Success Disease. This is what the great Bill Walsh called it when you came up against a lesser opponent or were about to head into a contest after accomplishing an impressive feat the week prior. The aforementioned Walsh would go to great lengths to help his team overcome what he defined as success disease to make sure his teams never overlooked an opponent, despite how much they might be favored. He would go to seemingly great lengths to find bulletin board material and even make up fabricated news stories to inspire his players to never to let their guard down against anyone. Walsh’s strategy is exactly what it takes to win a championship, better yet three and it is the very trap Cal fell into this evening.
In a game the Bears were favored to win by 13.5 points, their defense couldn’t hold Oregon State on the ground and the once high powered Bear Raid offense looked absent. The Bears made a plethora of mistakes and drive killing penalties as the team apparently took a vacation one week early prior to their bye week.
Without a doubt, Cal enjoyed (depending on which way you look at it) one of the worst losses in recent memory. The offensive game plan was abysmal and the defense reverted back to the poor tackling days of 2014. Cal made error after error and very much looked liked the team that was at the bottom of the conference rather than the one looking to establish itself at the top of a weak Pac-12. Onto the wrap we go!
First Quarter: Tearin’ up my heart
Cal started with the ball and had their first of many quick three and outs in the first half. The Bears would also commit their first drive killing penalty (a theme of the night) and be forced to kick the ball away immediately. Dylan Klumph hit an excellent punt that pinned Oregon State deep which was perhaps the second best play of the first half for the Bears.
Oregon State took their first possession and used a familiar formula from the Utah game, running all over the Bears defense. As the Beavers brought the ball into Cal territory the defense held and Ray Davison had a potential interception glance off his hands as the Beavers were forced into a field goal. Oregon State would opt for the kick and take an early 3-0 lead.
Cal would receive the ensuing kickoff and make another unacceptable mistake with Demetris Robertson dropping the ball during the return which Malik McMorris picked up and moved upfield. After a holding call, the Bears would start at their own six. Cal would get a decent run on first down from Vic Enwere but the drive would stall as Davis Webb looked rusty, missing receivers by a few yards.
After a short punt, Oregon State was quickly back into Cal territory. The Cal defense would force a third down play where Oregon State quarterback Darell Garretson ran with the ball and looked short of the first down after the replay. Dykes decided not to challenge the call and Ryan Nall would score the Beavers first rushing touchdown of the game shortly after. The Beavers were now up 10-0 over the Bears early in the game.
Towards the end of the quarter, Cal would start moving the ball effectively on the ground. Khalfani Muhammed was racking up significant yards on each carry however Davis Webb was still struggling to make the right reads downfield. The drive would stall after a Brandon Singleton catch, where he ran out of bounds short of the first down marker. On the ensuing punt, Cal ran a beautiful fake to Evan Weaver and the drive continued. Khalfani took another couple of handoffs, bringing the ball into Oregon State territory.
Second Quarter: Bye, bye, bye
Cal would convert a fourth down and a face mask penalty, which brought up first and goal for the Bears. Cal would then commit a false start penalty which pushed them back to the five yard line. Then the Bears would lose another four yards on a screen play to Hansen and Webb then missed Hansen on a pass over the middle for a potential touchdown. Cal, who had the ball at the one yard line with first and goal, failed to score a touchdown and settled for a field goal that was barely good off of the lower post. 10-3 Oregon State.
Oregon State would score again on their next possession aided by a face mask penalty on Evan Weaver after Darell Garretson had thrown the ball. The Bears defense forced a third down attempt but Oregon State would execute a quarterback run that saw Garretson go into the end zone. 17-3 Beavers.
Robertson would take the kickoff upfield but a Cal penalty would bring it back. Davis Webb would throw his first interception on the night after failing to both see the safety help over the top or look him off the receiver’s route. The panic for all Cal fans had set in.
The very next play, Devante Wilson hit Garretson as he threw and the ball popped up in the air much to Cal’s liking. Trey Turner intercepted the pass and gave the offense another chance to put some points on the board before the end of the half.
Cal had a nice gain eliminated by yet another penalty as the Bears couldn’t get out of their own way. The Bears offense went nowhere and couldn’t get out from underneath the twenty yard deficit. Cal completely wasted the turnover and was forced to punt the ball without putting any points on the board.
The biggest play in the first half for the Bears came on the next drive as Marloshawn Franklin played excellent defense on a slant route, popping the Beaver pass in the air which Ray Davison caught and took to the house. Suddenly the Bears had life and were only down by a touchdown. 17-10 Oregon State as the game headed into halftime.
Third Quarter: A little more time on you
Immediately opening the half, Ryan Nall took the ball 80 yards for a devastating touchdown that left the defense on their heels. The Bears defense missed an incredible amount of tackles all night and Luke Rubenzer failed to wrap up Nall on the biggest play of the evening. 24-10 Oregon State.
Cal’s sixth possession would be derailed by yet another bad penalty with Aaron Cochran blocking six to seven yards downfield on what would have been a first down conversion. Cal then punted the ball away once more.
With 8:10 left in the third quarter, Cal had already surrendered 315 yards on the ground. That would continue as Oregon State drove downfield and scored a field goal which pushed the lead to three scores. 27-10 Oregon State.
Cal would finally find momentum on offense utilizing Tre Watson heavily and the running game finally came to life. Tre Watson would take the Bears to the half yard line and Davis Webb capped off the drive with a quarterback keeper. 27-17 Oregon State.
The next Beaver possession was more of the same. Ryan Nall would find the end zone for the third time on the evening after running all over Cal’s defense. Nall was dropped at the five yard line after a big run and found the end zone the next play. The Beavers pushed out the lead once again, 34-17 Oregon State.
Fourth Quarter: I’ll never stop
The Tre Watson show would continue on Cal’s next possession. Watson looked like he was willing the entire Cal offense to life. A big pass interference call kept the drive alive for the Bears and after another Tre Watson run for 15 yards, he would find the promised land on a seven yard run. 34-24 Oregon State.
Oregon State used a triple reverse to break into Cal territory and converted a huge third down at the Cal 35 yard line. Cal committed yet another penalty, this time another face mask, which negated a solid play from the Cal defense. The next play Cal would have a shot at stopping the runner in the backfield and miss again on the opportunity to force the Beavers into a long down and distance. With eleven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Oregon State had a grand total of ZERO punts in the game. The Oregon State backup quarterback (replacing a cramping Garretson) came into the game and handed a ball off to their backup running back (replacing an injured Nall) who waltzed his way into the end zone to extend the lead to 17 points. 41-24 Oregon State.
Cal would advance the ball upfield after a Demetris Robertson catch and face mask penalty. It was at this point that an already awful game got a whole lot worse. Chad “so hot right now” Hansen was blocking downfield and a defender rolled up on his ankle from behind. Hansen very gingerly walked off the field with the help of two trainers and the horror set in for all Cal fans. Cal faced a fourth down attempt, converted it on the ground with Tre Watson and Watson would cap off the drive with another score. 41-31 Oregon State.
The next Oregon State possession the Cal defense would finally make their stand. They got a little help from an Oregon State receiver who dropped the Garretson throw which most likely would have ended up in a first down. The Bears finally forced their first punt of the evening with about five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
After a decent punt return, Cal showed a renewed commitment to the run. In a third and short situation, Cal gave Khalfani Muhammed the ball who made an excellent cut to make one and nearly two defenders miss to gain a first down. The Bears would then face another fourth down, this time with six yards to go. Cal called a run play to Muhammed who found blockers downfield and he took the ball fifty yards to the house. Don’t look now but Cardiac Cal is alive and only down three points with three timeouts and 2:41 left in the fourth. 41-38 Oregon State.
The pressure shifted over to the Cal defense who had to make another daunting stop of the Beaver offense. Cal started off committing another ghastly penalty, tackling a player who had already given himself up and taken a knee. The defensive line held tall, stopping Oregon State on first down and then Luke Skywalker did the rest. Luke made two great plays to ensure Oregon State fell short of the first down and Cal was receiving the ball back with 1:49 left in the game.
Cal started the final drive of regulation at their own 35 yard line and here is where things got really interesting. Davis Webb didn’t have his go to target nor was Cal doing anything of note through the air. The Bears turned to their running game again to lead them down the field. Tre Watson took the ball to midfield and Muhammed carried it down to the Oregon State 40 yard line. Webb went deep to Singleton and missed him by inches which brought up the strangest second down call of the night. The Bears set up a screen, Webb blew the pass and Veasy slipped to the ground, essentially wasting a down and significant time off the clock. On fourth down with the game on the line, Wharton and Webb connected for a massive first down deep into Beaver territory. Cal would use their final timeout with twelve seconds left and after a Webb throw away opt to try and tie the game with Matt Anderson. With eight seconds left and only third down, it is a bit strange to see a team take the tie and you have to wonder if Hansen’s absence impacted that decision. After two icing timeouts, Matt Anderson drilled the field goal and we were headed into overtime! 41-41, all tied up.
Overtime: The game is over
Cal’s overtime possession was incredibly pedestrian. They ran the ball twice and set up a third and six attempt. Robertson found himself open over the middle and Webb had time to deliver the ball but threw a duck that fell short of his receiver. Webb missed on a lot of passes this evening and most by a particularly big margin. Matt Anderson kicked the ball through the uprights and Cal takes their first lead of the night. 44-41, Cal.
Oregon State’s final possession was a microcosm of the entire evening. The Cal defense stopped their first two plays setting up a third and short situation. The snap went wide left of Darrel Garretson and he made a great catch to reel in the ball and took off on a designed quarterback run (again). Oregon State made some excellent blocks to spring Garretson and he was off into the end zone for the win. Touchdown Beavers and game over. Cal loses 47-44.
If there is any positive from this game to be had, certainly one is the resolve and determination the Bears played with down the stretch. There are players on this team who never doubt that they are still in a game, even when staring at a seventeen point deficit in the fourth quarter.
However there are glaring concerns about Cal losing to an opponent they were so heavily favored against. The penalties tonight were sloppy and Cal looked like a team who was already preparing for an Oregon game at home after a bye week. Gary Andersen and his staff out coached Sonny Dykes and the Cal staff. Make no mistake, Oregon State deserved to win this game. Many eyes will be on Hansen’s booted ankle and the Bears ability to bounce back once more after a devastating road loss. Sonny and company will look to win their first game coming after a bye week and finally take down an Oregon team that gave up 70 points to Washington earlier this evening.