COMMENTARY: Katz growing up

SEEING JAMES RODGERS in shorts on the sidelines Saturday afternoon, the doubts crept in. I even started to resign myself to the fact that Oregon State, now without their top receiving playmaker, was going to lose. After all, OSU was without their most potent downfield threat, and Arizona State could just stack the box, stop Quizz and glide to a victory, right? Wrong.

And boy, was I ever, wrong. And what happened on Saturday bodes well for Oregon State the rest of the season.

After three games, James Rodgers led the team with nine catches for 113 yards. It was no secret that he had become Ryan Katz's favorite target and for good reason - Quon is one of the most talented, reliable receivers/playmakers in the nation. But that can also be a crutch for a quarterback, and especially a young, first time startin quarterback.

And make no mistake about it, Katz has done a fine job for a first year starting QB, taking care of the ball and managing the offense. The sophomore has yet to throw an interception and moves out of the pocket nimbly.

But sometimes he can also lock onto Quon, and through his first few games, he's too often missed the easy, short pass underneath.

But with James Rodgers out of the lineup Saturday, Katz was forced to look elsewhere. And he did so with aplomb.

Katz connected with eight different receivers against Arizona State, none of them named James Rodgers.

For comparison's sake, Katz spread the ball around to five different teammates in the loss at TCU, seven in the win over Louisville and seven in the loss at Boise State. But there's one very big difference with those numbers.

Of the eight Beavs Katz connected with on Saturday, four had three or more catches. In the previous three games combined? Four players had three or more catches total.

What Saturday showed was that Katz made huge strides in distributing the ball around the field, and he got truly comfortable with his receivers not named James.

Slotback Jordan Bishop, who had but five catches headed into Saturday, made four snags for 86 yards - a career high. Sophomore Markus Wheaton had just two catches going into the ASU game. He grabbed four receptions for a career high 48 yards.

Senior Aaron Nichols made his first touchdown reception of the year, and a sterling chain-moving grab early that seemed to give Katz and the entire offense confidence. And junior Joe Halahuni, who continues to emerge at tight end, had his third touchdown of the year.

And there's more. Sophomore Geno Munoz made his first catch of his career while senior tight end Brady Camp made his first reception of the season. Quizz was involved in the passing game too, moving the chains on his one reception. And Katz threw to Quizz at least three times, with one reception negated due to penalty.

James Rodgers has a good chance of playing in Tucson this weekend - he ran and caught passes during Sunday's workout.

With Katz now more comfortable with his receivers, and Quon likely back in the lineup, the Beavers chances of pulling off the upset are better as well.

Arizona is ranked No. 9 in the AP poll, No. 11 in the Coaches' poll. They are an 8.5 point favorite. They are undefeated at 5-0 and will playing in front of a rabid crowd. But I wouldn't count Katz, or the Beavs, out. Katz now has the confidence that can only come from facing adversity and finding the path to overcome it. And that type of confidence can be a dangerous thing.


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