Oregon State Football: Chance Nolan remains sidelined, more carries for freshman Damien Martinez

Oregon State Beavers quarterback Ben Gulbranson is likely to start a third straight week since Chance Nolan has not yet been erased from concussion history.

Gulbranson, a freshman sophomore, was the starter for the past two weeks as the Beavers won games against Stanford and Washington State. OSU (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) hosts Colorado at 5 p.m. Saturday at Reser Stadium.

Nolan was injured late in the first quarter in a game on Oct. 1 in Utah. The fifth-year junior had started 17 straight games, including his first five this season.

Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said he was “optimistic, eventually,” Nolan would get clearance and play again. Smith didn’t name Gulbranson the starter Monday and said they were preparing with quarterbacks available for practice this week.

Gulbranson completed 12 of 24 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown in a 24-10 win over Washington State. In three games — Gulbranson played the last three quarters against Utah — he’s 47-of-77 for 616 yards and three touchdowns.

Against WSU, Smith said he thinks Gulbranson played well in game action pass situations and put the Beavers in proper running game looks. What Smith didn’t like was the pass protection. Gulbranson was fired once and was under duress too many times, resulting in an interception on one occasion.

“It’s not all anti-lightning,” Smith said. “They had some guys on his lap. We have to protect him better.”

Martinez’s time? Oregon State has had a three-man running back rotation since the start of the season. That’s not going to change, at least not yet, even as newcomer Damien Martinez begins to find his feet.

Martinez rushed for a career-high 111 yards against Washington State. In his last two games, Martinez has rushed 19 times for 194 yards and a touchdown. Martinez had rushes for 43 and 50 yards in his last two games, the longest for any OSU this season.

Smith acknowledged that Martinez “deserved more carries.” But Smith added that Jam Griffin had a couple of standout games and Deshaun Fenwick was stable all season.

“A pecking order, like a lot of carries, I still think we get into games and see who’s got the hot hand,” Smith said.

Injury updates: Smith said he hopes kicker Everett Hayes will return this week. Hayes, who missed the last three games with a groin injury, warmed up but didn’t play ahead of Saturday’s game against WSU.

Smith said defenseman Joe Golden is also nearing the return, but he doesn’t know if he would play Colorado.

Tight end Luke Musgrave (knee) and running back Trey Lowe (unspecified) continue to be out indefinitely.

Conservative on the fly: Oregon State went into a run-heavy offensive attack against Washington State because 47 of the 71 plays were rush attempts. That wasn’t quite the plan for the game.

“We wanted to do an action pass and get some shots down the field,” Smith said. “But we struggled to protect (Gulbranson). So we did a lot less of it.”

As Oregon State built a two-touchdown lead in the second half, Smith said running the ball and the clock became a priority over hitting passes on the field.

“Some of these action passes … on tape we just dodged those in terms of protection,” Smith said.

While Oregon State plans to lean on its running game, Smith said don’t count on the Beavers falling into conservative offensive mode the rest of the way.

“When we play against an opponent, we feel like we can put the ball up 25, 30, 35 times, we won’t be afraid to do it,” he said.

Wright excels: Oregon State named cornerback Rejzohn Wright as their defensive player of the game against Washington State. Wright had five tackles and two pass breakups. Tackles were one shy of a season high.

“He took his game to another level, I thought,” Smith said. “Tackle, be physical and not only with passport separations.”

Meager: Defensive defender Ron Hardge III plans to change redshirt and enter the transfer portal this season. Hardge, who is no longer listed on the OSU roster, played in four games this season and had five tackles. … A week ago, Colorado had the worst running defense in the country, giving up 294 yards per game. But under Mike Sanford, the Buffaloes gave up just 35 yards on the ground in his first game as interim coach against California. “It was energy,” Smith said. “They may have tweaked a few things with a new guide on this page. But they had energy, they tackled it well. You could see the confidence throughout the game.”

Nick Daschel reported from Corvallis

[email protected] | @nickdaschel

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