California is back in the Top 25. Staying there for more than a week, however, could be a challenge.
The 23rd-ranked Golden Bears look for a fourth straight victory overall while trying to avoid a fifth consecutive home loss to the Beavers in a Pac-10 matchup Saturday night.
After spending a month unranked, California (6-2, 3-2) is back in the poll after a 23-21 victory over Arizona State last Saturday. Though it wasn’t pretty, it was the Bears’ third straight victory since being outscored 72-6 in consecutive losses to Oregon and Southern California.
“I think a lot of people keep on stepping up and making plays,” junior quarterback Kevin Riley said of the team’s resurgence. “We’ve just got to continue to get better and win.”
While Cal is bowl eligible for an eighth straight season, extending its winning streak could be tough with Oregon State (5-3, 3-2) in town. The Beavers, tied with the Bears and 12th-ranked USC for fourth in the Pac-10, have won two straight and eight of 10 against Cal, including four in a row at Berkeley.
“It’s good to get the opportunity to compete with (Cal),” Beavers coach Mike Riley said. “It is a good team. It’s a great game for this time of year.”
Though the Bears’ last home win in the series was 33-14 on Nov. 1, 1997, Beaver players aren’t living too much in the past.
“Every year comes a different team,” Oregon State cornerback Tim Clark said. “With a different team you have different strategies and different ways to approach the game but at the same time it’s always nice knowing that you have had success in that environment before.”
In the teams’ last meeting at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 13, 2007, Riley - then a freshman - threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns, but the then-No. 2 Bears fell short when he was tackled at the Beavers’ 10-yard line as time ran out before the field-goal unit could line up in the 31-28 defeat.
“I’d like to beat them, that’s for sure,” Riley said.
Riley’s completed 52.5 percent of his passes for 411 yards with three TDs, two interceptions and been sacked eight times the last two seasons against Oregon State. He’s a big reason, however, for Cal’s recent surge, throwing for 785 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception in the last three games.
“Kevin’s always been a great competitor, no question about that,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “Has a lot of confidence in his abilities.”
While Riley set season highs by going 27 of 44 for 351 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona State, Cal overcame a season-high 12 penalties for 115 yards to pull out the win after Giorgio Tavecchio kicked a 24-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.
Though Cal is second in the conference averaging 33.6 points per game, its defense ranks eighth in the league against the pass (268.0 ypg) and will likely need to play better Saturday.
Behind senior quarterback Sean Canfield and brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers, the Beavers average a conference-best 272.1 yards through the air.
Canfield has thrown for a league-leading 2,039 yards with 11 TDs this season. The Rodgers brothers, meanwhile, are the top two all-purpose performers in the Pac-10.
After rushing for 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman last season, Jacquizz Rodgers has gained 922 and scored 14 times on the ground this year. He’s also caught 49 passes for 371 yards.
James Rodgers has caught a team-leading 60 passes for 706 yards and five TDs.
Jacquizz rushed for 144 yards and a TD on 27 carries, while James made six catches for 50, rushed for a score and a returned a kick 86 yards for a TD in Oregon State’s 34-21 win over Cal last season.
“They do such a great job by utilizing those guys’ talents,” Tedford said. “They’re so versatile in what they do.”
Jacquizz had 112 yards rushing, 96 receiving and threw a touchdown in the Beavers’ 26-19 win over UCLA last Saturday. His older brother caught 10 passes for 106 yards and ran for a score as Oregon State won for the third time in four games.
Though Oregon State is 2-1 on the road, it’s 0-2 versus ranked opponents overall this season after losing 28-18 to then-No. 17 Cincinnati (Sept.19) and 42-36 to then-No. 4 USC (Oct. 24).