Pac-12: Corvallis 0812

Oregon State's bandwagon might start filling up

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
10:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
 James Rodgers caught six passes for 50 yards and ran 18 yards for a touchdown in Oregon State's 34-21 victory over California.

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon State is two wins away from "The Event That Shall Not Be Spoken Of."

So, coach Mike Riley, what about that thing? You know. That THING!

"What thing?" Riley said not even trying to keep a straight face.

Please, just ignore that massive bouquet of red flowers sitting in the corner. The one Oregon State hasn't held since 1965.

Oregon State's impressive 34-21 victory over California made its Rose Bowl dreams suddenly seem far more attainable.

Since the Beavers beat USC, they had won four consecutive Pac-10 games over the conference's bottom feeders. Cal, at 6-3, was supposed to be a major test.

If so, the Beavers got an "A" on both sides of the ball.

And it's getting harder to completely ignore that big, red, beautiful flower.

"The thing about having that in the back of our minds is we get hungry for it," quarterback Lyle Moevao said. "We want it so bad and we know what we have to do to get there."

What they have to do to get there is win at Arizona next weekend and then beat Oregon in Reser Stadium on Nov. 29.

Do that and they are going to Pasadena for the Granddaddy. 

Coach Mike Riley said he's not too worried about his players looking ahead and getting distracted.

"I think these guys believe these games are fun," he said. "So why start thinking down the road?"

Typically, this is when teams start talking about respect or their perception of the lack thereof. Funny thing is, the Beavers don't seem to care much what other folks think about them.

Receiver James Rodgers was asked if he thought the Beavers would win over doubters with their performance Saturday.

"It's all in the team," he said. "If they want to ride with us, they're going to ride with us. If not, then we know what we can do."

Defensive end Victor Butler was asked if he thought the Beavers bandwagon might start to fill up.

"It probably will but we've got 106 guys on the team and that's all we need," he said.

Clearly, Riley has these guys well-trained to keep their focus on the moment -- the next practice and the next opponent.

Yet, Riley admits that he's not immune to human nature, and that when he's alone with his thoughts, he does sometime see involuntary flickers of that THING, "The Event That Shall Not Be Spoken Of."

"Yes, I do," he said. "And it scares me."

Funny, he didn't look scared when he said that. He looked confident.

Beavers defense swarms California

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
9:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- A six-point lead is supposed to be a precarious thing, but Oregon State's defense made that margin look and feel like 60 against California.

The Beavers held California to 232 total yards, 65 of which came on one play.

The Beavers sacked Cal quarterback Kevin Riley five times. When they didn't sack him, they made him look like he expected to be hit at any moment. See his numbers: 11 of 25 for 117 yards.

His lone interception was returned 25 yards for a touchdown by Keenan Lewis, which put an exclamation point on the 34-21 victory.

"I think we kind of got in his head a little bit and got him frustrated," Beavers defensive end Slade Norris said.

Cal didn't convert a third down play after halftime and finished 2 of 13.

When the screws tightened in the fourth quarter -- that six point lead hanging there, vulnerable -- the Bears managed to gain just 1 yard on 12 plays.

We could go on.

"When it got to crunch time, we really were relentless defensively," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.

Said Cal coach Jeff Tedford: "I don't think they did anything scheme-wise. They just played better than we did."

Yep.

The Beavers had 10 tackles for a loss, with nine different players forcing the Bears to go negative.

It's sort of annoying when players and coaches rattle on about a "total-team effort," but it actually describes the performance, though tackle Stephen Pea (six tackles, two for a loss) and end Victor Butler (seven tackles, 1.5 sacks) deserve special note.

"At the end of the game, they looked a little tired and beat down," Butler said of Cal.

A year ago, the Beavers led the nation in rushing defense and ranked fourth in sacks. They ranked eighth overall.

They began the year with an entirely new starting front seven. That's why some silly folks thought the Beavers defense would struggle.

And they mostly did in losses to Stanford and Penn State.

No longer.

The Beavers now rank 17th in the nation in total defense. And rising.

Nothing cute about the Beavers offense

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
9:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
 Freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, above, and his older brother James each ran for touchdowns for Oregon State, who won their fifth straight.

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The Oregon State Beavers might seem like a scrappy team to many -- a bunch of overachievers. They're that adorable bunch that made big, bad USC look terrible on national television. They play in a small stadium and have funny uniforms.

Yet, Oregon State took over at its 29-yard line leading by only six points with 6:53 left in the game and proceeded to bully California for the next six-plus minutes. Oregon State did not look terribly cuddly. It knocked a stout defense backwards with nine running plays, and it became clear that these Beavers have bite and the Bears were overmatched.

The Beavers are physical. And they've got skills.

And, after a 34-21 win over California in front of a record crowd of 45,969 at Reser Stadium, they are two wins away from the program's first Rose Bowl in 44 years.

Cal knew that quarterback Lyle Moevao was coming back from a shoulder injury and they wanted to test that shoulder and make him throw.

The Bears also knew that the Beavers wanted to run freshman phenom Jacquizz Rodgers. So their first priority was to stop him. They could not.

"It's hard to hold him down; he's a great back," California coach Jeff Tedford said. "He was getting eight yards a crack down the stretch and leaving them in second and short. That ends up being the difference."

(Read full post)

Final: Oregon State 34, California 21

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
6:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- California had too little offense and Oregon State had too much Rodgers.

Jacquizz Rodgers turned in his seventh 100-yard rushing game. His brother James added a rushing touchdown and six receptions for 49 yards.

Meanwhile, Cal's offense was shut down by the Beavers aggressive defense, which had five sacks.

Neither quarterback played well. That left it to the supporting casts.

And the Beavers just had more.

They head to Arizona next weekend, their Rose Bowl dream just two wins away.

It ain't about the quarterbacks

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
6:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Or maybe the quarterbacks won't have anything to do with it.

Oregon State has asserted itself because its offensive stars are asserting themselves. California is still in the game because running back Jahvid Best can go yard -- and did -- at any time.

Jacquizz Rodgers has eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the seventh time this season, and his big brother James and fellow receiver Sammie Stroughter have been the story in the second half.

And not just by running the ball. Each produced a nice block or two that sprung the other.

The quarter ended with the Beavers on the Bears 17, courtesy of seven straight running plays.

Both coaches stuck with their quarterbacks. And then asked them to hand the ball off.

But, if the Beavers punch it in, can Cal come back without throwing the ball?

First half update: OSU 17, Cal 14

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
5:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Lots of sloppy play here.

Bad tackling. Dropped passes. Special teams miscues.

Oregon State leads 17-14 because of some good special teams play.

It seems like whichever team gets more from its quarterback in the second half will end up on the happy side of the scoreboard.

But both QBs struggled in the first half.

Cal's Kevin Riley was 5 of 14 for 63 yards with a short TD pass.

The Bears two best pass plays came on the same drive. The first required a missed tackle from Beavers safety Al Afalava, which allowed LaReyelle Cunningham to turn a short pass into a 35-yard gain. The second was a trick play, with receiver Jeremy Ross connecting with Nyan Boateng for a 30-yard touchdown.

Oregon State's Lyle Moevao was 8 for 18 for 96 yards with an interception in Cal territory. He doesn't seem to be showing ill-affects from his shoulder injury, but he doesn't look in sync either.

Any chance either coach might look to his bench, Jeff Tedford for Nate Longshore or Mike Riley for Sean Canfield?

Special teams thriving, QBs struggling

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
4:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Neither quarterback is in sync, but who cares when you have all these special-teams fireworks?

California's Jahvid Best went 51 yards on the opening kick, setting up the Bears for a 7-0 lead. Best didn't score because kicker Justin Kahut was able to wrestle him down, albeit by using Best's facemask.

Oregon State's James Rodgers then went to the house -- 86 yards untouched -- with the ensuing kickoff. Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio waved at him as he went by. It was the first kickoff returned for a touchdown this season in the Pac-10.

So, it was immediately established which team had the best tackling kicker.

Then Oregon State's Sammie Stroughter took a Cal punt 56 yards to the Bears' 2-yard line, setting up a two-yard plunge for a 14-7 lead.

All of this is exciting to watch, but the quarterback issue probably will end up being more critical.

Cal only produced one first down on its other three possessions of the half; Kevin Riley is 3-of-8 passing.

Meanwhile, Oregon State's Lyle Moevao tossed a badly underthrown interception, suggesting his shoulder might still be bothering him.

Does this game rest on Moevao's shoulder?

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
2:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- I keep thinking about Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao's strained shoulder.

He's expected to start, though he didn't return to practice full-go until midweek.

He seems to be the Point-A plot line of this game. If he returns to form, he's one of the Pac-10's best quarterbacks.

If his shoulder is still bothering him, he could make a critical mistake that could change the momentum of what figures to be a tight game.

That -- or another hit on the shoulder -- could lead to an insertion of backup Sean Canfield.

Canfield has played well stepping in for Moevao, but Cal's defense is a lot better than Arizona State's or UCLA's units.

Will the pressure of the moment, not to mention a Bears defense that produces a lot of turnovers and sacks, cause Canfield to revert back to his interception-hurling form of 2007?

Guess the ultimate question is, will Oregon State get enough out of its quarterback today -- whoever that is -- to keep its Rose Bowl dream alive?

Some notes, courtesy of ESPN.com's crack research team.

  • California leads the all-time series 33-27, but Oregon State has won seven of the last nine. Last year, unranked Oregon State upset then-No. 2 Cal, 31-28, Cal's victories in Corvallis in 2004 and 2006.
  • California is coming off a loss to USC. The Bears have not lost consecutive games since Nov. 17 (37-23 at Washington) and Dec. 1 (20-13 at Stanford) of last season.
  • With a win, Cal will have secured their school-record seventh-straight season with at least seven wins. The Bears have won at least seven games in each of the past six seasons, tying the school record of six straight seasons with seven or more wins from 1947-52.
  • Oregon State has won four straight and six of seven since losing by 31 to Penn State on Sept. 16. The Beavers' only loss in that stretch was to undefeated Utah, 31-28, on Oct. 2.
  • Oregon State hasn't won five in a row in a single season since 2000, when they won their last seven.
  • Beavers freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers leads the Pac-10 in rushing with 121.0 yards per game. He is the only player in the conference averaging over 100 yards per contest.

The Beaver Nation is mobilized

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
1:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- I'm flipping through the encyclopedia. Next to the entry for "Perfect Football Weather," is a live shot of Reser Stadium.

Crisp 50s. Lots of sun.

Big game.

Days like this remind me why I loved living in the Northwest so much. One of the great things about my job is I get to come back regularly.

Big fan of downtown Portland. Wandered over from the Marriott to my favorite restaurant in town -- Paley's Place -- Friday night and had a great meal (oysters, halibut, sweetbreads and my dad's martini recipe).

It's an 85-mile drive to Corvallis. Judging by the flow of orange flags zooming past me down HW 5 South, there are a lot of eager Beavers around. 

Got lots of gracious invitations to join tailgates before the game. Gosh, I wish I could. Looked like some good setups outside.

But duty calls. And I don't need the temptation to chuck the laptop, grab a brat and a beer and join the fun.

California coach Jeff Tedford is gathering his guys just outside the inflatable, black Oregon State helmet by the north end zone.

The countdown is on.

Will take a look at the football part of the afternoon in a bit ...

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