As whispers of the Rose Bowl swirl around the Oregon State Beavers, they are wary that their opponents will be eager to spoil their aspirations.
CORVALLIS — As whispers of the Rose Bowl swirl around the Oregon State Beavers, they are wary that their opponents will be eager to spoil their aspirations.
The first of those opponents is California, which visits Reser Stadium on Saturday.
"We don't need to be thinking about anything but the next game, and being ready for the next game, and performing well in the next game," coach Mike Riley said. "We should be obsessed with the next game."
Oregon State (6-3, 5-1 Pacific-10 Conference) and No. 6 USC each have one conference loss. But because the Beavers defeated the then-No. 1 Trojans 27-21 on Sept. 25, they would have the edge for the Rose Bowl should they win out.
After Cal, Oregon State visits Arizona before hosting Oregon in the Civil War rivalry game.
The Golden Bears (6-3, 4-2 Pacific-10 Conference) have won their last two games in Corvallis, while Oregon State (6-3, 5-1) has won the last two in Berkeley. Last season the Beavers defeated the then-No. 2 Golden Bears and kept them from reaching the top of the rankings for the first time in 56 years, after then-No. 1 LSU lost earlier that day.
"It's a huge game for us and we know it. We all know what's at stake, but they have had success here in the past. The upset last year, there are probably some bitter feelings about it, but it's a football game and we are going to approach it the same way," Oregon State right guard Gregg Peat said.
Oregon State had not named a starting quarterback. Lyle Moevao was throwing in practice this week after missing a game with a strained muscle in his shoulder.
If he's not ready to go, Sean Canfield has stepped in admirably, leading the Beavers to a come-from-behind 27-25 victory over Arizona State after Moevao was injured, then a 34-6 victory over UCLA in Pasadena last weekend.
Against the Bruins, Canfield made 16 of 22 passes for 222 yards.
"I look forward to playing this week, but it's all up to Coach Riley and how he feels, how comfortable he is with me going in with what he sees during the week. It's all on him, I'm sure his decision is probably the best, just like it's been in the past. We are behind him 100 percent," Moevao said.
It has become abundantly clear that Oregon State's best weapon on offense is freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers. The 5-foot-7 Texan leads the Pacific-10 Conference and ranks 10th nationally with an average of 121 rushing yards a game.
Quizz, as he is known, has already run for 1,089 yards this season, a conference record for a freshman previously held by Stanford's Darrin Nelson, who rushed for 1,069 yards in 1977.
"He's a little guy, but he's hard to tackle. If you go high on him or don't wrap up, he'll slip through and bust a big one on you. A lot of people get in trouble because you can't see him behind all of the linemen. Then, they jump out of their gap and he bursts through," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "He always keeps his feet moving. Even as he's falling down, you see his feet churning to get that extra push. He's really relentless."
Cal will start Oregon native Kevin Riley, who won the job over Nate Longshore. Both of Cal's quarterbacks have started this season, but have been inconsistent.
Interestingly, Riley made his first career start last year against Oregon State. He drove Cal well within field-goal range in the final minute of a 31-28 game, made an ill-advised attempt to run the ball with no time-outs, which allowed the clock to run out before the Bears could get their kicking team on the field.
"I thought he shook that off really well," Tedford said. "As a quarterback, you're going to run into those things. There are going to be times when you wish you had a play back here or there. ... I know that there was a lot riding on that play, but I think he did a good job of putting that behind him. I know he'll probably have to answer that question a lot this week, but I think that's pretty much in his past."
Riley has thrown for 1,124 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, with four interceptions. California tailback Jahvid Best averages 157.6 all-purpose yards, ranking him 10th in the nation. He's averaging 95.8 yards on the ground.
Cal's defense has a league-high 17 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. In the last six games, the D also has 41 tackles for loss, 19 quarterback sacks and has forced 19 turnovers.
Oregon State's defense has held opponents to an average of 14.3 points and 260.3 yards over the last four games.