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He's Oregon State's quarterback, but it will be homecoming for Ryan Katz at the Rose Bowl

The Santa Monica High School graduate wanted to play for UCLA, but the Bruins took a pass. So now he and his family are wearing orange and black.

November 06, 2010|By Chris Foster

The color scheme in the Katz household has undergone a radical change. Out is powder blue and gold — what were they thinking? — and in are orange-and-black patterns.

A short drive from the UCLA campus, the home where Ryan Katz was raised has become Corvallis, Ore., South.

Katz, Oregon State's quarterback, on Saturday returns to the Rose Bowl, where he and his family used to root for UCLA.

Now? You could say they are all eager Beavers.

"There are going to be quite a few family members and friends there, maybe 100," said Katz, a redshirt sophomore who graduated from Santa Monica High School. "They'll all be in orange and black."

It didn't have to be this way. Katz wanted to be a Bruin. Somewhere there are UCLA shirts and caps that Katz says his mother has stored.

UCLA coaches did take a look when Katz threw for them in 2006, but they passed. One visit to Corvallis and the Beavers' football camp put Katz on the Oregon State trail.

"I went up there and loved the place," Katz said. "They offered me a scholarship right there. I didn't say yes right away, but when I got home I knew that was where I wanted to go."

A nice catch by the Beavers.

In his first season as the starter, Katz has helped Oregon State to a record of 4-3 overall, 3-1 in Pacific 10 Conference play, despite a schedule that included games against second-ranked Boise State, fourth-ranked Texas Christian and 13th-ranked Arizona.

Oregon State beat Arizona, 29-27, when Katz threw for 393 yards and two touchdowns. But he's hit a few speed bumps too.

Katz has had only four passes intercepted this season, but three came against Washington in a 35-34 overtime loss. One was in the end zone and killed a drive that had taken the Beavers to the Washington five-yard line. The Huskies won when a Katz pass was dropped on a two-point conversion attempt.

"The best thing when a young quarterback is going through tough times is to go back and talk about what he needs to do to continue the game," Oregon State Coach Mike Riley said. "Frankly, Ryan is pretty good about that."

Katz fretted about the interceptions — "We had a bye week, and that play went through my mind over and over," he said — but the next game, against California, he completed 22 of 29 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown in a 35-7 victory.

"One of his main attributes is his poise," Riley said.

But that wasn't the first thing the coach noticed during the 2006 summer camp. "We liked what we saw in film; what was holding us back was we wanted to see him throw the ball live," Riley said. "He came to our camp, threw, and we immediately wanted him."

It was not exactly the career path Katz had dreamed about. All through his childhood, UCLA had been the one and only.

His grandfather Alvin was on the Bruins' football team in the 1960s. When Katz was a child, his father, Michael, would take him to UCLA spring practices.

Katz went to every UCLA home game while in high school. "I was on their recruiting list," he said. But he wasn't high on it.

UCLA took Huntington Beach Edison quarterback Nick Crissman instead. Crissman has had two surgeries on his right shoulder since coming to UCLA.

That recruiting season there were several highly regarded quarterbacks available including Auburn's Cameron Newton, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

There was some tire-kicking with Katz, but no real interest at first. Still, Zach Cuda, then Santa Monica High's coach, knew Katz's worth.

"The kid is an incredible physical talent, but his football IQ is off the charts," Cuda said. "He transferred into my AP economics class a month late because he was trying to get extra credits to graduate early. His first test, he got a B-minus, and I thought this was going to be a challenge. He never had anything below an A after that."

When Oregon State offered a scholarship, so did Oregon, Washington and Utah. But not UCLA.

Some family allegiances die hard. Not this one.

"Even those who are UCLA alums will be in our colors for this one," Katz said.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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