"It felt like it was a good time," coach Mike Riley said of the one-week break. "It was sort of near the midway point, and it felt like mentally and physically it was a good break for our team."
Mentally it was a good time to take a break due to the blowouts at the hands of Louisville and Arizona State. Physically it was also a good time as several key players rested their bodies and recovered from sprains and other mild injuries.
Last year California waltzed into Reser and destroyed OSU 49-7 in front of a shell-shocked crowd snapping a five game losing streak to the Beavers. The loss was humiliating but is severed as a wake up call to Oregon State. This year the roles are reversed and OSU hopes to return the favor.
"That was a low point," Riley said. "I don't think I have anything else to say about it, except it's one of those that it's hard to forget about it."
California is coming off a 47-40 loss to UCLA, their first loss of the season, in which the Bears' special teams gave up 162 yards and one touchdown in punt returns. OSU has yet to yield a touchdown on special teams, but the unit has been up and down throughout the season. Both teams are focusing on improving their kick and punt coverage in what could be the deciding factor on Saturday.
"We continue to explore the best people to have on the special teams, and also not only who they are, but where they play," Riley said. "So we've shuffled some things around a little bit in our coverage teams, not necessarily different people, but moving some people around."
The 57-game series between the Bears and Bruins dates back to 1905 with Cal leading 32-25. Cal has won 19 of 31 contests in Berkeley but has not defeated OSU on its home turf since 1997. The Beavers won 38-32 in 2000 and 35-21 in 2003. Currently, the Bears are on a 10-game home winning streak with their last loss coming in 2003 versus OSU.
In the 2003 victory OSU relied on the strong legs of Steven Jackson. In the 2005 match up Cal will rely on its two-headed rushing monster in sophomores Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett who fuel on offense that ranks second in the league in rushing. And while Cal will definitely focus on rushing the ball don't overlook their passing game that features freshman wideout DeSean Jackson who hauled in a career high 10 catches for 128 yards against UCLA.
"They do a great job in the running game. They have a good offensive line, their runners are really good, so that's going to be a big factor," Riley said. "You can't discount the plays that some of those receivers are starting to make because they round out their balance. We've got to be very concerned about the run, but also we're going to have to play good pass-defense because they have a system where they're very capable of throwing the ball."
Defensively the Bears are tops in the conference in total defense (306.33 ypg), scoring defense (16.67 ppg) and pass efficiency defense (97.56). The defense has yielded just four touchdowns through the air and has the league's co-leading interceptor in cornerback Daymeion Hughes - two statistics that don't bode well for the Men in Black.
"Their defense is not talked about much and that's really a strength to their football team," Riley said. "They're playing well, they're playing disciplined, and they really fly to the football."
With back-to-back road games this is yet another opportunity for the team to mold its identity. They have come from behind twice and got blown out twice. Riley loves the sprit of his team and hopes their resilient attitude becomes a staple for the rest of the year.
"We have to grow," Riley said. "I said that on day one at camp, and I still think that's true. Our best football for this group is in front of us, and I hope it comes faster and faster all the time."
- CB Brandon Hughes will receive his second start of the season.
- The starting outside linebacker has not been set with Andy Darkins and Derrick Doggett up for the starting role.
- As expected safety Al Afalava will see lots of gametime this week.
- Riley on the two come from behind wins molding his team's character:
"Sometimes they come in the beginning, sometimes they come in the middle, sometimes they come late, and the point that it's taken there is that you have to keep playing the game. And you have to focus on the next play. There's a lot of things that happen, and I'm hoping these are great lessons for our team about that because those were two impressive comebacks in pretty bad situations."
- Riley summarizing his team:
"I would describe Oregon State as hopefully growing. I don't know exactly who we are yet, and we've had some rough moments and some good moments in the season, but I like the spirit of this team. I think we'll prepare hard and play hard and have experience, some good growth. We've got some good receivers, and we've got a quarterback in here right now that's producing for us."
Cal head coach Jeff Tedford on Oregon State
After having a big win last year in Corvallis, how different is the OSU
team this year compared to last?
"Not a lot, really. They are still pretty stout against the run, they throw the ball for a lot of yards, their quarterback is playing well. and Mike Hass is a guy who, no matter what you do, they always seem to find him. He's a very good player. They are big and physical inside with good linebackers (and) a lot of man-to-man-type coverage. They are not a lot different. They are the same team schematically that they have been in the last few years."
Talk about OSU's senior receiver Mike Hass:
"He runs great routs and has great body control, and I think he is deceptively fast. The body control and his hands are awesome. If the ball is anywhere around him, he is going to go up and make the play. He uses his body very well to shield off defenders. He has a great knack for catching the football."
You don't really want to get into a throwing match with OSU do you?
"No, I don't think you do because they can throw it around, there is no question about it. Part of the reason they have thrown it around so much is because they have gotten behind in some games and they have to throw it a lot to come back. But they are very efficient with what they do. On the flip side of that is they are very good against the run. They maybe give up just a tad over a 100 yards a game rushing the football. We are going to have our work cut out for us to be able to run it."
For additional information, read the Oregon State at California notebook on BF.com.