Some of the good news is the Beavers have won five of the last six against California while some of the bad news is right tackle Josh Linehan is out for the game and OSU has won just one of its last five conference openers.
California sits at 3-1 with their only loss coming to No. 23 Tennessee on the road in their first game of 2006. Since the loss Cal has dominated its opponents scoring 133 points in three games. QB Nate Longshore has been on fire completing 68.8-percent (55 of 80) of his passes for 795 yards and 10 touchdowns. That's 110 more yards and four more touchdowns than Matt Moore and Sean Canfield combined.
Longshore's favorite targets are the speedy DeShawn Jackson, who has
seven touchdowns this year already, and Lavelle Hawkins, who has 15 receptions
for 229 yards. But Longshore is not afraid to spread it around as he has completed
a pass to 16 different players.
"They have got really some talented receivers," Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said. " And Longshore appears to be growing in the offense. Hes an excellent passer. I saw him in high school on the practice field, and he is very good, hes just got a great arm."
And while the passing game has been sizzling the running game has been chugging along as well. For the first time in his career RB Marshawn Lynch has eclipsed the 100-yard mark three straight games. On the season Lynch has 468 yards on 62 carries for three touchdowns.
Statistically the Golden Bears have the second best offense in the Pac-10 averaging 444 yards per game (Pass - 287.8 | Rush - 156.8) while putting up 37.8 points per game. With both facets of California's offense clicking the Beaver defense will have its hands full.
"You have to get people on Marshawn Lynch because he can break a tackle and hes one of those guys who can beat you with speed on the outside and run hard inside," Riley said. "So you need to get somebody to him and get help because you can never assume hes done. Then you also have to balanced defense because they can obviously, with the good receivers, throw the ball."
"Its like we always talk about that balance with run and passes. It makes it the hardest to defend."
California is hard to read defensively due to the offense carrying the load and blowing their opponents out in the first half. They are giving up a conference worst 223 yards per game through the air and 164 yards on the ground (eighth in the conference). But they have the nation's leading interceptor (5) in cornerback Daymeion Hughes. He is tied with Sabby Piscitelli for second in the nation for career interceptions by active players with 12.
But statistics can be deceiving and the defense has two deadly weapons - experience and speed.
"They fly around and play aggressively," Riley said. "They have guys who have played for awhile in a lot of areas so they are confident. They play good solid defense and have good personnel."
That personnel will be focused on stopping RB Yvenson Bernard and the Beaver running attack which is averaging 147 yards per game. The offensive line and Bernard were huge factors in OSU's win at Cal last year, but the buffet busters are facing some injury issues this time around.
RT Josh Linehan will not play due to a knee injury while LG Jeremy Perry is still recovering from knee surgery. Sophomore Andy Levitre will start in Linehan's place while Adam Speer will back up the center and guard positions. The coaches feel that they have only six game ready offensive lineman, five excluding Linehan, and if one of this week's starters gets hurt it could get ugly for the offense.
"The positive thing is that Andy is a good player," Riley said. "Hes
done an excellent job in many different times of spot duty. So we are very confident
in him. I think hell go in and play well."
The running game and passing game will need Levitre to excel as California will dare QB Matt Moore to pass the ball. Moore must not make any early turnovers that lead to a short field or quick points for the boys from Berkeley. Overall, just like every week, the Men in Black must be balanced.
"Were going to have to run the ball and then we have to take care of the ball when we throw," Riley said. "Cal has some excellent defensive backs including Hughes, hes one of the best ones that Ive seen in this league in awhile. Hes dangerous, so youve got to be smart."
Special teams will certainly be a factor as Oregon State leads the conference in punt return average (19.3 | 2 TD) while California is first in punting averaging 43.9 per boot. On kickoff returns the Bears and Beavers are two (23.5), three (22.4) respectively.
It seems in the past two seasons the California game has been a turning point in the season. One year it was a loss and the Beavers then won five or six and went bowling. The next season was a win and they lost four of the last five and finished with a losing record.
"I think our team needs to remember the sense of urgency we had after the Boise State game," Riley said. "We really had a great week of practice because the opponents ability level was only going to rise from there. We need to get better and practice with the same type of urgency we had the last couple of weeks."
Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. in Reser Stadium. The game will not be televised.
- Riley on offensive line depth: "We have six guys weve
considered starters. I hate it to go to five and Josh Linehan is a fabulous
guy, has been a great leader and one of the real tough guys on our team. Im
hoping that he gets back soon, and at the same time Im confident in
Andy being ready to go."
- Next week's game against Washington State was picked up by FoxSports NW and will be televised live at 4 p.m.
Jeff Tedford says:
On the Oregon State defense:
"They have a solid defense. They've been very good against the pass. They lead the conference in pass defense. They do a nice job of getting up and pressing the receivers and making it very difficult. They're very sound in what they do. They stack the box, making it very tough to run the ball inside on them. They're a downhill defense; they're going to attack you. They don't sit back and wait for things, they run downhill at you. They're very aggressive. They do a nice job of plugging the gaps. They're very solid on defense."
On the Oregon State running game:
"They ran the ball effectively against us last year. Typically they have a big physical line, and they do a nice job of coming off the ball and creating some edges, bending the edges on you. That's where they've been able to get some yards against us. They do a nice job with the run game. They have good players, physical players and very good running backs."
On playing in Corvallis:
"It's difficult. It's a tough environment there. Their fans do a nice job, it's very loud. We've always had a difficult time playing there. It's not the loudest place in the conference, but it's a hostile environment, no question. They play very well at home. It's tough to go on the road there. They came into our house last year and not only did they beat us, but they were more physical than us. That's something that doesn't happen to us too often, to have a team be more physical than we are. This year, our guys are looking forward to having another chance to play them."