Last season: 8-5
This season: 3-3
Previous Cal-Oregon State results: The Golden Bears are on a three game losing streak. They lost 31-14 in 2009, 34-21 in 2008, and 31-28 in 2007.
Glass half-full view: Have played third ranked Boise State and fourth ranked TCU BCS squads pretty tightly. The Beavers were competitive through most of the 4th quarter in virtual road games, but ended up with nine and thirteen point losses. The Beavers have shown they can compete with the top teams in the conference, beating the Arizona Wildcats by two points in Tucson. It's hard to obtain anything meaningful from the stats (which peg the Beavers as below average in the conference), because their strength of schedule has been so tough.
Glass half-empty view: The loss of James Rodgers is a biggie. The Huskies, one of the worst defenses in the conference, bottled up the Beavers offense before the bye week, holding them to only 4.7 yards per play. The Oregon State defense behind Stephen Paea hasn't been its regular self. The Beaver linebacking corps seems to have dropped off from its regularly solid play, and generally good quarterbacks have torched their highly suspect pass defense.
Oregon State Offense
Ryan Katz definitely has a good arm on him. Now it's coming down to learning the Beaver offense. Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Corvallis Gazette-Times has more on what's going through Katz's mind on gameday.
Learning the quarterback position comes down to more than knowing the patterns receivers run on each play. He must read the defense before every snap and make adjustments.
For each play called there are various changes, or checks, that are done at the line of scrimmage. Katz doesn't call a full audible, which is when the play is changed.
Checks are adjustments to where the ball is being run or how deep a receiver goes, depending on the look of the defense. Katz must know what's coming to avoid problems.
"There's a lot of stuff that goes into that position," Langsdorf said. "And we coach them hard and put them through a lot of different situations."
After Katz reads the defense and calls out his play adjustment the ball is snapped. If he's right, the play works. If not, disaster strikes with a broken play, a loss of yardage or turnover.
The common change to a pass play is where his progression starts. Katz could look to the split end first followed by slotback, flanker, tight end and running back in any order depending on the play called.
If a certain player must be thrown to to get a certain amount of yardage for a first down and he's covered, that's when Katz may change the pattern or go somewhere else.
Katz has shown flashes this season, and he's managed to get the ball to his receivers with increasing regularity. He came up big in the desert against Arizona, pull off the upset (in the video below, check the passing plays starting at 2:27, particularly checking out his rollout throw at 4:03).
Arizona vs. Oregon State Breakdown (via DailyWildcatTV)
But as is the case with almost any first-year starter, Katz struggles with consistency, completing only 57% of his throws on the season. After throwing ten touchdowns and one interception all season, he threw three against the Huskies. His game-by-game performance is below.
(Bold number in parenthesis next to team name indicates passer efficiency defense.)
|09/04/10||+ 4 TCU (5th)
|09/25/10||@ 2 Boise St. (22nd)
Arizona St. (70th)
|10/09/10||@ 15 Arizona (38th)
|10/16/10||@ Washington (92nd)
In comes Cal sitting at 18th in passer efficiency defense, although much of their feasting has come against unprepared and less talented quarterbacks. Katz does fall into the inexperienced category, but he's shown he can raise his game to beat teams like Arizona. Can he catch Cal off balance?
Katz's main target has been Markus Wheaton, who's caught 11 passes for 156 yards in the last two games and is trying his best to replace James Rodgers's production. Tight end/H-back Joe Halahuni (who obliterated the Bears last season) was instrumental in the Arizona victory, snagging 5 catches for 70 yards.
Still, there's only one James Rodgers. Paul Buker of the Oregonian has more.
"That whole thing with him not practicing is strange to me.'' [remarks MIke Riley]
Riley said OSU would find out that losing one of the nation's top all-purpose players would have a trickle-down effect. Well, part of that trickle-down effect was losing at Washington (no way the Beavers drop that one with J Rod in lineup) and if Saturday's game has its precarious moments - which it probably will - fans will also wonder what if. What if Rodgers hadn't gone down with a season-ending knee injury in Tucson.
The parts are there, Riley believes, to at least partially compensate for the loss of No. 8. "You try to get your personnel solidified (receivers all knowing their roles, for instance) and then you look at what are we doing well and what are we not doing well,'' said Riley. "What do we need to improve. What do we need to just flat throw out, say let's quit beating our head against the wall and say this is not good.''
The focus of the Golden Bear defense will probably be on Jacquizz Rodgers. He's been operating out of the Wildcat, he's been throwing out of the Wildcat, and he still manages to break plenty of tackles despite his size issues. Cal contained Quizz last year; they'll need to do it again this season.
Quizz is obviously talented (anyone who's watched the last two seasons can attest to that), but his production is down compared to previous seasons. But he has faced some pretty epic defenses.
(Bold number in parenthesis next to team name indicates run YPA defense rank.)
|09/04/10||+ 4 TCU (20th)
|09/25/10||@ 2 Boise St. (1st)
Arizona St. (27th)
|10/09/10||@ 15 Arizona (5th)
|10/16/10||@ Washington (105th)
As you can see, he's done his best against formidable competition, particularly Arizona State. But Boise, TCU and Arizona contained him pretty well.
What’s it going to take for Quizz Rodgers to really break loose?
Better blocking, suggested an Oregon State lineman. Quicker recognition of what he needs to do, said Rodgers himself. Continued improvement in every aspect, said OSU coach Mike Riley.
"I think we just have to do a better job overall in the running game," summed up OSU quarterback Ryan Katz. "We’ve just got to keep opening up those holes ... he doesn’t need a lot of room to make guys miss.
"We’ve just got to keep giving him the ball and let him get his yards."
Riley has been known for developing his players and coaching them up, but even this many walk-ons up front is asking a lot. Will they perform well as the season wears on?
Nevertheless, expect the Beavers to step up with a big effort on Homecoming Weekend as they try to steer themselves toward Pac-10 title eligibility. Cal's defense is going to have to be prepared to match that fury.
Oregon State Special Teams
- 70th in punting behind Johnny Hekker.
- Justin Kahut has only attempted five field goals. He's made three of them. He's also missed two extra points. And his kickoffs are blow average.
- Wheaton has only returned one punt this season in place of Rodgers. He went 52 yards. Beavers are solidly average at punt return coverage.
Jordan Poyer has taken over return duty for Rodgers. There's been virtually no difference in production; Beavers are 7th in kickoff returns, and 41st in kickoff return coverage.
Oregon State Defense
Stephen Paea was supposed to be a Pac-10 defensive player of the year candidate, but the struggles of the rest of his unit have been problematic. There's still plenty of respect from everyone else though. Okanes with more.
The offensive front's assignment: Deal with Oregon State's Stephen Paea, a handful of a defensive tackle who is expected to go during the first two rounds of next spring's NFL draft. At 6-foot-1, 285 pounds, Paea possesses a combination of immense strength and quickness that will require Cal's interior linemen to be at their absolute best when the Bears visit the Beavers on Saturday. "We had our meeting Monday at 6:45 and Coach Marshall was making sure they were awake," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "There's a big challenge, and we have to rise to the challenge. You have to be ready to compete against him because he's going to get off the ball hard and fast, and he's relentless." ... "It's always fun going against great competition," Cal center Chris Guarnero said. "He's a great player. He's really quick off the ball. He plays with great leverage and he's super strong. You prepare for it and then go out there and try to compete against a great player."
The offensive front's assignment: Deal with Oregon State's Stephen Paea, a handful of a defensive tackle who is expected to go during the first two rounds of next spring's NFL draft. At 6-foot-1, 285 pounds, Paea possesses a combination of immense strength and quickness that will require Cal's interior linemen to be at their absolute best when the Bears visit the Beavers on Saturday.
"We had our meeting Monday at 6:45 and Coach Marshall was making sure they were awake," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "There's a big challenge, and we have to rise to the challenge. You have to be ready to compete against him because he's going to get off the ball hard and fast, and he's relentless."
"It's always fun going against great competition," Cal center Chris Guarnero said. "He's a great player. He's really quick off the ball. He plays with great leverage and he's super strong. You prepare for it and then go out there and try to compete against a great player."
OSU’s very vocal and very animated starting right defensive tackle leads the team with eight tackles for loss – he ranks No. 3 in the Pacific 10 Conference – and he’s tied for the team lead in sacks with three.
On a team where most of the pre-season publicity went to All-American candidate defensive tackle Stephen Paea, Olander’s breakout senior season has been attention-grabbing, not only for OSU fans but NFL scouts who suddenly have No. 78 on their radar.
"He’s explosive, and I think his wrestling background has been really good for him physically,’’ said Riley.
"There’s also the mental attitude. He brings a lot when he plays. He’s very, very competitive. And he’s a lot of fun. He’s a great team guy, and I also think there’s a special appreciation (among the players) for any guy who has worked his way through the ranks.’’
Olander is, of course, a walk-on. How the hell does Riley and his staff do this?
Despite their strong interior, the Beavers have never really solved their troubles.
(Bold number in parenthesis next to team name indicates run YPA offense rank.)
|09/04/10||+ 4 TCU (7th)
|09/25/10||@ 2 Boise St. (8th)
|10/02/10||Arizona St. (75th)||Turf||W 31-28||51||161||3.16||2|
|10/09/10||@ 15 Arizona (61st)
|10/16/10||@ Washington (46th)
Not an easy task to deal with three top 15 rushing offenses off the bat, but the recovery within the conference has been slight. Cal's run game isn't as explosive, but 36th in run YPA isn't too shabby. This is a big test for the Cal offensive line. If they can't handle things inside, the onus will be put on Kevin Riley once again.
And that's where the Beavers pass defense has to step up behind safety Lance Mitchell and cornerback James Dockery. But perhaps they've been getting too much blame for trying to hold the fort for a not-so-solid linebacking corps. The quarterbacks they've had to shut down aren't exactly easy pickings.
(Bold number in parenthesis next to team name indicates passer efficiency offense rank.)
|09/04/10||+ 4 TCU (22)
|09/25/10||@ 2 Boise St. (1)
|10/02/10||Arizona St. (74)
|10/09/10||@ 15 Arizona (19)
|10/16/10||@ Washington (59)
When you look at those numbers, giving up gaudy stats to Nick Foles, Kellen Moore, Jake Locker and Andy Dalton isn't anything to be ashamed of--it's what's expected. Riley is a step down from those guys. He'll need good pass protection and he'll need the run game to get going. He can't do it alone.