Bowl eligibility on the line for Cal against Beavers

Bowl eligibility on the line for Cal against Beavers
Oregon State head coach Mike Riley looks toward the field during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California shouldn't have a problem finding motivation against Oregon State.

A victory Saturday would make the Golden Bears bowl eligible for the eighth time in nine seasons and likely get them back into the postseason after missing out in 2009.

The game also marks the final home contest for Cal's 21 seniors who have had to play out their last season at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park while Memorial Stadium undergoes a $321 million renovation.

Additionally, the Beavers have won four straight games against the Bears and five consecutive on the road in the series between conference rivals that dates to 1905.

"There's all types of motivation," Cal safety Sean Cattouse said. "We didn't want to bury our heads in the sand about the possibilities of winning this game and being bowl eligible as a team. We haven't beaten Oregon State in a while so it's a little bit of that mixed in, too, get a little redemption."

The Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) close out the season with road games at Arizona State and No. 3 Stanford. That puts added significance on the game against the Beavers.

Since opening its season with a 29-28 overtime loss to lower-division Sacramento State, Oregon State (2-7, 2-4) hasn't had much go its way.

Redshirt freshman Sean Mannion and wide receiver James Rodgers have provided the Beavers with what few highlights they have had.

Mannion, who beat out 2010 starter Ryan Katz, has completed 64.3 percent of his throws and is on pace to set an Oregon State freshman record for passing.

Mannion's favorite target has been Rodgers, the senior wideout who has 212 career receptions and needs nine to break the school record held by Mike Hass.

"I think one of Sean's great attributes is his poise and his preparation in terms of getting ready to go," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "He knows the offense, he knows what to do with the football and he makes a lot of plays."

Cal counters with the No. 1 pass defense in the Pac-12.

Cattouse, one of the Bears' seniors playing in his final home game, also is among those who have never defeated Oregon State.

"They always come at us," Cattouse said. "It's going to be the same this weekend. This year just like any other year, they're a quality team."

Cal holds a 33-30 edge in the series between the two teams but hasn't won since a 41-13 victory in Corvallis on Sept. 30, 2006. Oregon State has won 10 of the last 12 matchups and hasn't lost on the Bears' home turf since 1997.

Even though the game is being played at AT&T Park, the Beavers aren't strangers to AT&T Park. They beat Maryland 21-14 on Dec. 28, 2007, in what was then known as the Emerald Bowl.

The Bears have won three of four at the Giants waterfront ballpark and need to hold serve against the Beavers to keep their bowl hopes alive. Cal coach Jeff Tedford has reminded his players about that, while also pointing out Oregon State's recent string of success in the series.

"We can't just act like (bowl eligibility) doesn't exist, and also Oregon State has got the best of us for a few years," Tedford said. "We've had some really close games and it's come down to the wire a couple times. Really, it's a lack of execution. They've out-executed us."

Cal has also has some bad luck during its losing streak against the Beavers.

The Bears lost quarterback Kevin Riley early in the first quarter of their 35-7 loss in 2010. The year before that running back Jahvid Best sustained a concussion when he leaped into the air, flipped over a defender and landed on back of his head while scoring on a 7-yard touchdown run.

Current Cal quarterback Zach Maynard was knocked out of last week's 30-7 win over Washington State after taking a blow to the head while recovering a fumble in the third quarter.

Maynard was cleared to practice and is expected to start. He also is the Bears' second-leading rusher with 253 yards.

"He's excellent at throwing on the run," Mike Riley said. "He is definitely a factor you've got to keep in mind. An athletic quarterback who throws on the move is always difficult to defend."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.