Side by side: Cal at Oregon State

The Beavers and Bears meet for the 59th time at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 in Reser Stadium. California is riding a three game winning streak and holds a #20 ranking in both polls but Oregon State has won six of the last seven against California.

Despite what the score says it wasn't pretty but a win is a win as Oregon State shutout the Idaho Vandals 38-0 in Corvallis for the Beavers second win of the season. 

The OSU defense dominated the game forcing six turnovers (four interceptions and two fumble recoveries) while limiting the Vandals to just 185 total yards and no third down conversions.  LB Alan Darlin led OSU with seven tackles, one fumble recover and one sack as LB Derrick Doggett added six stops, including an interception for a touchdown. 

The Men in Black on offense struggled on third downs converting just 6 of 14.  QB Matt Moore finished a shaky 16 of 31 for 169 yards with one touchdown and one interception.  RB Yvenson Bernard paced the team with 117 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.  TE Joe Newton had just two catches for 10 yards but was held back to block as UI blitzed over 40 times.

The Bears got their 2006 Pac-10 campaign off with a bang with a 49-21 win over Arizona State. Cal scored in all phases of the game, defense, offense, and special teams. The team has really begun gel, and has virtually made Knoxville a distant memory.

A primary concern for the Bears coming out of the ASU game was the amount for running room tailback Ryan Torain found against Cal’s front seven, rushing for 191 yards despite the fact that the Sun Devils trailed much of the contest and were forced to pass often.

The Beavers beat up on a hapless Idaho squad 38-0 which probably washed the taste of the Boise State debacle out of their mouths. Against the Broncos, Oregon State had jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the middle of the first quarter only to lose 42-14.



Before the start of the season high expectations were placed on the OSU offense as they returned all five offensive linemen, one receiver, the quarterback and the running back. 

Unfortunately through three games the offense has largely struggled averaging 228.3 yards (sixth in the conference) through the air and 147.0 (eighth in the conference) on the ground.  Part of the blame can be placed on an underachieving offensive line that has given up seven sacks (fifth) and has yet to dominate an opponent.  But the line has had its share of injuries with starting left guard Jeremy Perry recovering from knee surgery and right tackle Josh Linehan out for possibly the remainder of the season with also a knee injury. 

The versatile sophomore Andy Levitre will take Linehan's place in the lineup leaving the two-deeps sparse.  QB Matt Moore has not looked like a senior quarterback completing 25 of 62 (56%) for 372 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.  He is not seeing the field well which has prompted fans to call for redshirt freshman Sean Canfield to be played.  Canfield has completed 22 of 30 (73%) for 277 yards, two touchdowns and one interception all in mop up time.  But don't expect coach Mike Riley to play Canfield early, unless the game is a blowout or Moore is really struggling. 

RB Yvenson Bernard has had a quite season so far averaging 110 yards a game and just over one touchdown.  He hasn't had a lot of room to run, but is helping in the passing game as he's the team's third leading receiver (8/27 yards).  FB Micah Strickland has been nice surprise catching the first passes of his career against Idaho while providing bulk in short yardage situations.  Junior Clinton Polk is rangy and is a nice change of pace from Bernard.  He has 86 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. 

TE Joe Newton has three touchdowns on 10 receptions and should play a big part this weekend.  Junior Sammie Stroughter leads the receivers with 13 catches for 170 yards while Anthony Wheat-Brown (6/105/2) and Brandon Powers (7/94/0) round out the starting three.  Senior Ruben Jackson is the first off of the bench, but Riley keeps the rotation tight.

Cal’s offense came to life against Arizona State. Quarterback Nate Longshore is improving each game, and was named USA Today Player of the Week. DeSean Jackson has emerged as a major threat as a receiver, and Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan are playing well, preventing defenses from keying on Jackson.

The running game has not been the consistent base to the offense that was expected early in the year. Marshawn Lynch has been spectacular, in spots, but injuries on the offensive line (left tackle Andrew Cameron is day-to-day and right tackle Scott Smith is out for at least two more weeks) have contributed to some inconsistency in the rushing attack.

Arizona State came out last week determined to stop Lynch, so Cal smoothly shifted focus to the passing game – handsomely taking advantage of the one-on-one deep coverage that resulted from ASU’s focus on the run. Now, if the Bears can get back to a dependable rushing game as well, the offense could hit new heights.

Mike Gibson will get his second consecutive start at offensive tackle, and the coaches are very pleased with his progress.

“Mike played very solid,” said Cal coach Jeff Tedford. “He did a nice job, both in the run game and the pass protection. He played very well for his first time as a starter. I think that gives us the ability now, when Scott (Smith) and (Andrew) Cameron come back, it really creates some depth for us at tackle. Mike is a guy who is so athletic; he can put himself in the position to get things done. He's done a great job of learning the offense. If there's one thing that allows him to play right now, it's been his ability to learn the offense. Physically and athletically, he is very good."

Oregon State pitched a shut out against Idaho, but that was due as much to the Vandals mistakes and lack of talent as to outstanding play by the Beavers. OSU likes to play an attacking defense, flowing to the ball. The irony is that they may not have the team speed to play that style effectively in teh Pac-10, or against the speedy Bears.

Idaho found a lot of open space in the Beaver secondary, and OSU defenders had to catch receivers to bring them down; they will not have the luxury against Cal's triplet of 4.x wide receivers Jackson, Hawkins, and Jordan.

This week, Beavers will have another problem: it is hard to flow to the football when you don’t know where it is. Cal’s two-to-five wide receiver sets and numerous misdirection plays should give the Bear offense a step head start against a slower defense.

“Our (pass defense) statistics have been good,” said OSU coach Mike Riley. “But the big test is yet to come.”

A man who speaks the truth.

It is really hard to tell what kind of defense the Beavers have this year.  They rank number one in the Pac-10 in pass defense (124.3 ypg) and fifth in the conference (115.0 ypg) in rush defense.  But those numbers are skewed do to the blowouts against Eastern Washington and Idaho and the blowout loss at Boise State who ran all over the Beavers for 300 yards. 

The defensive line is still shaking out as Jeff Van Orsow (11 tackles/1 sack), Joe Lemma (4 tackles/1 sack) and Dorian Smith (1 tackle/1 sack) man the ends while the underachieving Ben Siegert (2 tackles) and fiery Curtis Coker (5 tackles/1 sack), who was suspended against UI, man the tackle positions.  But William Vea, who leads the team with two sacks, and Gerard Lee (4 tackles/1 for loss), who brings a lot of energy, have played well as of late and will see their time on the field increase. 

MLB Alan Darlin leads the team in tackles with 18 stops, including two for loss, while adding two fumble recoveries.  He and junior Joey LaRocque (10 tackles) excel at stopping the run.  Junior Derrick Doggett is one of the most versatile linebackers on the team as he covers the receivers.  Doggett has 17 tackles, one sack, one interception and two pass breakups. 

The corners are manned by sophomore Keenan Lewis, who is prone to cramping, but is one of best cover men on the team with his long arms and legs.  Sophomore Brandon Hughes played his first game of the year last week coming back from a knee injury.  He was physical, but is still getting back into the swing of things.  Junior Coye Francies is the first corner off the bench and started in Hughes place the first two games.  Senior Sabby Piscitelli, who leads the team in interceptions with two, mans the strong safety spot while sophomore Al Afalava, who has had a quite year so far, lines up at free safety.

Last year Yvenson Bernard rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns as the Beavers “kicked our butts” according to Tedford. Coaches have a weird sort of memory, as a 23-20 loss is not exactly a “butt-kicking” in most circles.

Bernard is back and continues as the core of the OSU attack. Cal’s challenge will be to get better play out of their defensive line, tying up the offensive linemen to let the linebackers stuff the run. Mastering this aspect of the game will be a key for the Bears: last week against ASU, the Bears gave up 191 yards to TB Ryan Torain alone.

Daymeion Hughes has been outstanding at cornerback and should be more than a match for OSU’s leading wideout Sammie Stroughter. The loss to injury of safety Thomas DeCoud makes covering tight end Joe Newton a challenge – but Tedford seems sure that Bernard Hicks will be able to handle it.

The Beavers are not extremely fast on offense, so the goal for Cal is to eliminate mistakes, keep the play in front of them, and capitalize on the OSU mistakes when they happen.

The return games have been outstanding as Stroughter has returned two punts for touchdowns while averaging 22.9 yards per return while Francies has returned four kickoffs for a 28.2 average. Freshman punter Kyle Loomis has had his ups and downs as he adjusts to college football.  He is averaging a conference worst 34.5 yards per kicks, but upped his average four yards after a solid performance last week.  PK Alexis Serna has made just 1 of 3 field goals.

What was long a problem area for the Bears has become a strength. DeSean Jackson is a threat to go all the way on every punt return – and punter Andrew Larson has been outstanding. Field goal kicker Tom Schneider is still untested in pressure situations.

Kick off coverage remains a concern. ASU’s stellar return man Terry Richardson ran 6 kickoffs back for a 26.6 yard return average; the Bears must do better.

The Beavers physically dominate both lines of scrimmage which, on defense, would result in heavy pressure on Longshore and, on offense, a balanced attack through the air and on the ground.  The defensive line and linebackers must disrupt the pocket and not allow Longshore to survey the field and pick apart the defense.

The Bears build on the last three weeks, and continue to use all their weapons on every side of the ball. If Cal scores early, look to see some “do we really belong here” body language and some Boise State flashbacks from the Beavers.

They turn the ball over giving Cal a short field and the opportunity for a quick score.  An early turnover would be particularly devastating as it would take the crowd out of the game putting the pressure on the home team. 

OSU historically has a difficult time pulling itself out of a hole.

Cal implodes. Mistakes can kill a team, and Cal has to guard against the “sandwich effect” coming off a big game (ASU) and heading into a big game (Oregon on October 7).

The Bears must also not lose the battle upfront, particularly defensively. OSU’s Bernard is more talented than ASU’s Torain; containing him is key.

Two-deeps | Roster | Schedule | Message Boards

Two-deeps | Roster | Schedule | Message Boards

Dan Norz is the publisher of  Wear orange, be loud and go Beavs! Sean Mockler is a staff writer for the Bear Insiders.

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