By Bob Clark
CORVALLIS — Its record back to even at 3-3, spirits rejuvenated by a 31-16 win over Arizona, Oregon State moves on to the challenge of unbeaten and second-ranked California on Saturday in Berkeley. “It’s a great opportunity, but we know how hard it will be,” OSU coach Mike Riley said Sunday. “We’re going to go down there expecting to win. I know it’s going to be hard. We’ll have to play by far our best game” of the season. There were signs of that in beating Arizona on Saturday. Offensively, Riley said, “it was our best half in a long, long time ... going back to last season. Defensively it was a complete game.” There wasn’t much doubt it came at a critical time, after two consecutive conference defeats in which the Beavers (1-2 in the Pac-10) gave up early leads. A third straight loss and ... well, the Beavers didn’t want to consider where that might have led.
“No question, we were perched on the edge,” Riley said. The Beavers scored on four consecutive offensive possessions in the first half, and the defense added a touchdown. It was 31-3 in the second quarter, and the nation’s leading rush defense was able to cement that status by holding Arizona to a net of nine yards rushing, with eight sacks of Willie Tuitama resulting in 75 lost yards. Offensively, the Beavers turned loose Yvenson Bernard for 140 rushing yards and the offensive line that opened those holes also allowed only one quarterback sack. “I was impressed (because) I thought we took the game to Arizona,” Riley said. “Arizona is a physical team, so I thought aggressiveness would be key factor ... matching what they would bring.” Riley wasn’t so pleased with what his offense brought in the second half, when the Beavers didn’t add a point and were held to a total of 44 yards. “Offensively, we just stopped executing,” Riley said. “The opportunities were still there, we didn’t take advantage of them.”
After reviewing the video of the game, Riley wondered why the football wasn’t handed off on a reverse, “when we had chance for big play.” He also counted one dropped pass and a couple of others that could/should have been caught, “and three misreads” by quarterback Sean Canfield, where he failed to throw to an open receiver down the field.
“Those are the kind of things that keep you from completing a drive,” Riley said. The Beavers won’t be able to afford such miscues against the Bears, who should be refreshed after a bye week offering time for injuries to heal. OSU may have to play at California without half of its regular secondary. Cornerback Keenan Lewis has a sprained left knee, suffered against Arizona, that will keep him out two to three weeks, Riley said. With the Beavers having a bye on Oct. 20, that means Lewis would return for the Stanford game Oct. 27, at the earliest.
Also described as “iffy” for the Cal game is senior safety Daniel Drayton, who missed the Arizona game due to a pulled groin. In his place, Greg Laybourn was credited with five tackles and a pass break-up, a week after recording 15 tackles after replacing Drayton during the loss to UCLA. Riley said sophomore Tim Clark would start in place of Lewis. Clark had four tackles and broke up a pass Saturday after replacing Lewis, and played extensively in earlier games when Lewis was forced to the sideline with leg cramps. “He’s going to be a good player. He’s got a lot of ability,” Riley said. “He doesn’t have the experience of those other guys.” What a time for a first start: against DeSean Jackson and company, probably the league’s best group of receivers. “It’s a tough matchup for anybody in the country,” Riley said. Riley also said that offensive guard Jeremy Perry, out since the opening game with an undisclosed lower left leg injury, will run this week and “should be ready for Stanford.” Senior receiver Sammie Stroughter, out the past two games with a bruised kidney, will “certainly not play this week,” Riley said.