Oregon State started fast and finished strong Saturday in their first day game of the season Saturday, and it was enough to pull out an exciting 31-27 victory for the Beavers’ first win of the season.
The Beavers scored on the first play of the game, and again on their first pass play of the day, got the last score of the game, after blocking a punt, got an interception after the Bears had driven inside the Oregon State 10 yard line, and got one last big Jemar Jefferson run that sealed the victory.
Jefferson’s 65 yard run that setup victory formation bookended the game nicely with his 75 yard touchdown run that started the day. Jefferson’s first and last runs of the game are the 2 longest in his career.
In between, Tristan Gebbia had the most exciting day on a day where lots of Beavers and Bears got excited. Gebbia had the rare trifecta, throwing for the Beavers 2nd touchdown, catching a pass for a go ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter, and finally, rushing for the game winning touchdown with 4 ½ minutes to go.
Along the way, Gebbia also threw a pair of interceptions, which led to a Cal field goal, and then the Bears’ last touchdown, which put them ahead with 8 minutes to go, but the Beavers, Gebbia included, responded in all phases of the game to get the must-win win heading into next Friday’s rivalry showdown in Reser against Oregon, 38-35 winners over UCLA in a game just down the road played literally at the same time.
(On a day when the Pac-12 lost 2 games to Covid, the local teams did their part to hold their audiences, and set up a “Rivalry” game that could and should be a classic.)
Cal answered Jefferson’s opening salvo with a 75 yard scoring drive, highlighted by Chase Garbers’ 44 yard completion to Kekoa Crawford, but after an exchange of 3 and outs, Gebbia capitalized on the Bears’ punt going only 24 yards to immediately connect with Tegan Quitoriano on the next play to put the Beavers up 14-7.
That would be it for Oregon State scoring until deep into the 3rd quarter though, as Califofnia controlled the 2nd quarter. Garbers had a 33 yard completion to Jake Tonges late in the 1st quarter that led to a 26 yard field goal on the 2nd play of the 2nd quarter.
After a 4 and punt possession by the Beavers, the Bears drove 75 yards to the Oregon State 2 yard line, but on a 4th down, Nashon Wright picked off Garbers in the end zone for a touchback to preserve the Beaver lead for a while longer.
It was the first time the Oregon State defense had stopped an attempt at a 4th down conversion in the last 12 times an opponent had tried for one, going back into the 2019 season.
The Bears’ next drive ended with a 21 yard Gaerbers to Crawford touchdown pass that put Cal ahead for the first time, up 17-14 with 2 ½ minutes left in the 2nd quarter. Josh Drayden picked off Gebbia to end the ensuing Oregon State drive, and the Bears ended the half with a 52 yard field goal by Dario Longhetto to take a 20-14 lead at the break.
Everett Hayes’ 35 yard field goal that pulled Oregon State with 3 points came on the Beavers’ first drive of the 3td quarter, but came with only 6:30 left in the period. Cal’s ball control meant Oregon State didn’t touch the ball again until 1:20 before the end of the 3rd quarter.
That drive culminated 2 plays into the 4 th quarter, with a double handoff that ended with Tyjon Lindsey’s 8 yard touchdown toss to a wide open Gebbia, that put Oregon State back up 24-20.
“We were roommates when we first came here. Who would have thought the first time we hooked up for a touchdown would be with him throwing to me, instead of the other way around?” Gebbia said.
Cal then went 3 and punt, but on Oregon State’s 3rd play of their next drive, a Gebbia misfire was intercepted by Elijah Hicks, at the Bears’ 38. Hicks brought it all the way back to the Beaver 35, and that eventually led to Garbers’ touchdown toss to Jake Tonges, which put the Bears back up 27-24.
Oregon State propmtly went backwards on their next possession, but California couldn’t get anything going either, and the game changing moment came when Jesiah Irish blocked Jamies Sheehan’s punt, setting the Beavers up at the Bears’ 14 yard line.
After a pair of Jefferson runs, Gebbia put the Beavers ahead for good with a 1 yard burrow, to put Oregon State up 31-27.
There was still that 4 ½ minutes to go though, and Garbers methodically marched the Bears to the Beavers 20.
The drive that had to end in a touchdown due to the 4 point margin appeared to stall though, but on 4th down, a holding penalty in the Oregon State secondary when Alex Austin ran over a Cal receiver set Garbers up with a 1st and goal, and the game appeared to be about to slip through the Beavers’ fingers.
And technically it did get through Akili Arnold’s fingers, as Arnold stormed in on Garbers on a daring corner blitz, but he was able to redirect the pass up into the air, and it did not slip through John McCattin’s fingers when it came down again.
However, California had saved their time outs, and Oregon State couldn’t just run out the remaining 1:05 of the game. Jefferson’s 65 yard run ended things though.
Jefferson finished with a game high 196 yards, on a game high 18 carries, though the middle 16 only netted 56. It was his 13th collegiate career 100 yard rushing game.
5 Cal ball carries combined for only 124 yards, as the Oregon State run defense took a major step forward from what we saw in the Beavers’ first 2 losses. The Bears were without starting running back Chris Brown, who was a scratch after warmups.
Gebbia’s spectacular moments were a lot of the highlights of the game, but he completed just 12 pases of 20 attempts, for 147 yards.
Garbers completed 28 of 42 throws, for 315 yards, and 3 touchdowns, but also had the 2 interceptions, both of which cost California points, the same number of picks that Gebbia tossed up.
In addition to having more than twice as many passing yards, and nearly 80 more total yards, California also had a huge edge in time of possession, having the ball for more than 16 minutes more than Oregon State did. Most of that came from the first half, where the Bears built a 12 ½ minute edge.
Big plays on offense, and the 2 big plays on punts, more than made up the difference for Oregon State, who entered the game as 3 point underdogs.
It also didn’t hurt the Beavers chances to have 7 Bear would be starters out for a variety of reasons. A Bear also tested positive for Covid-19 Saturday, and resultant contact tracing sidelined several others.
It would have been a “Cue the Fight Song” moment had the OSU Marching Band been on hand, but some of their sound files played over the PA still sounded good, as Beaver fans scattered far and wide celebrated in front of tv screens equally distributed.
The Beavers snapped a 4 game losing streak, and improved to 1-2, before taking on the 3-0 Ducks next Friday. It was Oregon State’s 2nd win in a row against California.