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Cougs will face new California QB

PULLMAN – No matter the outcome of Saturday’s game in Pullman, California head football coach Jeff Tedford will be glad the road portion of the 2010 schedule is over.

The Bears have played four times away from Memorial Stadium. They have been blown out three times. The other one was a last-minute defeat to Arizona.

Even more painful was the loss suffered last week in a 35-7 beating at Oregon State, that being senior quarterback Kevin Riley to a major, though unspecified, knee injury.

“Everybody feels for Kevin because they have a lot of respect for him,” said Tedford on the Pac-10 football coaches conference call Tuesday. “But as football goes along, yeah, they feel for him, but they also know we have a job to do.”

With or without Riley – with 19 wins, the quarterback with the most victories in the Pac-10 – the Bears (4-4, 2-3 Pac-10) have been lights out at home and dancing in the dark on the road. Especially their defense.

“On the road, we’ve given up numerous drives in the first half, and we can’t get off the field in the first half,” Tedford said. “I want to make sure we are doing what we need to do and not trying too hard, not trying to be over-aggressive.”

That might be a tough habit to break, what with the Bears being outscored 145-61 on the road this season.

But this week they face WSU, which has lost 15 consecutive Pac-10 games, hasn’t defeated a FBS school in more than a year, and is last nationally in total defense.

In other words, it’s a perfect place to break in a new starting quarterback. For Cal, that will be 6-foot-5, 232-pound Brock Mansion, a junior who has thrown 39 passes in his career, 14 of those coming last week at OSU when he replaced Riley.

“We’ve got to build his confidence so he can do the things he does best,” Tedford said. “He hasn’t played much, but he’s been around the program a long time.”

Long enough to see the Bears lose six consecutive games away from Memorial Stadium. A win Saturday, however, puts Cal within a game of bowl eligibility with three home games left.

But there’s danger in the future. Next season, due to the reconstruction of Memorial Stadium, the Bears will play all their games away from Berkeley. Their home games will be in San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

Around the conference

Although Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers isn’t leading the Pac-10 in rushing, he may be the conference leader in superlatives gained. The 5-foot-7 junior from Richmond, Texas, is “the perfect running back,” according to UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, whose Bruins host the Beavers Saturday. “He’s a great pass catcher, he’s a great pass protector … he’s elusive as a running back with great vision and he’s also very powerful and very difficult to bring down.” … Rodgers’ coach, Mike Riley, sees him every day, but still marvels at what Rodgers can do. “Quizz makes a lot of stuff up on his own, makes a lot of yards on his own,” he said. “He’s had some of the best 4-yard runs I’ve ever seen in my life.” … Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson has won 170 college football games. He can’t believe Penn State’s Joe Paterno is on the verge of his 400th win. “A lot of us would have to coach for 100 years to do that,” Erickson said. “You’ll never see that after him. You look at 400 wins, that’s 40 years of coaching at 10 wins. That’s unbelievable.” Erickson will try to win No. 171 at USC. … The Trojans got all excited last week and played Oregon tough for three quarters. Then the Ducks ran away. Now USC has to rebound against ASU. “We’ll have to do a great job of coming back,” said coach Lane Kiffin. “We’ve had some very emotional games.”

The potent Oregon offense isn’t a surprise anymore and it shouldn’t be. Ever since coach Chip Kelly came to Eugene from New Hampshire, the Ducks have led the Pac-10 in rushing. They are doing it with their 265.6 yards per game – more than 40 yards a game better than No. 2 Stanford. “That’s what it’s been like since I’ve been here,” Kelly said. “It’s part of what our identity is. We’re going to run the football.” The Ducks’ LaMichael James leads the nation with 172.9 yards per game. … Washington will enter Autzen Stadium without Jake Locker, out for at least a while with a broken rib. “In a perfect world we’ll get to have him back for our final three ball games,” said coach Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies have a bye after this week, then finish with UCLA, WSU and Cal. Redshirt freshman Keith Price will be UW’s QB. He’ll make his first start and has thrown nine passes this season.

“This will be the second time I’ve had a kid make his first career road start at Autzen Stadium. The one before this one was Mark Sanchez,” said Sarkisian, who was offensive coordinator at USC and coached Sanchez, now the Jets’ quarterback. “Hopefully … Keith’s career can turn out like Mark’s.”

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