DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MARK BANKER
AFTER NEARLY RECORDING its first shutout of a Pac-10 opponent since 1983 with a 35-7 pasting of Cal, the question on Oregon State's defense was, why did it take so long for this kind of performance to emerge? TSX takes a look at the question and more...
Maybe it took the Beavers to motivate themselves by regularly reminding each other of their dismal ranking in the NCAA statistics. Possibly it took a reminder of how the Beavers had played D in recent years, with coaches showing the players video of vintage Oregon State defenses.
"We worked to be more like the picture," defensive lineman Kevin Frahm said.
And the picture of this defense turned out well this past Saturday, as the Beavers held Cal to 23 rushing yards and 206 total yards. That included 93 yards by the Bears on a drive in the final two minutes against Oregon State reserves that resulted in Cal's only touchdown with 20 seconds remaining.
Granted, it helped Oregon State when Cal quarterback Kevin Riley went down with a knee injury, but did anybody sense this was coming?
"I have seen growth in our a defense and a lot of it was evident (against Cal)," coach Mike Riley said. "I was really proud of 'em.”
Granted, it's only one game, but that kind of run defense will be required in the upcoming weeks, with UCLA next on the schedule and the final three games of the season against USC, Stanford and Oregon, three of the best running teams in the Pac-10.
But Cal was one of the league's better running teams, until being stopped by Oregon State.
"Cal has always been a great running team," Frahm said. "That was definitely a big challenge."
And for the Beavers, a big response.
--The Beavers have certainly turned around a series once dominated by Cal. Saturday's win over the Bears was the fourth consecutive in the series for Oregon State, and the 10th in the past 12 years.
--Everybody knows Jacquizz Rodgers as a runner, and he's now up to fourth in career rushing at Oregon State and 14th in Pac-10 history. But with three receptions Saturday, he has 125 for his career, the most ever by an Oregon State running back as he surpassed Pat Chaffey (124). Oh, and Rodgers is now 2-for-2 as a passer, with both throws going for touchdowns.
--Oregon State had another turnover-free game, its fifth in seven games this season. The Beavers still haven't lost a fumble, and three of their four interceptions came in the loss to the Huskies.
--True freshman wide receiver Kevin Cummings saw his first action of the season on Saturday. The only other freshman who has played is outside linebacker Michael Doctor. For more on Cummings and the slotback position, click here .
GAME BALL GOES TO: Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker -- He drew on extra motivation, showing his players video of past Oregon State teams that were strong against the run. He made in-game adjustments after Cal switched quarterbacks, and put more emphasis on the run. His strategies limited the Bears to 23 rushing yards and kept Cal from scoring until the final 20 seconds in a 35-7 victory.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Markus Wheaton – One of the primary replacements for James Rodgers, out for the season, filled the bill nicely with a career-high 73 rushing yards along with a game-high six receptions for 57 yards. The Beavers not only used Wheaton on the fly sweep play, but they utilized a reverse and later a double reverse to show off Wheaton's speed. As he becomes more comfortable in his role as one of the offensive keys, there should be more opportunities.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wish we could declare this is it and it's going to be like this, but I'm not going to do that. It was a good win, we're 3-1 in the conference, and that's where we are." -- Riley, on whether the 35-7 win over Cal is a sign of things to come.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The play of the tight ends continues to be strong, even in the absence of starter Brady Camp. Against Cal, Joe Halahuni had four receptions for 52 yards, including a touchdown, and Colby Prince had his first career reception go for a touchdown. With John Reese taking on Camp's role as the prime blocker among tight ends, the Beavers appear to be deep even without their starter.
STILL NEEDS WORK: There's no consistency in Oregon State's punting and kicking game. Punter Johnny Hekker averaged 33.6 yards on five punts against Cal, including a 13-yard kick off the side of his foot that let the Bears start a drive at the Oregon State 33-yard line. Kicker Justin Kahut was wide left with a 37-yard field goal, leaving him 3-for-6 on field goals this season. His kickoffs included a couple of short ones that also helped Cal in field position, though Riley praised his directional work against Cal. Kahut has also struggled to find consistency on extra points over his career.
--With the game in hand, Oregon State was able to work redshirt freshman QB Cody Vaz into the game for a couple of late series. He didn't complete either of his pass attempts, but being on the field against a Pac-10 defense for the first time gave him some feel for what it might be like if he's needed. He also hadn't played at all for more than a month, and it should relieve some of the nerves if he's ever needed in a game.
--Senior Ryan Pohl had his most extensive playing time of the season when he took over in the second half of the Cal game for left guard Grant Johnson, who aggravated a neck injury suffered earlier in the season. The Beavers also spent a good share of their practice time during the week leading up to Cal with Joshua Andrews working as the center with the first offense as Alex Linnenkohl continued to nurse a sore ankle. The more work Andrews gets with the first unit the better, both for next season and as a fill-in if Linnenkohl would need to come out of a game.