Salutations all. Nice win last week, eh? The defense was dominant over a Cougar offense that just couldn't get much of anything going, and the running game won the day against a Coug defense that just couldn't hang. A nice sight to see. The defensive effort in particular was quite a pleasant surprise to me. The Lobbster and company hadn't been shut down like that all year. Folks have identified Maynard as a dude who performs a lot better at AT&T Park, but how about our D? Most importantly, that win puts us one game closer to what, sadly, has become the Holy Grail for Cal football this season...bowl eligibility. Uh, sweet?
Squatting directly in our path towards a possible 6-win season is a pack of angry beavers. And they've littered that path with tree branches, weeds, mud and scent mounds that smell like piss. Yes, these Beavers of Oregon State have marked Berkeley as their territory. We've only beaten the Beavs twice under Coach Tedford, both times in Corvallis. That's right, Tedford has never beaten Mike Riley's Beavers in Berkeley. Aha, but will they be as comfortable in San Francisco?
If there were a year to break the Beaver dominance over our Bears, it's this one. They're sitting at 2-7, already assured that they'll miss out on bowl season for the second straight year. In week 1, they earned national notoriety when they were upset by Sacramento State in overtime. Ouch. The Beavs have tallied wins over Wazzu and Arizona, but the rest of the conference has not been kind. They've had to suffer through some growing pains...breaking in a new quarterback and trying to find a suitable replacement at running back for that damn Jacquizz Rodgers. They hung with Stanford last week for about 2 and a half quarters, so they seem to be coming together a bit now...which is just perfect timing for us. But hey, with nothing to play for but pride this weekend...maybe they just won't show up!
Not. Bloody. Likely. For whatever reason, these guys have our number. Offensively, they will look a bit like Wazzu: heavy on the pass, anemic on the run. That should be good news for us. So will we be able to dial up the same kind of success we found against the Cougs offense last week, or will once again succumb to the Beavs and let them make little territorial pissmounds all over AT&T Park on Saturday? Read on after the jump and join me in misery, won't you?
2011 record: 2-7
Week 1: LOSS vs Sacramento State (28-29)
Week 2: LOSS @ Wisconsin (0-35)
Week 3: LOSS vs UCLA (19-27)
Week 4: LOSS @ Arizona State (20-35)
Week 5: WIN vs Arizona (37-27)
Week 6: LOSS vs BYU (28-38)
Week 7: WIN @ Washington State (44-21)
Week 8: LOSS @ Utah (8-27)
Week 9: LOSS vs Stanford (13-38)
Last Season: 5-7 (WIN vs Cal 35-7)
2011 Offensive Stats:
Passing: 284.9 yards/game (21st)
Rushing: 94.6 yards/game (113th)
Scoring: 21.9 points/game (98th)
STARTER- Sean Mannion, Freshman (RS) - 6'5, 218 lbs
Mike Riley was quick with the hook, yanking last year's starter Ryan Katz (or as my Beaver buddy likes to call him..."Bag o' Dead Katz") just one half into the season opening upset loss at the hands of the mighty Sacramento State Hornets. Since then, the keys to the Beavermobile have been in the hands of Bay Area native, redshirt freshman Sean "Now You're a" Mannion. He's done a decent enough job too, throwing for 2447 yards, 11 TDs and 13 INTs on 64.3% passing. Thirteen picks is a lot though. Why, that's three more than Zach Maynard has thrown! And like Maynard, Mannion has had a couple solid games, a few "meh" games, and a couple awful ones. He was great against Wazzu, throwing for 376 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT. Oh, and he completed 76.5% of his passes in that game. He was awful against both Utah and ASU, throwing 7 picks in those two games alone. But he's only had one outing where he completed less than 60% of his passes (55.1% @ Utah). That's better than Maynard's season average (53.7%). Just sayin. He's unlike Maynard in that he's a bigger body guy who's not real mobile. He's most comfortable in the pocket and he's got a big arm. He'll roll out on occasion, but is really no threat at all as a runner. UNTIL SATURDAY WHEN THE BEAVERS UNVEIL THE PISTOL!!! Mannion looks like he'll be a hell of a QB in the coming years for the Beavs, but he's not there just yet.
Upside: Size, arm..tangibles
Downside: Decision-making, experience...intangibles
What to expect:
Expect Mannion to chuck the ball around a lot. He's got two very good receivers and a solid tight end. His line is a bit dinged up, and his running game is pretty poor by Beaver standards. We did a great job against a very similar offense last week vs Wazzu, so I think that unless Oregon State has a lot of early success with the run, we'll be playing a good amount of the same 2-4-5 alignment that we did against the Cougs. Lobbestael and the Cougar passing attack was statistically better than Mannion and the Beavs, but I don't think that means a damn thing. This is OSU we're talking about, and we will potentially be without the services of two of our best pass-rushing OLBs in Chris McCain and Dave Wilkerson. Since we always have to find a way to lose to the Beavers, expect us to not sack Mannion once, and he'll miraculously not turn the ball over at all. Career days all around. DOOM SHAKA LAKA!
STARTER- Malcolm Agnew, Freshman - 5'8, 188 lbs
Good riddance to the Quizz! The Beavs have not had much luck replacing their three year starting running back, but that can be attributed to a lot of youth and some injuries at the position. Freshman Malcolm Agnew (83 carries for 416 yards, 5 TDs) came out of the gates hot in week 1, rushing for an impressive 223 yards and 3 TDs on 33 carries. That's a Quizz-sized load, yes? Well, Agnew would seem to lack Quizz's durability...he missed the next 4 games with a hamstring injury. He returned for the week 6 loss to BYU, and had a strong showing in the Beavs' win over Wazzu in week 7 (103 yards, 1 TD on 23 carries). In his three appearances outside of the Sac State and Wazzu games, he's been held to 49, 26, and 15 yards though. Pretty meh. Both sophomore Jovan Stevenson (36 carries for 167 yards, 2 TDs) and redshirt frosh Terron Ward (42 carries for 131 yards, 1 TD) have spelled Agnew both during his injury and beyond. They're all smaller backs, with Stevenson being the biggest at 5'11, 193 lbs. He's been dealing with injury issues of his own. As a team, the Beavs are averaging 94.3 yards per game on the ground, which is pretty damn bad for them.
Upside: Quizz-like size?
Downside: Size, experience, durability, no one named Steven, Yvenson or Jacquizz.
What to expect:
I see yet another parallel here with the Wazzu offense. The Beavs should not see much success running the ball. They haven't all season, outside of the Sac State and Wazzu games. Yes, they did rush for over 100 yards against Arizona (128 to be exact), but it was on 35 carries and a 3.66 yard per carry average. We're a better run defense than those they've had success against. Of course, the transitive property doesn't mean shit in college football. Especially when we're talking about the Bears against the Beavers. Expect Agnew to run wild and free as the Beavs (somehow) dominate the line of scrimmage and rush for over 200 yards as a team. Seriously though, I'm more concerned about us defending the WR fly sweep than I am getting gashed by the Beaver backs. Just call me Doomer Esiason!
Markus Wheaton, Junior - 6', 178 lbs
James Rodgers, Senior - 5'7, 188 lbs
Jordan Bishop, Junior - 6'3, 205 lbs
Brandin Cooks, Freshman - 5'9, 170 lbs
These top two guys we should be pretty familiar with. Wheaton is a burner and has assumed the role of the Beavs top receiver as James Rodgers slowly returns to form after last season's gruesome knee injury. Wheaton leads the team with an impressive 60 receptions for 772 yards, but has somehow only tallied 1 touchdown reception on the year. After missing the first two games of the year, Rodgers has gotten back up to speed quickly, averaging 5 receptions and 56 yards in games he's played in. He's still dangerous with the ball in his hands. Junior Jordan Bishop and frosh Brandin Cooks have been nice complimentary pieces as well, hauling in a combined 48 receptions for 633 yards and 3 TDs. Bishop is a bigger body guy who missed last week's game vs Stanford with a bum ankle. He's questionable this week. Cooks is a little guy in the mold of Rodgers. He's got some speed and can stretch the field. And as I alluded to earlier, these guys are pretty good at the fly sweep. Wheaton has 16 carries for 98 yards on the year, Rodgers has 9 carries for 73 yards, and the frsoh Cooks has 7 carries for 30 yards. Fortunately, the Beavs actually haven't utilized this play a whole lot. The only time any of the above mentioned guys carried the ball more than twice in a game was Wheaton 4 times for 31 yards against UCLA. This is a good, athletic group.
Upside: Speed, running ability
What to expect:
This could go one of two ways. We could have the same success we did for most of the game against Wazzu if we can pressure Mannion and get him uncomfortable/hurrying his throws. That would help to neutralize the Beaver receivers and essentially their whole offense. That could definitely happen. Of course, this is Oregon State vs Cal, so the other likely scenario would be that we don't generate the necessary pressure on Mannion and he can set up in the pocket and wait for his speedy receivers to get behind the secondary or find space. Rodgers is more of an underneath threat, but Wheaton is a guy to be concerned about on the deep ball. If these guys are given time to get open, they will hurt us. I also wonder what effect the potential lack of depth at OLB will have on us stopping the fly sweep. After the UCLA Pistol debacle this year, any kind of motion or misdirection run play terrifies me. We could be without two of our more athletic OLBs, so will guys like Davis and Camporeale be able to step up if called upon? That said, the fly sweep alone won't beat us on Saturday (DOOMERANG!). If we pressure Mannion and don't let him set up, Rodgers and Wheaton will be neutralized for the most part. Much of our success against in the pass this year can be attributed to a strong pass rush. If that happens, we're good. If it doesn't, San Francisco is Beaver Territory *flat tails slap water in McCovey Cove*.
STARTER - Joe Halahuni, Senior - 6'2, 255 lbs
Halahuni is yet another familiar face in the Beaver offense, and a solid player. He missed the first couple games of the season, but has slotted back in well with 22 catches for 206 yards and 3 TDs in seven games. And he's been seriously underutilized in my opinion. His two best games were in both Beaver wins...catching 5 passes for 29 yards and 2 TDs against Arizona, and notching 3 catches for 41 yards and 1 TD against the Cougs. For those paying attention, all three of his touchdowns this season came in games the Beavers won. He's athletic for a big guy and has a knack for getting open in the red zone. Backing up Halahuni at tight end is junior Colby prince. He's got 8 catches for 40 yards on the year, but the bulk of that came in the first two games when Halahuni was out. He's a big body at 6'5 260 lbs, so don't be surprised to see him used in pass protection if we're really getting after Mannion.
Upside: Experience, red zone receiving.
What to expect:
Again, this could be contingent upon whether we're pressuring Mannion effectively. He hasn't done a good job of looking to Halahuni early in his progressions. If Mannion doesn't have time to check down because he's got a bunch of Bears in his face, Halahuni won't do much. On the other hand, a safety blanket like Halahuni could really help out Mannion if he is under fire. Just a question of if he can get the ball out and what kind of time in the pocket he's afforded. The middle of the field could be our soft underbelly if we're blitzing on the edge and our safeties are playing deep. Continuing on our theme though...I'm suffering from doomatoid arthritis. Halahuni will catch 3 TDs in the first half before cramping up from running so many seam routes.
LT: Mike Remmers, Senior - 6'5, 303 lbs
LG: Josh Andrews, Sophomore - 6'2, 295 lbs
C: Grant Johnson, Senior - 6'4, 293 lbs (Injured, doubtful for Saturday)
RG: Burke Ellis, Senior - 6'5, 292 lbs
RT: Colin Kelly, Junior - 6'5, 295 lbs
This is a pretty salty group that's had some struggles this year. Remmers has started an absurd 41 games and is a team captain. He's a former walkon who moved over from right tackle to left tackle this year. He's also responsible for a buttload of the penalty yardage against the Beavers this season. Andrews is a strong, versatile guy in his first year as a starter at left guard. He's played a bit at right guard as well and is also capable of playing center. He missed some games earlier in the season due to a sprained ACL. It sounds like regular starting center Grant Johnson will be out on Saturday due to a lingering ankle injury, which will open the door for sophomore Geoff Garner to make his second start this week. Garner is a big guy who will ultimately end up at tackle most likely (6'5, 305 lbs). At right guard, Burke Ellis should be back this week after recovering from a back injury sustained against Utah. He's another former walkon that started every game at right guard last year. Colin Kelly starts at right tackle, and has performed pretty well this year. He saw a lot of game time in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons. This group has surrendered 18 sacks in 9 games, but that number is skewed by the fact that they gave up 6 sacks to Utah alone two weeks ago. Obviously they've struggled to get a push up front when run-blocking against bigger and better defensive fronts too, as indicated by the 113th ranked running game. Still, there's a good amount of experience and nastiness in this group...as there always seems to be with Beaver offensive lines.
Upside: Experience, pass protection
Downside: Run blocking, penalties
What to expect:
The Beavs have been able to own us in the past by controlling the line of scrimmage and punishing our front seven by running the ball right at us. Well, this year's OSU team isn't really built to do that. Their OL personnel is decent enough, but they just have not had much luck against bigger defenses that are geared to stop the run. Perhaps Quizz made them look a bit better than they were, but these guys have had the most success this season running the ball against undersized defensive lines (Sac State, Arizona, and Wazzu). Undersized we are not. I think we can handle the trenches in the run game, although I don't see that being the primary goal of our scheme. The question is whether we can get to Mannion on the pass rush. Utah worked these guys over pretty well, but I have to circle back to our injured OLBs and wonder what kind of impact that will have. Will they even play? If so, will they be effective? We're likely to show a lot of the same 2-4-5 defensive alignment that we did late in the game against Utah and most of the game against Wazzu. But that formation was mainly effective because we had guys that could get to the quarterback. I know Cecil Whiteside is healthy and awesome, but Campo and Davis aren't awesome. Less of a threat from the OLBs will mean double teams on Guyton and Owusu. The pressure needs to come from somewhere. Where? Could those two guys missing the game put us in a position where we abandon that alignment? Or do we stick with it and suffer the consequences? Hard to tell at this point in the week. So...short answer on what to expect? Potentially no pass rush= doom goes the dynamite.
After review, this is an offense we should be able to handle. They're one-dimensional, and we're equipped to shut down the thing they do best. I should know better than to type this, but I'm starting to really buy in on our pass defense. I feel like we've matured quite a bit since the debacles that were Colorado and Washington. I think we can handle this passing attack. Should they try to run, we have the size, speed and athleticism to stop that too. They have some talented pieces, but inexperience at the quarterback and running back spots along with some shakiness on the offensive line should provide us with an opportunity to put on another dominant defensive display. Additionally, consider the following:
- Oregon State is as down and vulnerable as they've been in recent memory.
- Oregon State is playing for nothing but pride
- Sean Mannion has thrown more interceptions than Zach Maynard
- No Jacquizz Rodgers= an anemic Beaver running game
- Cal can attain bowl eligibility with a win.
- Cal is playing at "home"
- Cal shut down a similar if inferior team last week
- Cal is the more talented team
And guess what? None of that matters! At least, not in the fragile mind of this Cal fan. Know what matters to me? Tedford's never beaten Mike Riley in a home game and is just 2-7 vs Riley overall. Listen, I don't question our team's focus or their desire to win this game, but I'm from Missouri when it comes to beating the Beavers. On paper, it should happen. But that doesn't mean shit. Show me, Coach Tedford. Show me, Bears. Get it done. Get bowl eligible.
PREDICTION: Nope, not happening. It worked last week, so let's just leave it alone.