OSU coach considers giving backup QB minutes in first half
CORVALLIS - Oregon State coach Mike Riley isn't ready to say for sure that Sean Canfield will get meaningful minutes at quarterback Saturday when the Beavers play host to Washington State at Reser Stadium.
The smart money is on it happening, however.
'Sean continues to improve, and I'd like to get him in there earlier,' Riley says of Canfield, the promising 6-4, 225-pound redshirt freshman who backs up senior Matt Moore at quarterback. 'We'll use him not unlike we would a good second-team player at any other position. We're going to talk about it as a (coaching) staff, but I'm leaning toward Sean getting some time in the first half.'
Canfield played only the fourth quarter of California's 41-13 blowout of Oregon State last Saturday, completing 5 of 7 passes for 57 yards. The big left-hander from Carlsbad, Calif., has played in all four games this season, hitting on a remarkable 73 percent of his passes (27-for-37) for 334 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.
Though he doesn't have enough attempts to rank among the national leaders (15 per game is required), Canfield's completion percentage is bettered by only one quarterback among the top 100 - San Jose State's Adam Tafralis at 76.7 percent.
In his second season as the starter, Moore is 53-of-89 (59.6 percent) for 559 yards and four TDs and has been intercepted twice. The 6-4, 195-pound transfer from UCLA hasn't played as well as his coaches had hoped, but not poorly enough to merit a demotion.
'Matt has played more solid football this year,' Riley says. 'He's missed some (throws) in games, but he hasn't made a lot of mistakes. We all feel good about what Matt's doing, but we feel great about the improvement Sean is making. That's only a good thing for the team.'
Canfield said before August training camp he hoped to become the starter at some point this season. With Moore as the incumbent, that seemed unlikely, but Canfield's emergence has shortened the gap of the status between the two quarterbacks.
'I wish I could get some more time when the game's still on the line, but I feel like I've done a pretty good job for the most part when I've been in there,' Canfield says.
If Riley goes to Canfield early Saturday, it won't be to give Washington State's defense a different look.
'It's not like putting in a real fast, running quarterback,' Riley says. 'Matt and Sean are both classic, drop-back passers. They both can roll out and throw the ball, but they're not going to run for big gains. Matt has a gun, and Sean is a very natural passer. It's all pretty easy for him.'
Moore's biggest problem has been focusing in on one target and not going to the second or third option on a pass play. Canfield has gotten himself into trouble a couple of times by escaping the pocket before it was necessary.
'I scrambled once when I shouldn't have against Idaho, and I did it my last play against Cal, too,' Canfield says. 'If there's one thing I need to improve on, that's probably it.'
Moore remains one of the most respected players on the Oregon State team.
'Matt's played well most of the time this season,' tailback Yvenson Bernard says. 'We have confidence in him. He's a senior captain, the leader of the offense and our team. He's vocal. People listen when he has something to say.
'Who starts and who plays is the coach's decision, but Matt is our guy until we hear something else.'
Moore and Canfield are both Southern Californians, and they have enjoyed a good relationship. Their competition has been a friendly one.
'We get along fine,' Canfield says. 'We've been friends since I came to Corvallis in the spring of '05. Matt's a real mature guy who has taken the situation well. What happens on the field doesn't change our relationship at all.'
Moore has gone out of his way to compliment Canfield in several media interviews this season.
'I'll be the first to tell you Sean has the ability to do anything in this offense,' he says. 'However Coach Riley wants to use us, that's his decision. I have to respect that, and I do.
'My position is, winning comes first. Coach Riley knows what it takes for us to win. Any decision he makes, I'm behind him 100 percent. And I'm behind Sean, too.'