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OSU still in the hunt for Rose Bowl berth

SPOKANE, Wash. — While others may focus on the prospect of No. 20 Oregon State making the Rose Bowl, coach Mike Riley wants his team to pay attention to today's opponent, Washington State.

The Cougars (1-9, 0-7 Pac-10) are having a woeful season, but that is no reason to take them lightly, Riley said.

"To lose focus and not get ready in every way to play our best game this week would be disappointing," Riley said. "You have to learn about your opponent and respect them and get ready to play your best."

"Washington State is what we need to get by, and that's all we're thinking about," added guard Gregg Peat.

Riley noted it wasn't so long ago that Oregon State (7-3, 5-2) was in a major rebuilding mode. He said Washington State coach Paul Wulff seems to have the Cougars improving.

"We just don't want this week to be their breakthrough week," Riley said.

That doesn't seem likely as Oregon State's Jacquizz and James Rodgers and quarterback Sean Canfield will likely be too explosive for WSU's porous defense to contain.

Canfield leads the Pac-10 in passing with an average of 256.6 yards per game. He has 17 touchdown passes and is fourth in the nation in completion percentage (69.8).

Jacquizz Rodgers has rushed for 1,148 yards and 17 touchdowns, and is averaging 114.8 yards per game. He's also caught 62 passes for 397 yards. His brother, James, a receiver, leads the Pac-10 with 179.5 all-purpose yards per game.

"They are 80 percent of the offense almost," Wulff said. "They are tough to defend."

While Oregon State is heading to the postseason, the Cougars will be playing their final home game in Pullman and looking mostly for a sign that the team is turning around after two dismal seasons.

"If you are a competitor you want to compete as hard as you can," Wulff said.

Senior Kevin Lopina will start at quarterback for WSU in place of injured Jeff Tuel. Lopina, who was the starter at the beginning of the season, was benched after the second game, and ended up running the scout team. But he came in in relief of Marshall Lobbestael in last weekend's loss to UCLA and led the Cougars to their only touchdown.

The Cougars average 13.4 points and 262 yards per game, while giving up 39 points and 511 yards.

The defense took a new hit this week when starting linebacker Jason Stripling and defensive lineman Toby Turpin were both suspended for off-field violations.

Oregon State is third in the Pac-10 and has already beaten second-place Arizona. They'll close the season at Oregon on Dec. 3, with the game possibly deciding the Pac-10 champion and representative in the Rose Bowl.

"If Arizona loses a game and we beat Oregon we go to the Rose Bowl right?" said OSU linebacker Keaton Kristick. "Just the possibility, I think that's really neat."