What a beautiful day it was in Berkeley. A rainy and cloudy morning gave way to a sunny afternoon that featured Patrick Laird and the Cal offensive line running all over the Oregon State Beavers. The game featured two seniors scoring touchdowns in their memorial stadium send off, with Vic Enwere and Jordan Veasy finding the end zone. Ross Bowers arguably played his best game of the season, completing 24 of 30 passes for 259 yards and two stellar touchdown throws.
The game itself was one that was fairly frustrating for the Bears in the first three quarters. The Cal offense found itself with exceptional field position throughout the game and never once punted the ball. To better understand just how strong of a day the offense had, take a look at the drive chart below:
Cal’s average starting field position was their own 32 yard line and they had zero three and outs. And the frustrating part was it felt like they left legitimate points off the board. The drive that ended on downs was a result of Cal’s inability to get a first down after three straight plays with a yard to go failed to convert a first down. The other drive that stalled was at the five yard line of Oregon State when Laird fumbled the ball taking away another fantastic scoring opportunity.
Regardless, the Bears broke away in the fourth quarter and eventually went up by three scores which put the game out of reach for Oregon State. This Cal team, that many projected for two wins, has now reached five with two games remaining on the schedule. Both Stanford (who won by one last week against OSU and lost to WSU today) and UCLA look like games that Cal has a good shot at winning. As James Looney and Ray Davison mentioned in the post game presser, this team has the axe and a bowl game on their mind.
The beginning of the game was quite possibly the worst moment for both the Cal team and Cal fans in attendance. Oregon State received the kick and immediately ate the Bears defense up through the ground. Garretson showed the escapability we all witnessed one year ago and Oregon State scored on a trick wide receiver pass to put themselves up 7-0. The Cal defense looked somewhat uninspired and there were certainly questions regarding injuries (Cam Goode out for season) that may have finally caught up to the Bears.
The next drive would be indicative of what was left to come for the afternoon. Patrick Laird immediately found success running the football, gashing the Oregon State defense. Bowers would hit Noa on a slant and Kyle White for Oregon State would be called for a late hit as well as targeting. Jake Curhan would be called for unsportsmanlike conduct pushing the Bears backward, followed by Oregon State roughing the passer the very next play. Laird would then take the handoff from a zone read and bounce left off of his blockers and into the end zone for the first score. The Cal offense did a great job to answer the Beavers opening drive, 7-7.
The next drive would end quickly for Oregon State but it didn’t feel as though Cal’s defense had necessarily figured everything out quite yet. A holding penalty negated a rather significant return and on third down the Oregon State receiver caught a wide open pass but fell over his own feet before the first down marker. Oregon State then punted the ball just 31 yards to the Cal 42.
The next Bears possession featured a ton of Patrick Laird, once again dicing up the defense for eight or nine yards per carry. Bowers would take a sack and bring the ball all the way back to the 14 yard line before making arguably his best pass of the season. Bowers hit Wharton in the end zone on a perfectly timed as well as placed pass that put the Bears up, 14-7.
At the end of the first quarter, the Bears held a seven point lead.
The Bears defense started coming alive to start the second quarter. The Bears would hold the Oregon State offense on their first drive, once again with a bit of good fortune after an Oregon State receiver dropped a wide open pass on another trick play. The following play Garretson magically escaped the pocket and the receiver dropped his pass as well.
Cal started the next drive on their 36 yard line and immediately moved across the 50 after Laird broke free for a twenty yard run. Bowers then hit Noa on the outside before a Veasy holding penalty brought the play back. Laird broke loose again, bringing the ball all the way to the Oregon State 27 yard line. The Bears drive would stall after Bowers threw a nice ball to the outside but Veasy didn’t seem to ever see the ball. The Bears would line up for a field goal for the record books. Anderson would drill the 45 yard attempt and sign his name in the Cal football record books as the all time leading scorer.
The very next Oregon State drive the game was on the line. In what was a very bold move, Oregon State coach Cory Hall went for a fourth and short conversion deep in their territory. The Cal defense made a great stop, particularly with Evan Weaver stopping Ryan Nall but it came up four inches past the first down marker. Had that gone the other way, Cal most likely goes up by three scores and the games fate would have been sealed far sooner. The Beavers offense started rolling, moving the ball effectively with Tyner and Nall running over the Bears. Once the Beavers entered Cal territory, the Bears defense rallied and forced them into a field goal. The 49 yard attempt was good and the score moved to 17-10, Cal.
The following Cal possession saw Vic Wharton carry the ball across the 50 and once again the Bears were in Oregon State territory. Bowers would hit Veasy on an eight yard gain and the Bears brought in Enwere for a short yardage situation. The Bears ran three straight runs and were unable to get the first down. At the time, this felt like a big shift for Oregon State as they gained possession and were once again within one score.
Oregon State took back over, drove downfield through a combination of plays through the air and on the ground. With time running down in the first half, the Cal defense would come alive for another stop and force Oregon State to kick a long field goal presumably before the end of the half. 17-13, Cal.
In one of the more important plays of the game, Cal would take over with 31 seconds left in the first half. Bowers would hit Veasy for 16 yards and Wharton for a gain of 27 yards to move the ball into Oregon State territory. With six seconds left, Bowers hit Jordan Duncan for another eleven yards which stopped the clock. The Bears would use their last timeout before turning the ball over to Matt Anderson for a 49 yard kick. He would end up drilling the field goal putting the Bears back up 7 at the half.
The third quarter started with more of the same for Patrick Laird, netting two first downs immediately for the Bears out of the break. The Bears moved the ball deep into Oregon State territory after Wharton caught a pass on the outside and was hit late out of bounds. The Bears drive would then stumble on a few errors on a couple zone read plays before benefitting from a questionable targeting call against Oregon State. The next play, whether it be karma or some other worldly power, Laird fumbled and gave up the ball at the five yard line. This was critical as it left Oregon State again in the game and took more points away from the Cal offense.
The Cal defense would respond with a quick three and out forcing a punt. That punt would go out of bounds in OSU territory setting up Cal again to score and put the game out of reach. Wharton would help Cal get inside the 20 before Bowers took a sack that forced them into a field goal. Matt Anderson would deliver again and the Bears took a two score lead but still leaving Oregon State in the game. 23-13, Cal.
Oregon State would finally get things going on offense when they seemed the least likely to do so. Facing a second and twenty from their 41 yard line Garretson would hit Bradford for a 33 yard gain AND benefit from a roughing the passer call after the play. After having the ball at the Cal thirteen yard line, Garretson hit Togiai down to the five and scored on the following play with Tyner taking it into the end zone. 23-20 Cal.
The Bears offense would immediately rally back, helped by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the kickoff. Laird would carry the Bears into Oregon State territory before Bowers put Cal back up by ten. On a beautiful ball, Bowers found senior Jordan Veasy for a toe tap touchdown in the end zone. 30-20, Cal.
There was one magic combination missing from the whole game which was a Bears defensive stop followed by a Cal touchdown. Finally in the fourth quarter, Cal would make that happen. The Bears got the stop they needed and would go back to Laird to start to seal off the game. Laird got the Bears into Oregon State territory before Bowers hit Noa, taking it to the 22 yard line. Laird would take the ball for another first down before giving way to Vic Enwere who put the game out of reach, fittingly on senior day.
Oregon State would find their way back into Cal territory but the Bears defense bottled them up again, holding them to a field goal.
Patrick Laird would end the game with 214 yards rushing, the first back to pass the 200 yard mark since Jahvid Best did it against Washington. The Bears even their record at 5-5 and prepare for a showdown in Palo Alto for the axe with bowl eligibility on the line.