Oregon State-Cal: Beavers Comeback Trail Starts with The Bears
Oregon State will face yet another challenge in their 2010 campaign. This time, however, it is not an AP Top 10 opponent, but rather the turning point of the season.
How the Beavers fare against a reeling Cal Bears squad may set the tone for the back half of the schedule, which still has Stanford and No. 2 Oregon.
As we have seen in recent weeks, the Beavers still are not comfortable on offense and have several glaring holes on defense. In order to stay near the top of the conference, adjustments must be made.
Here are the areas to address on Saturday, and keys to success for the Beavers against the Bears.
1. Keep Cal Offense in Disarray
Cal's offense has been absolutely non-existent over the last few weeks. After scoring 31 points in a devastating loss to Nevada, the Bears have scored a combined 30 points in the last three games.
Conference play has hit Cal hard, knocking them out of the AP Top 25 and evening their overall record at 3-3, 1-2 in the Pac-10.
Oregon State stands to make up some ground in the conference next Saturday, as long as the offense decides to show up. The defense showed signs of life against the Huskies, holding them scoreless in the second half while giving the offense plenty of chances to put the game out of reach.
A repeat performance against Cal's running attack will keep the suspense out of the remaining minutes.
2. Offense Has To Move on Without James Rodgers
Against Washington, OSU had plenty of chances to put the game on ice. They came out at halftime with plenty of momentum, but just could not get that final, key score as the defense showed up for the first time this season.
Costly interceptions were a sign sophomore QB Ryan Katz was not comfortable without Rodgers on the field. The two players compliment each other well, so Katz will have to discover new targets and be more patient in the pocket.
Receivers Markus Wheaton and Jordan Bishop, together with tight end Joe Halahuni, have surely been practicing routes and timing with Katz. The receivers looked out of sync with their quarterback, which led to a scoring drought over the final 35 minutes of the game.
It appeared the Beavers weren't ready for life without James Rodgers, who suffered a knee injury the week prior in Arizona. The faster the Beavs can move on, the better off Katz and the rest of the offense, including Jacquizz Rodgers, will be.
3. Defense, Defense, Defense
It's been the same story week after week for the Beavers' struggling defense. They nearly had Huskies QB Jake Locker out of the game as a non-factor, but when the offense failed to pick up the slack, the defense could no longer hold down the Washington offense in overtime.
The Beavers' defense ranks ninth in the Pac-10, in front of only Washington State in total defense, surrendering over 450 yards per game. Oregon State has tried several defensive schemes and strategies to correct this issue with little success.
OSU should key on the running game, as the Bears rush for 186 yards per game, and only pass for 192 per game. Junior RB Shane Vereen leads the charge for Cal, and racked up nearly 200 yards on just 19 carries against Nevada.
However, a weak passing game and reliance on the run will be good for the Beavs, as their defensive line is the only strong point in the defense, led by Stephen Paea. If the defense can get some assistance in the secondary here and there by James Dockery and company, the Beavers stand a good chance in this one.
I expect this game to be close as usual, but the Beavers will win by a couple scores.