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BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Oregon State shouldn't be overmatched, but Bears bring tough defense

I always remember Danny Ainge's comment when the 1990-91 Trail Blazers suffered a rare one-sided loss.

"This isn't the Tour de France," Ainge said. "We don't pick up where we left off last game."

Oregon State's 52-7 annihilation by Utah last Saturday doesn't carry over to the Beavers' Saturday visit to Strawberry Canyon to play California. The score is 0-0 when the opening kickoff ensues at 11:30 a.m.

But will there be any hangover effect from the Beavers' abysmal performance?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Cal is 4-2 overall, 1-2 in Pac-12 play, with its signature win a 20-19 thriller at Washington on Sept. 7 in a game delayed 2 1/2 hours by an electrical storm. The Golden Bears have yielded no more than 24 points in a game but have scored no more than 28. They have lost their last two outings — 24-17 to Arizona State and 17-7 at Oregon on Oct. 5.

Cal had only 12 first downs, 66 yards rushing and 256 yards total offense against the Ducks. Devon Modster, a 6-2, 210-pound junior, completed 17 of 34 passes for 190 yards and a TD with two interceptions. Modster is in the lineup because the Bears' starting QB, Chase Garbers, is out with a shoulder injury suffered against the Sun Devils.

The Bears rank last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (20.3 points per game), total offense (331.0 yards) and pass offense (196.8). They have a solid running back in Christopher Brown, a 6-1, 230-pound sophomore who has rushed for 431 yards this season.

Cal is second in the league in pass defense (214.8), fourth in scoring defense (18.3 points) and fifth in total defense (372.5). It's a very good defensive unit led by inside linebackers Evan Weaver and Kuony Deng. Weaver, a 6-3, 235-pound senior linebacker who is a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week already this season, leads the league with 84 tackles, including 14 tackles-for-loss. Deng, a 6-6, 220-pound junior linebacker, is fourth with 54 tackles and nine tackles-for-loss.

The Beavers were overmatched by Utah. They shouldn't be against Cal.

The biggest problem may be moving the ball against the Bears' defense. Coming off a bye, Cal coach Josh Wilcox will have had two weeks to prepare a defensive game plan aimed at stuffing the run, getting bodies in the backfield against OSU QB Josh Luton and containing receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who is second nationally in receptions (51), tied for third in TD receptions (nine) and fourth in receiving yardage (709).

LUTONOregon State's offensive line is going to have to get more push than it did against Utah, a game in which the Beavers managed only 48 yards rushing. The O-line must also do a better job of protecting Luton, so he can sit in the pocket and find receivers rather than running for his life.

They could use some decent place-kicking, too, whether it be veteran Jordan Choukair or true freshman Everett Hayes, who booted a 53-yard field goal last fall at Granite Bay (California) High. This game could be decided by special teams play.

I asked OSU coach Jonathan Smith after the Utah game if he was concerned about his players' psyche after absorbing such a pounding from the Utes.

"We're focused on the psyche all the time," he said. "I think the guys will go back to work. That's all I know, because that's what they've been doing all season.

"Look, it's disappointing, and they're down, just like all of us are. But we're at the halfway point of the season. We have a bunch of football left. I think these guys will be excited to get after it."

Luton said the Beavers' plan is to "keep swinging."

"There's nothing else we can do except keep fighting," the senior quarterback said. "We're going to be out on the field at practice this week correcting stuff we did wrong. That's the way we'll be the rest of the year. We're not going to give up. We'll play the rest of these games on our regular-season schedule with as much fight as we can, and with our heart."

Cal handed the Beavers their most one-sided loss of the 2018 season, trouncing them 49-7 at Corvallis behind the running of Patrick Laird and the passing of Garbers.

Laird is now with the Miami Dolphins. Garbers is out with his injury.

This is a great opportunity for Oregon State to show some resilience after last week's debacle against Utah and gain a little revenge on the Bears for the indignities of a year ago, when Laird scored his final touchdown to put them ahead 42-7 with 3:26 to play.

This one is a tough call, but I think the Beavers shake off the effects and get back on the winning track.

The pick — Oregon State 28, California 24


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