'We rammed it down their throat'

Post game news and notes from Oregon State's 23-20 victory over California.

Play of the game.
The play of the game was a combination by the special teams, defense and offense midway through the final quarter. After exchanging turnovers the Beavers had the ball at their own 45 and down 20-16. The Cal defense forced a three and out and a punt. For the second time in the game, Sam Paulescu got off a towering kick that was downed by Patrick Fuller and Gerard Lawson on the Cal one yard line.

The Beaver defense gave up one first down before safety Sabby Piscitelli showed his athleticism going up high for his second game changing pick of the season. The interception was similar to his one against Washington State in which he disguised his coverage and jumped the route. The Beaver offense took the field at the Cal 32. In six plays, aided by a crucial screen pass to Nate Wright, Yvenson Bernard scampered into the endzone for OSU's final points and the lead for good.


Players of the game.

Offense - The ground game started out slow in the first half but started to open up holes late in the second quarter. At half time coach Mike Riley said they would keep pounding the ball. On OSU's first drive of the second half they played smash mouth football moving the ball 80 yards on eight plays. Adam Koets and Jeremy Perry and the pulling Kyle Devan were devastating as they gave Bernard plenty of room to roam.

Bernard finished with a career high 194 yards on a whopping 42 carries and got stronger and more confident as the game progressed. It was the first time since 1981 (USC, Marcus Allen, 46) that a player facing Cal carried the ball more than 40 times.

“I’m not even tired,” Bernard said. “Give props to the offensive line. What a job those guys did. They had confidence. In the first quarter, they were saying, ‘(Cal’s defensive line) isn’t that great. We can beat those guys.’ That gave me confidence, too.”

Defense - Linebacker Keith Ellison has dominated games before (see last year's bowl game) but Saturday's performance may be the best of his career. Ellison finished with a co-team high nine tackles, including two sacks and one tackle for loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He was constantly in the Cal backfield harassing Joe Ayoob as he side stepped blocks and played very fast.

“I told coach (defensive coordinator Mark) Banker, after the first series, that they couldn’t block me out there,” Ellison said. “I just kept telling him, ‘Send me every time, and I’ll get some (sacks) for you.’

Special teams - The value of Sam Paulescu cannot be overstated. He handcuffed the Bears several times as he pinned them on the one twice and placed six of his seven kicks inside the twenty. Paulescu averaged 49.9 yards per kick.


Shades of Dwan Edwards and Eric Manning.
Sometimes its hard to spot if the defensive tackles are playing a good game or not. They usually don't make a lot of tackles and rarely get to the quarterback. OSU standouts Dwan Edwards and Eric Manning are two of the better tackles to play at Oregon State. The extra attention paid to them allowed the defensive ends and linebackers to make plays.

Sir Henry Anderson, Alvin Smith and Ben Siegert brought back shades of Edwards' and Manning's play as they dominated the Cal offensive line. Anderson and Smith pushed their opponents back two to three yards every play disrupting the pocket and the rhythm of Cal's offense. Smith and Anderson's play also allowed the linebackers to have a big day. The two big fellas also brought a lot of energy which lasted the entire game - a good sign of things to come.


Rushing attack.
The Beaver running game has been steadily improving all season. Here's a look at the rushing stats so far this year.

  • Portland State - 26-77, Bernard 14 carries for 56 yards
  • Boise State - 30-83, Bernard, 13 carries for 92 yards
  • Louisville - 35-42, Bernard, 18 carries for 66 yards
  • Arizona State - 47-144, Bernard, 28 carries for 134 yards and one touchdown
  • Washington State - 36-120, Bernard, 28 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns
  • California - 45-194, Bernard, 42 carries for 194 yards and two touchdowns


Redzone woes.
After ranking at the top of the conference the last few seasons the OSU offense is struggling to score touchdowns in the redzone. In the first half the Beavers went inside the Cal 10 yard four times and came away with just nine points. On the season the Beavers have kicked 12 field goals and scored 12 touchdowns in 31 tries in the redzone.

“I didn’t like it,” Riley said of his team's struggles in the redzone. “I’m glad Alexis kicked the field goals, but we’ve been the first-ranked red zone offense in the Pac-10 for two years, but were not hitting on those cylinders. We have to get better at it, I hope, and that could have played a big, big difference.”


Special teams.
The kickoff and punt coverage was a point of emphasis during the bye week and the unit made big strides Saturday as they beautifully executed a 51-yard punt return that included a reverse, downed the ball on the Cal one yard line twice, made solid tackles on the kickoffs and helped force Cal to start 12 of its 16 possessions inside their own 20.

Patrick Fuller and Gerard Lawson had outstanding games as the gunners getting down the field quickly to down the ball on punts. The kickoff coverage team got back to the fundamentals instead of wildly rushing down the field. They squared up on their tackles and made solid hits instead of trying to make spectacular plays. Anthony Wheat-Brown and Alan Darlin both had punishing hits on kickoff returns.


Hass record watch.
Mike Hass had only four catches for 17 yards but what didn't show in the stat book was how he affected the Cal defense. At least two, and sometimes three, players shadowed Hass the entire game. Hass also worked extra hard as he was sent in motion most of the time allowing him to get off of the line quicker (it reminded me a lot of Arena football).

Matt Moore's three interceptions were passes intended for Hass as Moore forced the throws into coverage. Moore may have been forcing the passes due to the now broken streak of nine consecutive 100-yard receiving games. Now with the record out of the way Moore and Hass can focus on football and not worry about the record books.

"It feels frustrating when you don't produce yourself, but coming out with a win, that's fine with me," Hass said. We knew we were going to be in a dogfight. We just came in here and rammed it down their throat. That’s a good feeling.”


The yellow flag came out in bunches in the first half as the Beavers were flagged eight times for 84 yards. During one series OSU had three 15-yard penalties in a row. The first came on a late pushing foul (a questionable flag), the second nullified a 55-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Joe Rudulph (it was inadvertent and should have been five yards) and the third was a decent call for pass interference. The good news is the team committed just two penalties for ten yards in the second half.


Give me that speed and attitude.
"They were playing downhill." "They came hard." "They played more physical then we did." All those quotes came from the Cal players and coaches. Perhaps inspired by linebacker Andy Darkin's and Al Afalava's play, the defense is playing more physical and faster. Basically it looks like the Beavers have their speed back. It also helps that Mark Banker is mixing up coverages to play to the Beavers strengths.

“That was a major, major game for the defense,” Riley said. “Our overall defense was outstanding. I thought our game plan was outstanding by our defensive staff. Our coverage held up well. Our defensive line was as good as you can be.”



Coach Mike Riley
(On the come from behind victory) “I think our team is pretty tough-minded. We’ve been through a lot. We’ve been drilled and we’ve been involved in two of the best come backs I’ve been involved in.”

(On the bye week) “I don’t know what it is, but I will say this bye came at the right time like it did last year. It was very encouraging to begin the second half like that. That’s a major time in the game, to go out like that and physically take the ball down that field, that was a good sign. We were down mentally and physically last year. And this year I thought it was physically a good time for a break. Besides that it’s hard to say. I thought our guys were upbeat and practiced hard, but other than that I don’t know. Sometimes teams come out of a bye flat.“

(On Hass not getting the ball) “I don’t like it. Usually how he goes, we go. Today wasn’t like that. This is an outstanding pass defense team. I’m just glad we were able to run the ball like we did.”

WR Mike Hass
(On the road win) “We didn’t play perfectly. We just have to take this as a building block to L.A. After you win, it’s easier to prepare for the next game.”

LB Andy Darkins
(On the win) “Any time you win is good, but when you beat a ranked opponent in front of 57,000 it’s pretty sweat. It’s the biggest win of the season so far, and I think the momentum is going to keep going. We are going to roll with this. When you win on the road against a talented team like that, it’s a huge deal.”

(On OSU's defensive strategy) “We felt all week that if we stopped the run and made Ayoob throw the ball, we had a shot. We wanted to pound them as hard as we could, and get on Lynch early.”

RB Yvenson Bernard
(On when he knew the Beavers were going to win) "Halftime. We knew it, man! Everybody knew it. Our defense was crazy. They were ready to get back out there. They wanted to go right back out there after we came in (for the half)."

(On the improving ground game) “The last couple of games I’ve been getting to carry the ball more. And now the coach has confidence in me, so that’s good.”

S Sabby Piscitelli
(On beating a ranked team) “I think the big thing is we got our confidence back. We just beat a ranked team on the road. That’s a tough environment to play in. This was really good for our defense and showed we have a lot of character.”

(On OSU's defensive strategy) “We had to stop the run, and we did a pretty good job of that. And we knew we had to make the quarterback beat us, and we didn’t think he could. And we did a good job of hitting him, too. When you get a rush on the quarterback, that makes everything a hell of a lot easier. We where physical up front.”

QB Matt Moore
(On OSU's offensive line) “Our offensive line, they’ve been catching a lot of crap. Everybody was saying we can’t run. Well, they proved themselves today. They opened the holes. They were on fire. At the end of the game, they’re going, ‘Let’s run the ball.’ We didn’t want to get away from the pass, but we had so much success with the run, we decided to load up.”

C Kyle Devan
(On run blocking) “You don’t want to sit back and pass block on every play. You want to drive guys off the ball. It’s the greatest feeling to put a D-lineman on his back on top of the linebackers. I’m sure Cal thought we’d throw 50 times. They probably thought we’d be scared, a little intimidated. We’re not afraid of anybody. We’ll bring it at you, we’ll run the ball down your throat. That’s the funnest part of football. Getting those pancakes and driving people back.”

(On OSU's rushing attack) “Every week, commentators and spectators said we can’t run the ball. I just look at them and kind of smirk. We’re out there smacking heads and going hard every week. We were definitely wearing them down. We didn’t give up an inch. We kept pushing. We’re in good shape and were ready to go at the end of the game.

OL coach Mike Cavanaugh
(On his offensive line) "Everyone’s been wondering what direction we’re going to go. I think we’re starting to come along. You gotta run the ball. You should have heard them on the sidelines, yelling, 'Let’s just run it up their (posterior).’ That was a beautiful sight.”

LB Trent Bray
(On disrupting Joe Ayoob) "As we kept pressuring him, he didn’t stay in the pocket long enough and that made him have to scramble and lose receivers who might have been open. That definitely made it a lot harder on him.”

(On Keith Ellison) “He’s been great for this team, he does so many things. He’s under control, because he’s a smart guy too. He stays focused, and when the ball is snapped he plays 100 miles per hour.”

(On OSU's defense) “The last six quarters we’ve played have been great defense. We have a lot of freshmen, in the secondary especially, and they’re just getting it now. The first five games were their first five games ever in college. Now they’re just playing, instead of worrying about all this stuff. That’s big.”

LB Keith Ellsion
(On OSU's defense) "People who have followed us this season, they know that we don't quit," Ellison said. "No matter what the odds are, no matter what the score is, we're going to play four quarters. That's what we're going to do, and it paid for off for us in a big way today."

(On the win) “A lot of people doubted us coming into the game. They were like, ‘Well, maybe they can keep it close.’ We never felt that way. We came in here to win. We had two weeks to prepare (because of a bye last weekend), and it showed a little bit. Our coaches did a great job getting us ready. To beat Cal on the road, it’ huge for the team, huge for the program.”


Injury update.

  • LB Alan Darlin injured his ribs in the second quarter and did not return. He is expected to be fully recovered for UCLA.

  • S Al Afalava injured his knee in the second quarter and did not return. He is expected to be fully recovered for UCLA.

  • S Lamar Herron still has a nagging sore ankle but is expected to be 85-95% for UCLA

Additional notes:

  • Before Alexis Serna kicked his first field goal of the game the Cal student section started chanting L-S-U. After he made the kick he pointed at the student section and raised his arms signaling the kick was good. Serna hit all three field goals that he attempted.

  • The Beavers came into Saturday's game ranked 105th nationally in run offense. Cal came into the game ranked fifth. The Beavers outrushed the Bears 181-75.

  • Cal ran for a total of 75 yards on the ground Saturday. The Bears averaged 271.17 rushing yards a game going into Saturday. They were fifth in the country and second in the Pacific-10 Conference.

  • For the first time in eight tries OSU beat a ranked team on the road. The win snapped a 10-game home winning streak dating back to 2003.

  • The Beavers have won four consecutive PAC-10 road games. Since the 49-7 loss to Cal last year OSU is 10-3.

  • Before Saturday's game the Bear offensive line had given up just 10 sacks in six games. They gave up three against OSU.

  • An interesting stat - the official gamebook has OSU only having one quarterback hurry.

  • ABC had an interesting statistic - the last NCAA team to rush for over 300-yards and lose was Oregon State in 1996 versus Arizona State.

  • Cornerback Brandon Hughes turned in another fine performance as he finished with two tackles and a team high three pass breakups.

  • Defensive end Joe Lemma had his best game of the season finishing with five tackles, including one sack, and two forced fumbles.

  • Quarterback Matt Moore completed a pass to eight different receivers.

  • For the first time this year Mike Hass was not the Beavers' leading receiver. Anthony Wheat-Brown led the team with four catches and 98 yards. Josh Hawkins added four catches for 33 yards.

  • Riley was more animated then usual on the sidelines. A couple times you could see him jumping up and down and celebrating with the players. He also got on the ref to get a personal foul called when Bernard was tackled out of bounds.

  • LB Andy Darkins picked off the first pass of his collegiate career in his first start. The pick was caused by a blitzing Ellison who put a wicked spin move on the offensive linemen which forced Ayoob to get rid of the ball early.

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