Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Cal, Oregon State looking for consistency
By Ted Miller
Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz doesn't think there's anything strange about California's wild swings in quality of play. Just look around the entire conference.
"They've been been up and down," Katz said. "A lot of teams have been up and down."
That's true. Take Katz's Beavers. They were good enough to win at No. 15 Arizona -- the Wildcats only loss -- but couldn't take care of business at Washington. The Huskies? They win at USC, but lose at home to Arizona State. The Sun Devils? They beat the Huskies but get drilled by Cal.
Cal? It blows out UCLA and Arizona State, but gets blasted by Nevada and USC.
Jacquizz Rodgers and Oregon State sill have an outside shot at the Pac-10 title.
The Bears are 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. They've lost nine of 11 to Oregon State and haven't beaten the Beavers since 2006. Last year, they got blown out 31-14 at home.
But this game feels like a pick 'em. Despite coming off a bye week, the Beavers are banged up. Receiver James Rodgers is done for the season with a knee injury, tight end Brady Camp (back) is out for Saturday and perhaps longer. Receiver Markus Wheaton (knee), center Alex Linnenkohl (ankle) and offensive guard Grant Johnson (neck) are expected to play but aren't 100 percent.
Cal has no significant injuries. Even its psyche has to feel better after it followed an embarrassing blowout loss to USC with a dominant effort against the Sun Devils.
Can't win on the road? Quarterback Kevin Riley dismissed that as just a "just a weird thing." And safety Sean Cattouse promised the Bears will find a solution.
"It's an issue that everyone knows amongst the team," he said. "So we're definitely going to get it fixed this week."
In last year's game, Beavers quarterback Sean Canfield picked the Bears apart, throwing for 342 yards, and H-back Joe Halahuni had a coming-out party with six catches for 128 yards. It's likely this go-around, however, that the Beavers are going to need more from their running games. Cal is too good at rushing the passer -- see 19 sacks -- to expect Katz to throw 39 times, as Canfield did in Berkeley.
That means the Beavers need to get Jacquizz Rodgers going. Rodgers has been grumpy -- in his mellow, mostly good natured way -- about the running game this year. While he's averaging a solid 103.5 yards rushing per game and has scored 10 TDs, the rushing offense as a whole ranks ninth in the Pac-10 with just 120.7 yards per game. Blocking has been an issue.
It's clear that Rodgers has Cal coach Jeff Tedford's attention. Consider this laudatory scouting report.
"When you talk about jump cuts -- jump cuts are when you're in the hole and you can jump sideways and then go forward very quickly-- he's a master at that," Tedford said. "So if you're in front of him and he jumps sideways on you, you've got to get on him right away or he will spurt through a hole and be gone. You just can't arm-tackle the guy. He is built low to the ground and very strong, and then when he gets in the open field he has great speed. You can never go to sleep on him. You can never relax and think he's down because he'll come spurting out of there and take it the distance."
If Oregon State (3-3) manages to win, it will improve to 3-1 in Pac-10 play. The win over Arizona and remaining games with Stanford and Oregon mean that the Beavers, if they won out, could still win the Pac-10.
That might be a reach for a team that lost to Washington. But the Beavers have been here before and started a late-season run that few saw coming.
As for Cal (4-3, 2-2), a win at Oregon State -- a second consecutive win, a road victory -- might indicate the Bears are finding some consistency. They play host to both Oregon and Stanford on back-to-back weekends (Nov. 13 and 20) down the stretch.
So who knows? The unpredictable teams in the Pac-10 could create chaos in the conference. A good candidate to do that probably will be the winner in Corvallis on Saturday.