Quarterback Ryan Katz played exceptionally well in leading Oregon State to a stunning victory over a top 10 opponent last week, but he’s going to have to go the rest of the year without one of his favorite targets.
Trying to overcome a season-ending injury to flanker James Rodgers, Katz and the 24th-ranked Beavers look to open 3-0 in conference play for the first time in 42 years Saturday night against Washington.
Rodgers injured his left knee in the second quarter of last Saturday’s 29-27 win over then-No. 9 Arizona. Despite missing more than half of a game Oregon State coach Mike Riley called “a huge win for our program,” Rodgers had seven catches for 102 yards with a touchdown and added 50 yards on two kickoff returns.
The senior, who is eligible for a medical redshirt, has routinely had performances like that, as he ranks sixth in the nation with an average of 176.8 all-purpose yards. He leads the Beavers (3-2, 2-0 Pac-10) with 16 receptions for 215 yards and has the second-most career all-purpose yards among active players with 5,784.
“It’s a big blow to the Beavers,” Riley said. “What we’ve got to obviously find in the football end of it is who’s going to gain all these yards.”
While Oregon State will certainly look different without Rodgers, he’ll especially be missed against Washington (2-3, 1-1). He had two receiving touchdowns in last season’s 48-21 win over the Huskies and three catches for 110 yards and two TDs in a 34-13 victory in 2008.
The loss of the dynamic Rodgers could make things more difficult for Katz, but the sophomore looks like he could be up to the challenge.
Facing the nation’s second-ranked defense last week, Katz completed 30 of 42 passes for 393 yards with two touchdowns and an interception - his first of the year. He also ran for a touchdown and scrambled for a first down on three third-down situations.
“I just see a lot more confidence in him,” tight end Joe Halahuni said. “He’s more of a leader off the field and in the huddle. He’s doing great running the ball, throwing it and making good decisions.”
Katz has also helped the Beavers open Pac-10 play with back-to-back wins for the first time since 2003. They haven’t opened league play with three straight victories since starting 4-0 in the Pac-8 in 1968.
Although Katz no longer has Rodgers to target, James’ younger brother Jacquizz Rodgers should help carry the offense.
He has rushed for 481 yards and seven touchdowns, and has amassed 253 yards and three TDs in two games against Washington.
Oregon State, which is averaging 28.0 points this season, has won six straight over the Huskies since a 38-17 loss in 2003 and is looking to take advantage of facing a vulnerable defense.
The Huskies are 104th in the FBS in total defense, yielding an average of 429.6 yards, and tied for 95th in scoring defense, allowing 30.8 points per game.
Washington was riding high earlier this month with a 32-31 win at then-No. 18 Southern California on Oct. 2, but it suffered a disappointing 24-14 home loss to Arizona State last Saturday.
The defeat was also damaging to the Huskies’ bowl hopes with their next four games coming against ranked opponents. After this contest, Washington visits No. 17 Arizona, hosts No. 14 Stanford and then travels to second-ranked Oregon.
“I’m not even looking at that. I think we get in trouble as a football team when we start looking at the ‘what-ifs’ down the road and the consequences of a loss or the what-ifs if we win,” coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian’s biggest concern is the health of quarterback Jake Locker.
Playing with an illness last week, Locker got winded on the slightest rollout or quarterback run. He finished 23 of 38 for 209 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
“I’ll be alright. Kind of a head-congestion type thing,” Locker told the Huskies’ official website. “I don’t know what it was. I just at times, I felt more tired than I ever felt.”