekend. Hodgins is much like Shawn Poindexter for Arizona, a big target (6’4”, 205) who can occasionally make a big play happen.
Whether catching passes from Luton or backup Conor Blount, Hodgins will be key in whether Oregon State can beat Arizona defensive backs.
Doug Taumoelau, LB
Oregon State’s defense, again like Arizona, has been fleeced very often in this young season. However, like Arizona, one of the Beavers’ best defensive players is a sophomore linebacker.
Taumoelau was another three-star prospect in 2016, and after redshirting in 2016 and playing support in 2017, he’s become the young leader his defense needs. Taumoealu has recorded 15 tackles this season. He has not recorded any havoc plays like sacks, tackles for losses, or forced fumbles this year. However, those at Oregon State believe this will change if Taumoelau continues his leadership role.
If Oregon State is to stop Arizona’s offense, Taumoelau will be a key reason why,
Jalen Moore, S
Oregon State’s defensive backfield is one of the few units they have that is led by upperclassmen. One of those key upperclassmen is safety Jalen Moore.
It’s never a good sign when a safety is leading the team in tackles. That’s the position Moore finds himself in heading into Pac-12 play. Nevertheless, Moore has taken the responsibility needed of him with so many players reaching the second level against the Beavers. Moore has 19 tackles thus far, and he defensed a pass against both Southern Utah and Nevada. Him and fellow safety Shawn Wilson are what has stopped a lot of plays against OSU’s defense, and Moore and the rest of the defense will need to step up against Khalil Tate and the ‘Cats.
Jordan Choukair, K
Oregon State had a chance to beat Nevada in Reno last Saturday, but two missed field goals by kicker Jordan Choukair cost them the game. Now, Choukair hopes to redeem himself in game one of the conference schedule.
Last year was rough in almost every way for the Beavers, but one of those areas was the kicking department. In Choukair’s sophomore season and first as the starting kicker, he was a dismal 12-19 kicking field goals. This year got off to a good start, as Choukair started 3-3 in games 1 and 2. In game 3, however, Choukair missed two critical field goals, one from 49 yards with 8 minutes left and one from 34 yards out as time expired.
To be fair to Choukair, he hasn’t missed an extra point in his career, and Oregon State had plenty of opportunities to beat Nevada before his missed kicks. However, if OSU and UA have a close game, it may come down to Choukair’s leg again, and he’ll need to forget about the Nevada game.
Arizona faces Oregon State in Reser Stadium at 1 p.m. MST on Saturday. You can watch the game on Pac-12 Network.