BERKELEY -- While California head coach Sonny Dykes lauded Gary Andersen's Oregon State team for "playing hard," the Beavers have been pretty much a walk-over in the Pac-12 this season, going 0-6 in conference play and 2-7 overall.
Defensively, the Beavers have the lowest sack total in the conference and the second-lowest interception total. For an offense that's had issues with both, it should be a welcome relief from the past four weeks. Quarterback Jared Goff has seen his highest sack percentage in three years, this season. It's currently at 5.7% of his drop-backs, after 5.6% in 2013 (when Cal allowed 33 sacks) and 4.9% in 2014.
After last week in Eugene, the Bears have opened up the left tackle position, with Aaron Cochran taking the majority of the snaps early this week in practice.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1610165-is-osu-cal-s-last-... "Obviously, Aaron does some good things, and we've got to prepare for the future, so it's open, but at the same time, we just need some competitive depth there, and I think Aaron provides that," said offensive line coach Brandon Jones. "He's really impressed me in a few games, and he'll have some growing pains. He's done a good job. We've kind of thrown him in the fire. It hasn't been a gradual deal. It's been, 'Hey, you're starting this week.' He's responded well, and I expect him to continue to get better."
Incumbent starter Brian Farley, Goff said, has not been at his healthiest all season, and Jones said that's certainly played into Cochran getting so much time on the field, seeing action in eight of nine games, with two starts. Jones said this week that protecting Goff and making way for the run game is "all about pride" at this point in the season.
"We need to take more pride in what we do," Cochran said. "If we play well, the offense plays well, and that's what we can take pride in -- getting better every day, and keeping people off the ground."
Goff's interception rate has also risen this year, to 3.4% of his passing attempts, up from 1.3% last year, and 1.9% in 2013.
"We just had a hard time getting open, and I had a hard time finding open receivers, threw some high balls, threw some ill-advised balls, and just had a hard time finding open guys all night," Goff said of his dismal night in Oregon, against the nation's third-worst passing defense. "They had me moving around pretty good in the pocket, and they played a good job on defense, and we had a hard time getting guys open."
Nationally, Oregon State ranks 124th in the percent of plays run by opposing teams that result in a turnover, a sack or a tackle for loss for the Beavers defense. They're also 101st in opponent plays that go for a first down or touchdown (33.82%). With a new coaching staff, Oregon State's defense is different from that which Goff has seen each of the past two seasons.
With such dismal numbers in the secondary, it's a bit of a surprise that, generally, the Beavers have a pretty veteran group back there. Led by redshirt senior corner Larry Scott, seven of the 10 players on the depth chart in the secondary are at least in their third year in Corvallis.
"I think that the best way to describe it, the type of scheme they run is similar to San Diego State," Goff said. "It's a lot of moving parts, a lot of moving pieces, three-man front, guys moving around a lot and blitzing a pretty good amount. It'll be similar to that, scheme-wise. I think they've got some better players over there, they're athletic and play hard."
The safeties -- Cyril Noland and Justin Strong -- hit hard, Dykes said, as do linebackers Jaswha James (redshirt senior, at 6-2, 266), Bright Ugwoegbu (6-2, 217, redshirt freshman), Rommel Mageo (6-2, 233, redshirt junior) and Caleb Saulo (6-1, 225, redshirt junior).
That said, Oregon State's 1.25 sacks per game is 115th in the country, the Beavers' 4.00 tackles for loss per game is 124th and their 4.83 yards per rush attempt allowed is 101st.
Opposing quarterbacks are completing 66% of their passes against Oregon State, good for 118th in the country. The Beavers average just 1.75 pass break-ups per game, which is 126th -- second-to-last -- in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"We'll be loose," Goff said. "We'll be confident. We'll be loose. I've said it over the last four weeks -- we've played four really good teams, and could have very easily won two of them. Two of the games, we didn't play very well at all. The other two, we were a play or two away from getting a win, and that's against four very good teams. I'm not looking for moral victories -- no one is -- but we understand that we are still a really good team, and we still have a really good chance to wnd this season and win eight games and go to a bowl game with eight wins."