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October 30, 2010

Riley, Bears go down in Corvallis

CORVALLIS, Ore.-The colors, the latitude and the longitude may have changed, but on a dreary, damp, grey and gloomy Saturday afternoon, the Cal football team once again turned into road kill, losing its sixth straight contest away from Memorial Stadium. Oregon State did its best USC impression, sprinting out to a big halftime lead and demolishing not just the Bears as a whole, but senior quarterback Kevin Riley's left knee in a rather complete 35-7 victory at Reser Stadium.

"I don't know what to say about that. I've said it over and over again, and I don't know what to say about the home and away thing," said frustrated Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "I see what everybody's thinking, and I can't say that I blame the opinions about that, but again, the preparation going in, they were very focused with the travel and very focused with the preparation and the kids were fired up and ready to go, but again it looks like, I don't know, you guys are there, you see how we practice with the noise, and it looks like today, I don't know how many false start penalties we had because of the noise, so we have to do something about that."

Cal's point differential on the road took yet another big hit, as the Bears have now been outscored 145-61 away from Memorial Stadium.

"We cannot keep, you know, it's a bad combination, when you're getting negative yards because of penalties and they're moving the ball very well and taking advantage of all of their opportunities," Tedford said. "That's what happens if a game is like that."

As if yet another road whooping wasn't enough, Cal likely lost Riley for the rest of the season early in the first quarter. The native of Beaverton, Ore., was 2-of-4 in the first quarter, when he was faced with a third-and-15 on the Bears' five-yard line, thanks to a false-start penalty by junior wide receiver Marvin Jones.

With seven minutes left in the period, Riley dropped back into his own end zone and uncorked a big 32-yard sideline pass to Jones, but from the blind side, defensive tackle Brennan Olander came flying in and buckled fifth-year senior's knee. Riley came off the field-possibly for the last time as a Bear-with tears in his eyes, and did not speak with the media afterwards.

"I'm sure that has a lot to do with his disappointment, and it felt like it was pretty significant," Tedford said of Riley's reaction to the injury. "Kevin's a tough guy, so it's unfortunate."

True freshman Keenan Allen-who has only caught passes from Riley in his time at Cal-knew that it was a big hit.

"We thought it was going to be a big loss," Allen said. "It was a big loss, but Brock (Mansion) came in and played a big role and stepped up. I thought he played great. Everybody was cool, trying to keep (Mansion) calm."

Tedford said that the prognosis does not look very good, but the team will not know the full extent of the injury until an MRI is performed early next week.

"We have to get an MRI next week with him," Tedford said. "They took him for some tests here, but I don't think they'll know more until they get an MRI, tomorrow or whenever they can get him an appointment. I hope as soon as possible, that we figure out what's going on with him. Right now, it looks a bit more serious than just your everyday sprained knee."

With precious little game experience to go on this year, junior quarterback Brock Mansion was thrown into the mix.

"I was kind of in shock," Mansion said. "I was like, 'OK, now I guess I'm going in.' Then, after that first series, when we just kind of shot ourselves in the foot a few times, it was fine. It was a lot of bullets, so everything was going a little faster, and I was anticipating things being faster and I was trying to go even faster than I should have been going."

When Riley first went down, Mansion was trying to usher new personnel groups onto the field, and did not realize that his teammate was still on the ground. He looked back and saw Riley in the end zone, and didn't even think to warm up.

"I was like, 'Uh-oh, OK, what's going on?'" Mansion said. "Then, I took all my stuff (ballcap, headset) off and got ready to play."

"When Kevin went out, all I heard from anybody was 'Rally behind Brock!'" Tedford said. "They told Brock, 'OK, here we go,' and trying to be positive with Brock and that's the way this team approached it, from where I was standing."

Unfortunately for Mansion, he was faced with an offensive line that was getting blasted into the backfield with regularity.

"All the way around, we didn't protect the passer," Tedford said. "We didn't block very well, too many penalties, it was just a poor effort."

The line was brutalized all game long, and only managed to plow the way for 23 net rushing yards.

On the other side of the coin, the Oregon State offense couldn't stop rolling. The Beavers put 28 points on the board in the first half in every way seemingly possible. First it was an 11-yard TD pass from tailback Jacquizz Rodgers to Colby Prince, then two straight Rodgers runs and finally a 17-yard TD strike from quarterback Ryan Katz to Joe Halahuni, who hauled in four catches for 52 yards on the day.

As ineffective as the Cal offensive line was, the defensive line also failed to contain the Beavers with any kind of regularity. The Bears allowed Rodgers to run for 119 yards on 22 carries, and saw Markus Wheaton fill in ably for the injured James Rodgers, rushing six times for 73 yards and catching six passes for 57 yards.

"I'm very concerned," Tedford said of the play up front on both sides of the ball. "We didn't pass protect very well, so that's concerning. We need to improve. We have to get better, so that's what this week's focus is going to be. We have one more opportunity to go on the road and we need to have a great week and get prepared to go play. We have to get better in certain areas. We have to put more pressure on the passer and we have to protect ours better."

Katz had plenty of time in the pocket-save for the few times he was pursued by a relentless Jordan-and went 20-of-29 for 184 yards through the air. He was sacked, however, once by Jordan, once by Ernest Owusu and once by D.J. Holt.

As for Cal's pass protection, Riley was sacked once and hurried several times-including what could very well end up being the last play of his Cal career-and Mansion was taken out four times.

"We may shake things up, we definitely may," Tedford said of the offensive line personnel going forward. "We're going to watch it on tape and find out what the issues are. Sometimes it's the tight ends. We got beat a couple times with the tight end protection-we tried to keep some protection where the tight ends stayed in to protect as well and to help us out and the tight end got beat twice on some big sacks, that I can remember. We have to improve."

Starting center Chris Guarnero was abused several times by a Beavers defensive line that didn't do anything different from what the Bears had seen on film.
"It was nothing we haven't seen before," Guarnero said. "We just didn't execute today, is what it comes down to. We have to block and protect the quarterback and make holes and solid blocks for the running game."

Allen, too, was not surprised by any kind of look that the Beavers brought.

"I didn't think that they surprised us, at all," Allen said. "It was the same thing we've seen on film."

All in all, the offense was completely ineffective. The Bears tallied 10 first downs to the Beavers' 23. Cal mustered just 206 total yards-only 64 in a first half which saw Oregon State take a 28-0 lead-and the Beavers posted 392 yards against a Bears defense that had allowed 301.4 yards per game in the previous seven games.

"We didn't play very well on defense," Tedford said. "They went right up and down the field, and we knew that Jacquizz was a great player, but they pretty much did anything they wanted. They threw the ball and ran the ball and again, give them a lot of credit. Their quarterback played well, they protected him well and they made a lot of plays. We played really well in the second half, defensively, but by that time, we were behind pretty far."

Just as the offense didn't see anything in Oregon State that they had not seen on film, the same was so with the Bears defense, which didn't see anything very much unfamiliar from what they had studied all through the week.

"We have a pretty good defense, it's just consistency to keep showing up that needs to happen," said senior defensive end Cameron Jordan, who tallied six tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. "They did everything that we expected. Jacquizz just found a couple of holes where we had made dents that we put in them, and, to his credit, he did what he needed to do."

Jordan was honest in his assessment of the loss, pointedly expressing exactly what went wrong.

"It was not about what they did, or what we did," Jordan said. "It was about what we didn't do. We're going to have to watch tape, look within ourselves and find out ways to get better again."

What the Bears failed to do was contain Rodgers as effectively as they had last year, allowing the 5-foot-7, 191-pound tailback to go off for 130 all-purpose yards.

"Well, the O-linemen are about this high," Jordan said, placing his left hand about a foot off the table. Then, he placed his right hand just about an inch over the table top. "Jacquizz is about this high, and he can run through legs and dive through ankles. He's a strong, little guy, and he's sort of shifty."

As if dealing with Rodgers wasn't enough, Cal was fighting an even more formidable opponent: itself. The Bears were plagued by a season-worst 12 penalties for a season-high 103 yards, including several false starts along the line, which killed drives in their infancy and caused multiple third-and-long quicksand situations for a team which had entered the game as the second-least-penalized team in the conference.

"We had just way too many penalties," Tedford said. "The noise affected us, I mean, it looked like we'd never practiced with noise before, and we practice with noise all the time. We practice with noise every day. It was, we just, we were always in long-yardage situations, and you can't win a football game in third-and-25 all the time. We shot ourselves in the foot."

Despite the mountain of adversity that he was faced with, Mansion, for his part, didn't bat an eye. The junior signal-caller out of Texas went 14-for-24 for 138 yards and a score, all career highs.

"He was very rusty and he hasn't played in a game and the playbook gets shrunk, quite a bit," Tedford said. "But, he competed and I was proud of the way he kept competing in there and I think the reps that he got today are going to be beneficial to him, because it looks like maybe Kevin might be out for a while."

Mansion was named the No. 2 quarterback before last week's game against Arizona State, and had been seeing his reps in practice steadily increase over the course of the season.

"As soon as I got named the No. 2 guy, I told my dad, and he was excited and I had a bunch of family support, throughout the week," Mansion said. "It was the first step, getting back here (to No. 2), and then, becoming the guy, the starter, I don't even know how to explain it. I mean, it's exciting to play, but at the same time, you feel for Kev. I was just trying to get the support and make sure that everyone felt comfortable and confident, and we can just continue to move the football."

Now, of course, he'll be taking all of the first-team reps.

"I felt pretty prepared, I mean, you've always got to prepare like you're the guy," Mansion said. "Kev gets the majority of the reps during the week, but still, I've gotten every single mental rep when he got the physical one. I'd steadily gotten more reps each week, and then when I was officially named the No. 2 guy, I got my reps increased."

Mansion relied on Allen to get himself settled, and the wide receiver out of North Carolina came within five yards of setting a career-high for all-purpose yards, notching 171 on the day and a career-high 12 touches. Allen caught a career-best eight passes for 65 yards and returned a career-best six kickoffs for 106 yards.

"I honestly just tried to complete balls and take what they give me," Mansion said. "It just turned out that the looks that they were giving us, he was the guy that would get the ball."

When Allen did get the ball, he was swarmed by sometimes as many as four orange jerseys.

"Well, you always run to the ball," Tedford said. "He had a pretty big play on the wide screen and ended up fumbling the ball, but it's not so much, different coverages, you go to different places with the ball. He's not the primary receiver every time. It really depends on what the play call is and what the coverage dictates where you go. I wouldn't say that they tried to take Keenan out of the game."

The Bears did manage to find some creative ways to get Allen the ball, including a reverse that set Allen up for what would have been a 15-yard bullet pass to Isi Sofele were it not for a pass interference call that went against Oregon State and nullified any passing yards Allen may have accrued.

"We just tried to do a quick game to get Brock involved," Allen said. "We tried to settle him down and get his passing going, and I just happened to be open on all of them, so I tried to make a play."

Allen was brutalized on one of his kick returns, bringing the ball back 27 yards and trying to fight for a few more when he found himself deprived of his helmet out of bounds, thanks to Uani Unga.

"I was just trying to keep on fighting for yards, and he ripped my helmet off and another dude came in and hit me on the side of the head," Allen said.

It was one of several sideline plays which the referees saw fit not to call, something that irked Tedford, to be sure, but not something which he was about to blame for the loss.

"I'm guilty, I had a penalty. I was upset about a situation with the officiating, when Shane (Vereen) got hit out of bounds and it didn't get called," Tedford said. "We already got called for one over there, and Jacquizz, you can't even tell when he's out of bounds because he's running north-south, and we get called for one and Shane's three yards out of bounds and got whacked out of bounds. I was upset about that, that it wasn't equal as far as that was concerned, on that play. I'm not saying that all the calls were the officials' fault, because they weren't. We were responsible for those, but I thought on that one, it was blatant."

Tedford also lamented the lack of execution-rather than a flaw in the game plan-as a source for Saturday's lackluster performance.

"Oregon State played well, and we made way too many mistakes," Tedford said. "We had a lot of penalties and we couldn't stop them. They played great on offense and we couldn't stop them. I don't think they punted until probably the second half, and we didn't do much on offense. When Kevin went down, it kind of limits us, but give their defense credit, as well. Just way too many mistakes."

Tedford said that the team practiced well this past week, and prepared adequately for the game coming off of the 50-17 win at home over the Sun Devils, but it was plain that the team on the Reser Stadium turf was not the same that stomped Arizona State a week ago.

"I thought we practiced well, I thought the guys were fired up before the game and ready to go," Tedford said.

Should Riley be unavailable going into next week, Tedford said, Mansion would be the starter.

"I'm going to continue to prepare as if I'm the No. 1 guy," Mansion said. "If Kev's OK, it wouldn't change my preparation for next week. But, I'm going to continue to prepare like I'm the guy."

"It was important to keep Brock in there for long-term and to get Brock feeling comfortable in there and things like that," Tedford said. "He stayed in there, he competed, had bright eyes when he came off the field about trying to get things done right. Now, he'll get a lot of reps next week, moving forward."

The Bears narrowly avoided their first Pac-10 shutout since Oct. 22, 1994, with a last-minute touchdown toss from Mansion to tight end Anthony Miller. The 45-yard scoring strike was a career-long for both Miller and Mansion.

"I feel like every drive, after the first one, I got more and more and more comfortable," said Mansion, who went 6-for-6 for 93 yards on the final series of the game. "It just so happened that I started completing more balls on that last series. I feel that if there were 10 minutes left in the ballgame, and it was that-number series, I would have looked just as comfortable."

Notable Quotables

• Tedford on bouncing back from the loss: "It's adversity, and something like this, the adversity part of it builds character and I have a lot of confidence in the attitude that they're going to bring into practice on Monday, and I really believe that, that they'll come back and have the energy, once this gets out of their system. It doesn't get out of your system easily. We'll have to get over this on Monday and move forward. We can't have a hangover from something like that. We have to move forward, and I have confidence that we will, that we'll come back next week and have a great week of work."

• Jordan on his reaction to the Riley injury: "Football's a tough game, and when people get hurt, you start pumping guys up. So, I started pumping up Brock, and Brock's my dude. We came in there together, he's my class, so I pat him on the back and told him, 'Put the hard hat on and let's get to work.'"

• Jordan on the infamous home-vs.-road discrepancies for this football team: "It's a little ridiculous. I feel like, going home or going away shouldn't be an issue. When we're home, we have the crowd behind us, and when we're away, we should feed off the crowd, at least I feed off the crowd, no matter where I play. As long as there's somebody in front of me, I'm going to knock them back."

• Jordan on the Beavers' offensive line: "Usually with Oregon State-this was my fourth time playing them-that is not the most physical O-line they've had. I expected a little more, and for them to do as well as they did against us, is really a pain. It seems like they didn't really fire off the ball like they used to, they're not heavy guys, they weren't really doing double teams, and we created rifts within ourselves."

Notebook
• Cal has fallen to 0-4 in 2010 road games.

• Entering the day, Mansion was 3-of-8 for 26 yards in his career.

Shane Vereen rushed for 53 yards today, and now has 2,441 in his career. Vereen id not catch a pass today for the first time in his career, breaking his streak of having at least one reception in 34 straight games, which was the longest active streak by an FBS running back.

• Jones finished the game with five catches for 66 yards, and now leads the team with 38 grabs for 574 yards.

Sean Cattouse, who started the game at free safety, tied his career-high with eight tackles.

• Oregon State has now won four games in a row and 10 of the last 12 meetings between the two squads since 1999, as well as six of seven games in Corvallis during that stretch.

Bryan Anger punted eight times for a 43.4-yard average, matching a career-high for number of punts in a game.

• The announced attendance of 45,439 was the largest crowd of the season and the fourth-largest ever at Reser.

• The Beavers improved to 40-15 in the months of October, November and December, dating back to 2004. In October alone, Oregon State is 19-7.

• The 28 first-half points for the Beavers were the most this season.

• Rodgers reached 3,433 total yards for his career, the 14th-best total in Pac-10 history, surpassing O.J. Simpson.


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