Eight short days away from the season opener, coach Mike Riley was still mulling over a starting quarterback for the Oregon State Beavers.

CORVALLIS — Eight short days away from the season opener, coach Mike Riley was still mulling over a starting quarterback for the Oregon State Beavers.

So he compromised.

Sophomores Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao had competed for the starter's job all through fall camp. Both appeared to have their strengths and weaknesses.

Riley decided that 6-foot-4 left-hander Canfield would start against Utah on Thursday, while 5-foot-11 Moevao, more of a scrambler, will play the second quarter. The coaches will evaluate as they go.

"I don't think they've separated enough," Riley told reporters in revealing his long-awaited (non) decision. The competition between the two could conceivably stretch beyond the first game.

But while they were still looking for a new starting QB, the Beavers returned 16 full-time starters, including tailback Yvenson Bernard on offense and Jeff Van Orsow and Derrick Doggett on defense. The defense was expected to again be the team's strength.

One notable earlier loss was receiver Sammie Stroughter, who came to fall camp but left shortly thereafter because of personal issues.

Stroughter said in a statement issued by the university that he was grieving the deaths of two family members, as well as the death this summer of Oregon State's Jim Gilstrap, who recruited the receiver.

Stroughter unexpectedly returned to the team this week and worked out in pads. However, it has not been determined when or even if he will return to action. Stroughter was the Pac-10's top returning receiver with 79 receptions for 1,293 yards last season.

His absence will no doubt put a lot more focus on Bernard, who rushed for 1,307 yards last season with 12 touchdowns. He also had 43 catches for 276 yards and a score. Bernard starts the season with 2,648 career rushing yards, third all-time at Oregon State.

One offensive player who has emerged for the Beavers is flanker Anthony Brown, who has shortened his last name from Wheat-Brown. He has excelled in camp, after inconsistency in each of the past three seasons.

Brown has started in 29 games with 94 career receptions.

As for special teams, the Beavers have reliable Alexis Serna, the 2005 Lou Groza Award winner for the nation's top kicker.

Serna made 22 of 29 field goals last season as a junior. With the departure of punter Kyle Loomis at the start of camp, Serna also has assumed punting duties.

The Beavers capped last season with a dramatic 39-38 victory over Missouri in the Sun Bowl. Bernard pushed into the end zone on a gutsy 2-point conversion run to give the Beavers their third straight bowl game victory.

Oregon State wound up ranked No. 21 with a 10-4 record.

Riley said the Beavers must guard against any thinking that they'll do the same this season.

"We can't have any complacency in that's who we were and that's who we'll become," Riley said. "It takes a lot of hard work."

Oregon State also beat then-No. 3 USC in Corvallis, 33-31. USC's John David Booty threw a 2-yard TD pass to Steve Smith with 7 seconds left to make it 33-31. But Van Orsow batted down another pass by Booty on the 2-point conversion to preserve the victory, called one of Oregon State's best ever.

From that team, the Beavers lost seven starters, including tight end Joe Newton and safety Sabby Piscitelli. The starting QB, whoever that might be, will be taking over for Matt Moore, who has since joined the Dallas Cowboys.

This season, Oregon State was picked to finish fifth in the conference by reporters who regularly cover the Pac-10. Whatever the predictions, Riley guaranteed the Beavers will be hard workers.

"I really think it's going to be rolling up our sleeves and being a lunch bucket group," the coach said.

The Beavers open the season against the Utes at Reser Stadium, which features a new video scoreboard — the largest in the Pac-10 — in the south end zone, part of the second phase of an expansion and remodeling project.