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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    No. 18 Beavs thinking big

    Bond created in off-season could be catalyst as they go forward
  • Markus Wheaton understands that people probably think he's crazy.
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  • Markus Wheaton understands that people probably think he's crazy.
    In the aftermath of Oregon State's 27-20 upset win over UCLA, a victory that put the Beavers at 2-0 and catapulted them into the Top 25, Wheaton was asked if this group is more tight-knit than teams of the past, and if that's playing a role in OSU's early success.
    The answer: A resounding "yes."
    "That bond we created in the offseason, it's definitely helping on the field," said Wheaton, a senior receiver. "We came into the season with one goal and we still have that goal. People will probably think it's far-fetched, but if we stick together, anything is possible. We're working to get there."
    "There" is the Rose Bowl.
    Yes, you read that right — just one season after going 3-9, losing to schools like Sacramento State and finding themselves divided because of a quarterback controversy, the Beavers are talking BCS.
    Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves. OSU might be ranked No. 18 after two wins over Top 25 teams, but there are plenty of improvements to be made: The running game isn't what it needs to be, and the secondary has looked vulnerable at times. Penalties remain a problem, and the Beavers have yet to play an opponent after just one week of preparation.
    The list goes on.
    But also consider that after a winter with a few off-field transgressions, Oregon State players have stayed out of trouble through fall camp and the first few weeks of the season. There's obvious leadership, and a chemistry that wasn't here last year.
    "It's a really good group of guys," said offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, "who want to play hard for each other."
    The importance of caring about each other might sound like a cliche when coaches talk about it, but there's truth in the value of a brotherhood.
    Take, for example, the friendship between running back Storm Woods and receiver Brandin Cooks. The two are practically inseparable off the field, and Wood said Saturday night that every morning since fall camp, Cooks would wake up and ask Woods when he was going to get his first career touchdown. When he finally got in the end zone Saturday, Woods couldn't wait to celebrate with his teammate and best friend.
    Quarterback Sean Mannion was so busy gushing about his offensive line after the game that he momentarily forgot he was talking to a reporter and said emphatically, "They've been kicking ass!" before apologizing for swearing, worried that his mom might get mad.
    Defensive players are excited for each other after big hits, and more than willing to pick up the offense when the Beavers have sputtered.
    There's a collective "us against the world" attitude.
    Who knows if any of this will add up to a big bowl game, much less the Rose Bowl. Certainly a BCS game seems like a stretch when you consider who OSU must go through.
    Oregon State has its share of daunting tasks ahead, starting this week at Arizona, where the Wildcats will be hungry to get into the end zone after a pathetic offensive performance against the Ducks in Eugene.
    But OSU coach Mike Riley and his staff have worked magic before, and the Beavers seem to excel when little is expected of them. So maybe it's a good thing that Oregon State opened as a 3-point underdog against Arizona.
    "We know who we are," Woods said. "We don't want to feel entitled to anything, but we want people to respect us. And if they don't, we'll come take it. I think we're going to do some special things this year."
    Then Woods was off to find Cooks, just one of 100-plus guys in the Oregon State football program who are trying to prove that with a little improvement and a lot of team camaraderie, even impossible things seem realistic.
    NOTES: Oregon State punter Keith Kostol has been named Pac-12 special teams player of the week. A sophomore from Tigard who played in his second career game, Kostol averaged 43.9 yards per punt and put four punts inside UCLA's 20-yard line in Oregon State's 27-20 victory over the then-19th-ranked Bruins. He punted seven times, including a 61-yarder late in the first half, and none of his punts were returned.
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