Finally, defense makes a case for itself

CORVALLIS — For the past two weeks, members of Oregon State's defense knew exactly where they stood — one of their own wouldn't let them forget.

Through a bye week and then preparation to play California, OSU cornerback James Dockery's battle cry in practice was "One-nineteen! One-nineteen!" As in, the Beavers ranked No. 119 out of 120 teams nationally in total defense, allowing opponents an average of 459.2 yards per game.

"We know," OSU defensive end Gabe Miller said of that stat.

"We had to prove ourselves. So we took that personally, definitely, and today's performance helped that."

As OSU took a 35-7 Pac-10 Conference football win on Saturday at Reser Stadium, the Beavers held California to 206 yards of total offense, including 23 yards rushing. The Golden Bears had gone into the game averaging 377.1 yards per game total offense, 178.1 per game of that rushing.

"We kind of came back to work," OSU defensive tackle Kevin Frahm said. "And we focused on the techniques and on the basics of how we've played defense at Oregon State. We took a lot of looks at films from the past, we watched a lot of tape of the great defense that stopped the run and, I don't know, was in the top five in run defense in the country (actually, first nationally in 2007).

"We just kind of worked to be more like the picture they put on tape."

Until California's final drive, when it went 93 yards for its lone score, it had been held to 113 yards of total offense; the only time the Bears had snapped the ball in OSU territory was the result of a short Beaver punt. With OSU leading 28-0 at halftime, Cal showed 48 yards of total offense while the Bears had been penalized 68 yards (and had another 25 yards in penalties declined).

"I think spending so much time on the defensive fundamentals, it kind of gave us a whole new confidence to kind of sit back and just go out and play loose and not do too much or do anybody else's job," Frahm said. "Just go play Beaver defense."

OSU was helped when Cal quarterback Kevin Riley was injured just eight minutes into the game. It appeared he suffered a knee injury when he became tangled with Beaver defensive tackle Brennan Olander while releasing a pass.

"It's a real unfortunate thing and all of our prayers go out to Riley and his whole family," Frahm said. "Coming from anybody that has spent time on the field, you would never wish that on anyone."

Cal backup quarterback Brock Mansion had attempted just one pass this season. He did manage to go 14-for-24 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown but was also sacked four times.

"Kevin went down and that kind of limits us, but give their defense credit, as well," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.

Even before Riley was helped from the field, the Beavers had not allowed Cal positive yardage on a carry. The Golden Bears had two running plays and a quarterback sack for minus 8 yards at that point.

"We thought that running the ball was going to be a major factor in this game for both teams," OSU head coach Mike Riley said. "So having success stopping their run, controlling their run — and then we got some runs going that looked like good stuff early in the game. If you look just at those stats, that was a major difference in the game."

One game's worth of impressive numbers may not change the overall ranking, but the overall outlook may be changing when it comes to the Beaver defense.

"Frankly, even though statistically it's never going to look good for us this year defensively because of the way we started and who we started against, I've seen growth in the defense," Riley said. "And I think a lot of it was very evident today."


BLANKETY BLANK: When Riley and former head coach Dennis Erickson guided Oregon State's football revival in the late 1990s, it seemed that one negative streak or another was broken on an almost weekly basis. It doesn't happen as often now, but the Beavers missed out by 20 seconds on tossing two more out the window.

OSU was that close to posting its first conference shutout since the infamous 0-0 "Toilet Bowl" at Oregon in 1983. The Beavers' last shutout win in conference play was 7-0 over Washington State in 1975.


REPLACING THE OTHER BROTHER: With senior wide receiver/kick returner extraordinaire James Rodgers out for the season with a knee injury, sophomore Markus Wheaton is doing his best to step into that role.

Wheaton had Rodgers-like numbers, rushing six times for 73 yards and catching six passes for 57 yards. He said the bruised knee that had slowed him at Washington was fine.

"I felt good out there," Wheaton said. "It started bothering me at the end, but it was fine."

He attributed the Beavers' success on the ground — 197 yards rushing, including 119 by Jacquizz Rodgers — to what happened along the line of scrimmage.

"We did a good job blocking today, we stepped up our blocking game," Wheaton said. "The last couple of weeks, we've been struggling blocking, so we kind of buckled down on that, and it showed up."


GETTING INTO THE ACT: Oregon State had seven different players with a reception against California, including five players with multiple receptions as Ryan Katz completed 20 of 27 passes for 184 yards.

"Everybody is going to have to pick it up for the Beavers without James Rodgers, and I think you saw some things today that we hope continue to happen and to grow," Riley said. "Because that's what we're going to need without James. We're going to need Markus (Wheaton) to make plays, and (tight end Joe) Halahuni, and (wide receiver Aaron) Nichols, and of course his brother Quizz (Rodgers) is going to have to carry his share of the load, too.

"So everybody has got to do that, and I think there were some good things in that regard today."


OPENING IT UP: The Beavers showed a few new wrinkles offensively. Not only was there Jacquizz Rodgers' touchdown pass to tight end Colby Prince and a renewed effectiveness of the fly sweep, but also a double reverse that saw Wheaton ramble for 24 yards during OSU's fourth touchdown drive.

"(Offensive coordinator Danny) Langsdorf felt good today, I guess," Wheaton said. "But it was fun with all the trick plays."


PIGSKIN SCHIZOPHRENIA: Oregon State manhandled California just one week after the Golden Bears had thrashed Arizona State 52-17. The Beavers were at the end of two weeks of stewing over their 35-34 double-overtime loss to Washington — which had lost 24-14 to Arizona State the week before.

"I don't know what to think about the Pac-10 games right now," Riley said. "You just have to play the games you're in. You just prepare for them, and every game feels like the Super Bowl to me."

Added linebacker Dwight Roberson: "In the Pac-10, everybody's good. Any day, any team can win. It doesn't matter, it's who's the team that's best that day."


THIS AND THAT: The attendance of 45,439 was the largest of the year at Reser Stadium and fourth largest ever at Reser Stadium "… Oregon State has now beaten California four straight times and in 10 of the last 12 meetings between the schools, but Cal still leads the all-time series 32-30 "… it was the first Pac-10 game of the season for the Beavers that had been decided by more than three points.

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