To protect him from injury, Yvenson Bernard had been held out of Oregon State's preseason scrimmages.
After shredding Utah's defense for 165 yards and a two touchdowns in the Beavers' 24-7 opening night win Thursday, Bernard explained why that was a good idea.
"You can see what our defense does to opponents," the senior tailback said.
The Utes, held to 18 rushing yards, certainly did. They lost their top two offensive weapons &
quarterback Brian Johnson (separated shoulder) and tailback Matt Asiata (broken leg) &
before the end of the first half.
Between Bernard's hard rushing and a stingy defense that allowed just 196 offensive yards, Beavers coach Mike Riley could afford to take his time deciding between sophomore quarterbacks Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao.
Canfield (8-of-19 for 87 yards and one touchdown) seemed to have the better night. Moevao was 3-of-9 for 32 yards with an interception, but he played less and did lead the Beavers on a scoring drive that Bernard capped with a hard-fought 9-yard TD run.
Riley wasn't ready to pronounce anyone the starter yet.
"Both quarterbacks had their moments," he said. "Obviously both of them can do better."
Bernard was Oregon State's workhorse, carrying the ball 29 times for a 5.7-yard average. With the quarterback situation appearing unresolved and with third-team All-American Sammie Stroughter's future with the team still unclear, Bernard likely will continue to carry the Beavers' fate.
While Oregon State (1-0) has both momentum and optimism as it travels to Cincinnati for a nationally televised game Thursday night, Utah is looking for Plan B.
Asiata's season is over and Johnson, who redshirted last year with an ankle injury and shouldered many of the hopes the Utes had for the season, is out at least three weeks, the team said Friday.
"We lost Brian, we lost Matt, and we had to have some guys step up but we didn't respond," Utah coach Kyle Wittingham said after the game.
Backup quarterback Tommy Grady had nine completions for 24 yards and the Utes managed just 62 yards of offense after Johnson left late in the second quarter.
In for Asiata, Ray Stowers had 11 carries for 26 yards. The Utes (0-1) face Air Force Sept. 8, then UCLA the next week.
True freshman receivers Darrell Catchings and James Rodgers were pleasant surprises for the Beavers. Catchings had two nice catches for 23 yards, including a touchdown from Canfield. Rodgers, a 5-foot-7 jitterbug from Richmond, Texas, ran the ball on laterals and reverses four times for 62 yards.
As the Beavers let Stroughter deal with personal issues, the emergence of the freshmen was welcome for Riley.
"Those guys are going to be really good players," Riley said. "They're both smart players and they are both pretty much unfazed by the step, which is kind of neat."
The Beavers have never faced Cincinnati, which is coming off a 59-3 win over Southeast Missouri State. Though the game will be at night, Oregon State coaches expect heat and humidity to be a factor. But they believe the Beavers can combat it with lots of substitutions. The defense is deep; 25 different players were in on a tackle Thursday night.
"The sky's the limit to what (the defense) can do if we continue to work hard and make sure we are detailed in what we do," cornerback Brandon Hughes said.
Defense and of course Bernard show toughness in OSU victory