Beavers, Bruins both in search of first victory

CORVALLIS — While it may still be too early in the season for panic, Oregon State and UCLA open Pac-12 play today with, at the very least, some serious concerns.

"We've got a big job ahead of us," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "It's well documented that we have started poorly and we are looking at a big improvement. We will need it to win this game."

Oregon State has yet to win this season after a stunning 29-28 overtime loss at home to Sacramento State in the opener, then a 35-0 loss at then-No. 8 Wisconsin.

The Beavers regrouped with a bye week heading into today's game against the Bruins at Reser Stadium, but it was anything but a break. Riley made news when he named redshirt freshman Sean Mannion his starter at quarterback.

Mannion replaces junior Ryan Katz, who started against the lower division Hornets but lasted only about a half. The move was surprising because there was never mention in fall camp of a quarterback competition. Even Katz expressed shock last week.

But Mannion had steadily impressed the coaches, who felt a change was in order.

"I think he's handled himself very well. Now what you're looking for is continued growth. He has not seemed to be fazed by the situation he's in at all. He's been very poised," Riley said.

The Bruins (1-2) are also making a switch at quarterback, yet again, with Richard Brehaut set to start.

Kevin Prince was intercepted three times last week in UCLA's 49-20 loss to Texas, while Brehaut was unimpressive in the Bruins' 27-17 victory over San Jose State the week before. Both quarterbacks were supposed to be put to work in the season-opening loss to Houston, but Prince, who started, sprained his right shoulder and suffered a concussion in the second quarter.

Brehaut started six games for the Bruins last season when Prince was injured.

The quarterback shuffle isn't UCLA's only issue. The defense has yielded 1,274 yards and 104 points in the Bruins' first three games.

They'll face an Oregon State offense that will be invigorated by the return of two of its emotional leaders, flanker James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni.

Rodgers, who has had two surgeries on his left knee, was formally cleared to play by doctors earlier this week.

Rodgers was ranked sixth in the nation with an average of 176.75 all-purpose yards last season when he was hurt five games in at Arizona.

He holds Oregon State's record for all-purpose yards with 5,784. But Riley said that for now Rodgers will not handle kick returns, and he'll share time at flanker with true freshman Brandin Cooks.

"I haven't even thought of any goals," Rodgers said. "My No. 1 goal coming into this year was getting healthy. I'm there now and getting better each week. That's all I can ask for."

Halahuni, a senior who had six touchdown catches last season, had surgery this spring on his left shoulder.

"I'm excited to have him back," Riley said during Oregon State's weekly football press conference. "He provides us with a proven threat at tight end as a receiver. Physically, I think he feels a lot better than he has in a long time. He played a lot of last year with that shoulder."

Oregon State has not started a season 0-3 since 1996, but the Beavers started 0-2 in 2008 and still managed a bowl berth.

UCLA defeated Oregon State 17-14 at the Rose Bowl last season.

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