Next OSU football game crucial for strong finish

2009-11-02T22:30:00Z Next OSU football game crucial for strong finishBy Cliff Kirkpatrick, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

The final third of the regular season has shaped up nicely for the Oregon State football team.

The Beavers are one win away from bowl eligibility with four contests to go, and tied with three other teams with two losses in Pacific-10 Conference play.

Looking at the future games, one is at Pac-10 cellar dweller Washington State, there's the final home game against five-loss Washington and a manageable road game this week against California before the Civil War in Eugene to end the regular season.

Much will be found out in determining how the Beavers finish the season on Saturday afternoon. They match up well with the Golden Bears and have won the last four games in Memorial Stadium, and eight of the last 10 overall.

California (6-2, 3-2) is one of the teams the Beavers (5-3, 3-2) are tied with in the conference standings. If they can make one of their signature strong finishes they'll end up near the top of the Pac-10 again.

"I did tell our team we can accomplish a lot," coach Mike Riley said. "Whatever that is, it's based on what we do week-to-week. As the wins pile up the options will be better and better."

During OSU's successful run in games at Cal, the Bears have been one of the top teams in the conference and nation. One of the more memorable upsets was in 2007 when Cal was ranked No. 2.

But are the triumphs more of a distant memory for the Beavers, and only for the fans and media to talk about at this point?

"Probably," Riley said. "I won't dwell on that too much. Those were good wins, and hard wins. We are going to try and do that same thing, but it will be hard."

The Bears are clawing their way back up the standings after losing the first two Pac-10 games to Oregon and Southern California. They are on a three-game winning streak against UCLA, Washington State and Arizona State - the bottom of the conference.

Victories typically have been dominating but they are coming off a sloppy come-from-behind 23-21 victory against the Sun Devils, a team OSU beat 28-17.

"We have a lot of respect for what they do football scheme-wise and the talent they have," Riley said. "They have explosive guys who can go all the way in a blink of an eye."

Running back Jahvid Best leads Cal offensively. The team averages 196 yards rushing, with Best gaining 104.8 a game. He has scored 11 touchdowns.

Backup Shane Vereen adds 47 yards a game and has scored six times.

Quarterback Kevin Riley has a stellar touchdown-to-interception ratio with 13 TDs and two picks. He throws for 225 yards a game.

The defense runs a base 3-4 approach, but changes its look at times. That allows for various blitzes and coverage schemes that give offenses fits.

Linebacker Mike Mohamed leads the Pac-10 in tackles with 9.2 a game. Defensive linemen Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan have combined for 9.5 sacks, which is more than the eight by the entire OSU team.

"It's a different preparation but we've seen some 3-4, but that doesn't mean it's easy," Riley said. "It's going to be another one of those tough Pac-10 games."

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