Oregon State used a mix of creative play-calling early and an afternoon of energetic effort to repeatedly challenge California on a beautiful afternoon in Strawberry Canyon Saturday afternoon. But the Bears promptly and effectively answered every one of the Beavers’ challenges to pull away for a 37-23 win to celebrate Senior Day.
If there was a silver lining from Oregon State’s point of view, California Offensive Coordinator and former Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin’s audition for the Beavers’ head coaching job went very well.
The afternoon started with the surprisingly good turnout of Beaver Nation in Berkeley getting buoyed by a pregame pep rally reminiscent of some of the best of the road trips, and not seen since the early days of the decade, and it immediately translated to the team. Oregon State drove the field with the first possession of the game, and capped the 75 yard march with a double pass, as quarterback Darell Garretson threw backwards to tight end Tuli Wily-Matagi on the right flank, and Wily-Matgi, below, promptly threw all the way back across the field to Ryan Nall, who the Bears had inexplicably turned loose totally.
Nall stopped and waited for the ball, and then turned and trotted in for the touchdown, and a 7-0 Oregon State lead not 4 minutes into the game.
California immediately answered with a 4 minute, 75 yard drive of their own, capped by Patrick Laird’s 12 yard touchdown run to even the score at 7 apiece.
The Bears took the lead for good as it would turnout late in the first quarter, on a 14 yard pass from Ross Bowers to Vic Wharton, above, and extended their advantage to 17-7 on a Matt Anderson 47 yard field goal early in the second quarter. Wharton would finish with a game high 8 catches for a game high 121 yards.
Oregon State answered with a pair of 49 yard Jordan Choukair field goals, the second of which with only 41 seconds left before halftime, to pull the Beavers within 17-13.
But Baldwin and Bowers took advantage of an overly soft Oregon State coverage and quickly moved 53 yards, into range for Laird’s second field goal of the day, also from 49 yards out, as time ran out, and California had reopened a touchdown lead going up 20-13 going to the locker room.
Anderson, above, added another field goal, and became California’s all-time leading scorer, a little after mid-way in the third quarter, as the Bears went up 23-13.
Oregon State responded with another 75 yard drive, this one capped by Thomas Tyner’s 5 yard run, above, and the Beavers were back within 3 points, down just 23-20 late in the third quarter.
But the Bears answered again, and quickly, rolling 74 yards in just 5 plays, and in only 1 minute and 41 seconds, with the last 25 yards coming on Bowers’ pass to Jordan Vesay, below, to go up 30-20.
This time, when it was Oregon State’s turn to answer, the Beavers instead wilted, and suffered an offensive pass interference penalty as well, and turned the ball back over to California.
The Bears seized the opportunity to go for the knockout punch, and wrapped 5 Laird runs around an 18 yard Bowers completion to Kanawai Noa to set up Vic Enwere’s 8 yard touchdown run that put California up 37-20 with 10:30 to go.
Oregon State responded with a scoring drive, but though the Beavers marched 73 yards to the Bear 13 yard line, it would stall when Garretson wrapped a pair of incompletions in the red zone around a no gain run. Worse, the 10 plays it took took4 minutes and 15 seconds.
The decision to kick the field goal that made it 37-23 was the right one by Interim Coach Cory Hall, because the Beavers were going to need one in the 3 scores they would have to have to get back in the game, and there was no way Oregon State could afford to come away with nothing.
But it didn’t matter when the Beavers would never touch the ball again.
Despite Oregon State using their time outs on defense, California still managed to run off the rest of the clock.
Reality Check For HallIn Beavers
After a pair of competitive home losses, there was lots of talk about making Hall, who replaced departed coach Gary Andersen less than a month ago, the permanent new head coach in Corvallis.
His first road game as head coach produced yet another double digit loss, the Beavers’ 8th in a row, and 17th in their current 18 game road losing streak.
The reasons are apparent, and four-fold.
First and foremost, you can’t win in the Pac-12 without a Pac-12 quality quarterback, and Oregon State doesn’t have one that’s healthy.
Garretson completed only 13 of 25 passes, a paltry 52%, and for just 169 yards. On several occasions, even when he completed a pass, it was off-target, resulting the receiver going down making the catch, instead of being able to work upfield for additional yardage.
By contrast, Bowers, above, isn’t on anybody’s list of top 5 quarterbacks in the conference. However, he completed 80% of his throws, 24 of 30, for only 259 yards, but with the accuracy to keep a drive alive when necessary.
So much so that California’s punter only set foot on the field to hold for Anderson’s place kicks.
Secondly, Oregon State simply can not generate any consistent pressure on an opposing passer, and didn’t again today.
This continues to expose a line-backing mid-level who lacks the ability to move laterally from the inside linebacker positions to play the scheme Oregon State employees.
Baldwin went to school on the Colorado State game, and the result were a pair of spectacular stats.
Laird, above, ran for a career high 214 yards on 33 carries, and had 6 catches for 19 more yards, for the Bears.
Meanwhile Manase Hungalu had a 20 tackle day, 13 of them solo. The 20 tackles was the 4th most ever by a Beaver, and the highest total by anyone in the Pac-12 this season. And while its good that Hungalu was able to make that many tackles, its bad that he had to make that many. Very bad. So is the fact that the previous season high in the conference was 17, by Oregon State freshman safety David Morris.
At the same time, the largely one dimensional Oregon State offense accumulated less than 300 yards.
With California able to constantly over-commit to the run, Nall was held to 35 yards, and Tyner just 41. On 20 combined carries.
Finally, the Oregon State secondary is in shambles. It’s not an effort issue, but the Beavers began the day down either 7 or 8 (depending on your take on the curious saga of the disappearing Brandon Arnold) players they would rather have had on the field than those they did. And then it got worse quickly, when Kyle White was disqualified early for targeting on a late hit.
No defensive scheme will work with the 3rd string secondary against a Pac-12 offense.
Baldwin was an early favorite for the Oregon State job before enthusiasm shifted to the enthusiastic Hall, and the masterful game plan he put together today should refresh Beaver Believers and administrators alike why they liked him, and why they still should.
California improved to 5-5 for the season (2-5 in the Pac-12), and now has 2 weeks to get ready to try to get bowl eligible in what actually will be a fairly “Big” game at Stanford, after the Cardinal lost the lead late in falling 24-21 at Washington State today.
Oregon State dropped to 1-8 (0-6 in conference), the only Pac-12 team with less than 4 wins.
The Beavers head next to Tucson, to take on Arizona. They will be without DE/LB Bright Ugwoegbu for the first half against the ‘Cats, after a booth initiated review led to a targeting ejection for a feet on the ground form wrap-up tackle that none of the officials on the field felt should be flagged.
But while the latest entry in the most egregious targeting call derby that this season has been marred by, it wasn’t why Oregon State lost. Kee Whetzel actually played well in relief.
“The boys didn’t quit,” Hall said after the game. “They’re learning. You just wish that that learning could be sped up.”
There is just too large a talent shortage across the roster to expect competitiveness on a consistent basis at this point.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)