Returns get OSU rolling.
CORVALLIS - James Rodgers ran a kickoff back 86 yards for Oregon State's first touchdown Saturday. Sammie Stroughter returned a punt 56 yards to set up the second score for the Beavers.
"That's exciting. You love to see plays like that whether you're a defensive guy or a redshirt guy in the stands," OSU defensive end Victor Butler said. "It gets you pumped up, and it makes you want to do your job even (better) because you've got someone fighting just as hard for you."
Thus inspired, the OSU offense and defense kicked in their share as the Beavers defeated California, 34-21, in Reser Stadium to remain in control of the Pac-10's berth in the Rose Bowl.
For countless times previously this season, it seemed as if the explosive wide receivers were only a block or a cutback away from breaking a big runback.
"They were both low hang-time kicks," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "A lot of kick returns are based on the opportunity to return the ball, how much space you have between you and the opponent when you catch the ball."
It all amounts, Riley said, to "bad hang times and away you go."
Moevao holds up
The bigger post-game issue about Lyle Moevao's health concerned illness more than injury. The OSU quarterback spoke in a hoarse voice when he was in front of the media, and Riley said "he can barely talk, he's sick."
The ailing right shoulder? "It felt great, I just had to get back in the mood of throwing those deep balls," Moevao said.
The interception he threw in the first quarter was largely the result of Cal cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson being where the Beavers, and Moevao, didn't anticipate based on the routes run by the OSU receivers and usual coverage. The shoulder was strong enough, Moevao and Riley said.
Stopping the Bears
Cal's total offense of 234 yards was its second-lowest total of the season. The Bears were only 2-of-13 on converting third downs into first downs. It also meant Cal had the football for less than 11 minutes of the 30 minutes in the second half, for a total time of possession of 25 minutes and 14 seconds.
"It's really hard to get in the flow when you are in so many long-yardage situations," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "We weren't making any progress on first down. We really struggled protecting the passer and when you end up in that many long-yardage situations, it makes for a difficult day playing against a team like that."
After Cal pulled within 27-21 in the third quarter, the OSU defense protected the lead for 21 minutes before an interception return for a touchdown by Keenan Lewis ensured the victory.
"We definitely knew we couldn't let them score," Lewis said.
"We're taught to like any and every opportunity to play defense," Butler said. "Whether it's 27-21 or 27-10, we want to get back on the field and do what we can to help our team win."
That included five sacks of Cal quarterback Kevin Riley, who finished with 11 completions in 25 attempts for 117 yards
"Our goal going into this game was to stop the run," said Slade Norris, the other OSU defensive end. "We wanted to make them one dimensional so once we got that run stopped, we were just going to pin our ears back and go for it.
"I think we got (Riley) a little frustrated and got into his head a little bit."