Beavers look to get back on track

CORVALLIS — California visits Oregon State today as both teams angle for midseason positioning below top-ranked Oregon in the jumbled Pac-10.

The Beavers (3-3, 2-1 Pac-10) are coming off a bye week and still waiting on the second-half surge they're known for, while Cal (4-3, 2-2) is trying to snap a five-game losing streak on the road that dates back to last season.

The two teams are among a tangle of six that have one or two conference losses so far. Both have the undefeated Ducks on their schedules; the Golden Bears host them on Nov. 13 and Oregon State hosts them on Dec. 4 in the annual Civil War Game.

With that in mind, Cal needs to overcome its road woes and fast. This season, the Golden Bears are 0-3 away from home.

Defensive back Sean Cattouse said this week that there's no real trick to solving the problem, it's simply a matter of getting back to basics.

"Just focusing in, communicating, running to the ball," Cattouse said. "Just to make sure we're going in there fully prepared just amongst ourselves and all the guys that are going to be on the field. It's an issue that everyone knows amongst the team."

Quarterback Kevin Riley, who is from Oregon, is coming off one of his better outings in Cal's 50-17 victory at home against Arizona State last weekend. He threw for 240 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

But, as with the rest of the team, he fares better at Memorial Stadium, where he's thrown for 10 touchdowns without an interception. On the road, he's been intercepted six times.

Riley said he'd like to have some success in his home state.

"Haven't beaten Oregon or Oregon State, haven't beaten them in a while, so it's just we need to beat Oregon State," he said.

Cal hasn't won against the Beavers since 2006.

Oregon State's last outing was a heartbreaking 35-34 double-overtime loss at Washington on Oct. 16. The Beavers attempted a 2-point conversion that failed when Ryan Katz's pass slipped from Joe Halahuni's hands.

As they've done in past years, Oregon State got off to a slow start with two difficult non-conference opponents, TCU and Boise State. They lost to both.

But the Beavers have been 37-14 from October to December for the past six seasons and they've earned a bowl berth five times.

To extend the trend, the Beavers will have to see better production from their running game — something that they've leaned on in the past. Oregon State is ranked ninth in the Pac-10 with an average of just 120.7 yards a game.

Running back Jacquizz Rodgers is trying his best to change that, with an average of 103.5 yards a game and 10 touchdowns. But even his yards are down slightly from last season.

Coach Mike Riley said the solution is deceptively simple.

"We've got to block better, stay on better, and finish better," he said. "Basically our big coaching point is 'get that ball past your block,' so we've got to stay on blocks better and finish blocks better."

Last year, Cal held Quizz to just 67 yards rushing, but that included a 24-yard touchdown dash. The Beavers upset the Golden Bears 31-14 at Memorial Stadium.

"He is so strong and built low to the ground ... and then when he gets in the open field he has great speed," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "You can never go to sleep on him. You can never relax and think he's down because he'll come spurting out of there and take it the distance."

Despite the open date, the Beavers have injury issues. Tight end Brady Camp won't play against Cal because of a back injury.

And Oregon State misses flanker James Rodgers, Jacquizz's older brother and a key playmaker who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of Oregon State's 29-27 victory over Arizona on Oct. 9.

James Rodgers, who was ranked sixth in the nation with an average of 176.75 all-purpose yards as a team co-captain this season, had surgery this week to repair torn ligaments in his left knee. Oregon State reports the procedure went well.

Oregon State will petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Rodgers if he decides to play for the Beavers one more season.

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