Scouting the Beavers

The most disappointing aspect of Oregon State's defensive performance is that the Beavers can't link any of it to inexperience (except at middle linebacker) nor injuries. The unit has been healthy all season, and there are nine players with starting experience...

Oregon State hopes to begin what has become its usual second-half surge with a home game against Cal on Saturday, and what's more unusual: the Beavers playing, or playing at home?

When the Beavers (3-3, 2-1 Pac-10) take the field, it will be their first home game in 28 days. It will also be only the third home game of the season for the Beavers, the fewest of any team in one of the six BCS conferences.

And with only six games overall, the Beavers match Troy, Florida International and Florida Atlantic as the teams that have thus far played the fewest games of any of the 120 teams in the FBS.

The downside of all that: no more byes or breaks in the final six weeks of the season. That's the price of a second bye in the first eight weeks of the season, but Oregon State hopes there's a benefit, too.

"We were able to look back and pull some things together, give guys a rest, and get healthy," coach Mike Riley said. "At the midway point, it felt OK.

"We know what we're heading into and we'll be in a rhythm of games for the next six weeks and hopefully we'll make the most of it."

The Beavers have certainly been a second-half team in recent seasons. If they beat Cal, they will have a 4-3 overall record for the sixth consecutive season, and the previous five all saw a late push take the Beavers to a bowl game.

There's immediate reason for optimism that the streak will continue. After the Bears, the Beavers play UCLA and Washington State, the conference's weakest two teams.

But maybe Oregon State better get to those six wins to be bowl eligible in the coming three weeks. The season ends with USC, Stanford and Oregon, the league's top three teams -- and there will be no break, nor bye, to recover from setbacks in that stretch.


--Third down continues to be pivotal for Oregon State. In three wins, the Beavers are converting 45 percent of their third downs into first downs, but have been successful only 36 percent of the time on third down in their three losses. The fourth quarter has been a particular problem, with Oregon State converting only 5 of 22 third downs into first downs in the final quarter of games.

--RB Jacquizz Rodgers continues to move past some notable names on the Pac-10's career rushing list. With 3,314 rushing yards in his career, the Oregon State junior now ranks 17th on the conference's all-time list, with Cal's Justin Forsett (3,320) and Russell White (3,367) just ahead and USC's O.J. Simpson (3,423) not out of reach in the next game.

--The 39 rushing yards for quarterback Ryan Katz may not seem significant, but this is the first time since 1997 -- when OSU ran an option offense -- that the Beavers have had a starting quarterback with positive rushing yardage. Katz has actually gained 131 yards running the football, but sacks on pass attempts have reduced his total to a net of 39.

SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads Oregon State 33-29 (last meeting, 2009, 31-14 Oregon State).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Beavers showed they could function without James Rodgers, out for the season with a knee injury, though they did lack the big plays against Washington that he could so often provide, on a pass play or a fly sweep. The extra week of practice allowed all of the receivers to settle into their new role, so the passing game should offer a better threat to relieve the emphasis of defenses to stop the running of Jacquizz Rodgers.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The most disappointing aspect of Oregon State's defensive performance is that the Beavers can't link any of it to inexperience (except at middle linebacker) nor injuries. The unit has been healthy all season, and there are nine players with starting experience. So what's up? Some of it may be the caliber of opposition, with games against Boise State and TCU, but the Beavers have simply not shown strength in any area in allowing an average of 459.2 yards per game. Only once last season did Oregon State give up that many yards in a game. Have offenses improved that much in one season?

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think our guys are used to about everything, whether it's noise or tight games or very, very good opponents. I think we've seen it all. We would hope that would be good preparation for the second half of the season." -- Oregon State coach Mike Riley on the Beavers being 3-3 after playing a schedule that is ranked among the nation's most difficult.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Cal at Oregon State, Oct. 30 -- Both teams attempt to lift their victory total closer to the six wins required for bowl eligibility before the schedules get difficult at the end of the season. The Bears (4-3, 2-2 Pac-10) have both Stanford and Oregon left to play, while Oregon State (3-3, 2-1) has those two opponents plus USC. Granted, each also plays Washington State in November, but a win in this game would be a definite boost toward a postseason appearance.

KEYS TO THE GAME: How well does Oregon State's defense hold up against the Cal offense that at times has shown great diversity? While the Bears don't have a quarterback as mobile as some that have caused Oregon Stat particular problems, Cal's Kevin Riley is experienced and does have a strong running game to keep defenses off balance. The Beavers will have to limit the production of Cal running back Shane Vereen.


QB Ryan Katz -- After three interceptions against Washington, the sophomore passer found out there will be difficulties, which he may have forgotten after his breakout performance at Arizona. Katz now has half a season of starts behind him. He's been on the road in hostile situations. He had a week to review his performances without another game looming, so his emphasis could be on his play and not preparation for an opponent.

WR Markus Wheaton -- His start against Washington was hampered by a knee injury that nagged him in practice leading up to the game, but the sophomore receiver should be better prepared to take over James Rodgers' role in the Oregon State offense. Wheaton had only one rush against the Huskies, for one yard, and four receptions for 43 yards. If not match what Rodgers did, Wheaton will need to provide more for the offense than that kind of production.

DT Stephen Paea -- Oregon State's honors candidate in the front four has been credited with one tackle in the past two games. Against Washington, he wasn't even in the lineup on a crucial fourth down for the Huskies. While offenses are concentrating on blocking him, a year ago he was able to fight through that. If he steps up his performance, it will go a long way toward the Beavers defense improving its play.


--Starting TE Brady Camp remains out with his ailing back. The soreness continues to limit him in even doing some of the conditioning workouts. Starting offensive linemen Alex Linnenkohl (ankle) and Grant Johnson (neck) used the off week to continue their rehabs but are still not fully recovered from their injuries.

--The recent spate of injuries to quarterbacks offered Oregon State a reminder that backup Cody Vaz has only been in for one series all season. He'll continue to get up to one-third of the snaps with the No. 1 offense in practices in case something happens to starter Ryan Katz. Top Stories