Bears to Face Hungry Beavers

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Any Cal football fans exasperated by the Bears' rollercoaster ride in the Pac-10 this year (loss-win-loss-win), can look at this week's opponent and be thankful that it is not a downward spiral.

Oregon State made a big splash with its hot start and came into conference play with a perfect record and a surprising No. 23 national ranking.

But the Beavers (4-3, 0-3 in the Pac-10) have handled the Pac-10 about as well as Latrell Sprewell handles yacht parties, getting thumped 22-0 by USC to set off a three-game skid.

It may seem like the perfect setup for Cal (5-3, 2-2) to end an undesirable three-game streak of its own-the Bears haven't beaten OSU since 1998-but it will have to contend with a crowd players say is the most vicious outside of Fresno State and an opponent that had a bye and an extra week to ponder its last loss.

"They'll be hungry as hell," cornerback James Bethea said. "If you don't eat for a month, you'll do whatever it takes to get some food."

The Beavers have found all kinds of ways to lose their meal in the Pac-10, following the shutout against the Trojans with a 45-38 loss against UCLA, then falling 13-9 to Arizona State despite holding the Sun Devils to less than half their scoring average.

"They've got a heck of a defense," Cal quarterback Kyle Boller said. "They'll be pressing us every play, and we'll just have to get in positions where they can't do it."

OSU employs aggressive man-to-man pass coverage, relying on cornerbacks Dennis Weathersby and Terell Roberts, which Cal receivers say they welcome.

"Their scheme allows their athletes to make plays," Lashaun Ward said. "It's more of a thing where they're challenging you as a man and you have to go make a play."

It may be tough to make any plays in the middle of the field.

"They have two of the best linebackers, (including) a guy who is comparable to the best defensive players in the league." Tedford said. "I would say (Richard) Seigler and (USC safety Troy) Polamalu are the two best defensive players I've seen."

Seigler is not even the unit's leading tackler. That would be fellow linebacker Nick Barnett, who leads the Pac-10 with 9.7 a game.

Tomorrow's game will feature the conference's top red zone offense and defense. While Cal has converted 30 of its 31 opportunities inside the 20-yard line, the Beavers have limited opponents to eight touchdowns and seven field goals in 23 red zone possessions.

"Cal gives you a lot of different things," Erickson said. "They probably run more trick plays than any other team."

The Bears haven't tricked anyone lately, though. The Cal offense has produced just 24 points in its last six quarters.

"The biggest thing is converting third downs," coach Jeff Tedford said. "We did a good job of getting into third and short situations, but that does you no good if you don't convert and have to get off the field."

Joe Igber was held to 55 yards on 20 carries against UCLA and did not have a run of over eight yards.

"We need to do a better job of hitting the holes and running straight ahead instead of going side to side," Tedford said.

Terell Williams, who had his heaviest workload last week against UCLA, gaining 41 yards on seven attempts, should see more time tomorrow.

The Bears expect OSU's offense to rely on its running game, which features the Pac-10's second-leading rusher, sophomore Steven Jackson.

"They've got a good big physical running back, and I'm sure they'll try to run right at us," defensive end Tom Canada said.

However, Beavers coach Dennis Erickson said his team's inability to run the ball in Pac-10 play is his biggest concern. After averaging 184 yards in their four wins, the Beavers have gained a total of 153 in the last three games.


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