Old Blues searching for hope that Cal can snap its three-year skid against Oregon State can consider this: The Bears shut down Beavers star running back Jacquizz Rodgers last season, and the principal characters from an OSU passing game that carved them up won't be on the field Saturday at Reser Stadium.
Star wide receiver James Rodgers, Jacquizz's older brother, was lost for the season on Oct. 9 when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a game at Arizona. Rodgers led the Pac-10 in receptions last season and was on the preseason watch list for four postseason awards.
The Beavers are also breaking in a new quarterback this season. Ryan Katz replaced Sean Canfield, who threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns against Cal last season during a 31-14 Oregon State win. Canfield went on to become an All-Pac-10 first team selection.
Katz got off to a slow start against superb competition -- the Beavers played TCU and Boise State in two of their first three games -- but has come on lately. But Katz also threw three interceptions in the Beavers' last game, a 35-34 double-overtime loss at Washington.
But James Rodgers is absolutely irreplaceable. Rodgers not only is a dynamic receiver but is also dangerous as a runner and as a quality kick returner as well. Two years ago against Cal, Rodgers returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and also scored on an 18-yard run.
"You never hope he gets hurt like he is. He had a pretty bad injury," Cal safety Sean Cattouse said. "They're trying to do some of the same things, but with him in there, there are a few more packages they can run. It's definitely a key loss for them."
OSU has tried to replace Rodgers with sophomore Markus Wheaton, who had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown at Arizona. He had four receptions for 43 yards last week.
"Anytime you lose a player like that, he's an impact player, no doubt," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Last year, he really came into his own as a receiver. Two years ago, it was a lot of fly sweeps just to try to get the ball in his hands. He improved so much as a receiver, they started doing downfield throws. But they have other very good players as well. (Wheaton) has really stepped into his role."
Oregon State led the Pac-10 in passing offense last season (270.8 yards per game). So far this year, the Beavers rank No. 8 (223.7 ypg).
The loss of Rodgers and Canfield makes the performance of Jacquizz Rodgers loom even larger. The younger Rodgers is a two-time All-Pac-10 first team pick who in 2008 became the first freshman ever to be named Pac-10 Offensive Most Valuable Player. He was even better last season, rushing for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns and catching 78 passes for 522 yards.
At 103.5 rushing yards per game, Rodgers is having his least productive season so far, though he's still on pace rush for more than 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"Jacquizz by himself is a guy that keeps you awake at night," Tedford said.
Rodgers has rushed for more than 100 yards in every other game this season and had 140 against the Huskies. Rodgers said this week he is off pace of his goal of rushing for 1,800 yards and plans on really bringing it against Cal.
"You can say I've been in a slump, but I'm going to take my game to another level the second half of the season," Rodgers told OSU reporters. "I'm about to break out. Hold me to that."
Rodgers had 189 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns against Washington.
"He's a great back. He's a real good football player all the way around," Cattouse said. "He comes to play and goes hard. That's something we're going to have to match."
Note: Cal's game at Washington State on Nov. 6 will begin at 1 p.m. and air on Comcast SportsNet California.