Golden Bears will put OSU to the test

by: DENISE FARWELL, Yvenson Bernard ran for 117 yards in a 38-0 win over Idaho.

On Saturday, Oregon State will open Pac-10 play at Reser Stadium and get a better reading on whether its hammer is made of velvet or steel.

The 20th-ranked California Bears (3-1) have been formidable since their opening 35-18 loss at Tennessee, and were intimidating in a 49-21 victory over Arizona State last week.

'Wow, they're very athletic,' Oregon State coach Mike Riley says after watching video of Cal's rout, in which the Bears led 42-14 at the half. 'They have an improving quarterback, two great backs, an outstanding returner and fast receivers on offense. Their defensive line is quick and athletic, their linebackers are very active, and we all know about their secondary.'

The latter area is led by preseason All-America cornerback Daymeion Hughes, who had two interceptions in the first half against ASU and ran one of them back 47 yards for a touchdown. The other corner is Syd'Quan Thompson, a redshirt freshman whom Riley unsuccessfully tried to recruit.

A year ago, Cal QB Joe Ayoob endured a horrible 13-of-39 passing day in a 23-20 loss to the Beavers. He has been beaten out by Nate Longshore, a 6-5, 235-pound sophomore whom Riley also tried to recruit, out of Canyon Country (Calif.) High. Longshore was 18 of 26 yards and four TDs against ASU.

'I remember standing on his high school practice field and watching him throw,' Riley says. 'He can pass, and he's getting comfortable with what they're doing offensively.'

Then there is tailback Marshawn Lynch, who gained 124 yards on 17 carries against ASU.

'They have a lot of things going for them,' Riley says. 'I'm excited about the challenge and opportunity. It would be a big win for us to beat Cal, because they're an excellent team. We'll have to take another big step forward if we're going to beat those guys.'