Saturday night was the first time all year long that Oregon State played a complete game on both sides of the ball.
A dominant run game and electric pass game fueled the OSU fire for much of the contest. For Cal, the injury bug started gnawing early, and failed to let loose its grip for the duration of the wet, wild, and windy game that transpired in Reser Stadium. But the momentum shifted, oh so fortuitously, on a Brandin Cooks drag route through a thinning Cal secondary in the second quarter. After that, it was all over.
Chalk up this victory to any one of a number of variables - OSU was certainly more prepared than Cal for the rainy weather that hit Reser in the first half. Senior QB Zach Maynard was out, junior Allan Bridgford was in. A heavily injured Cal team continued to see player after player hit the turf, including tailback C.J. Anderson in the first quarter. The Cal training staff got more yardage on the ground Saturday night than their tailback squad did – an unfortunate but true sentiment echoed in the press box overlooking the soaked field of Reser.
And it was ironic really - right as hearts were breaking 40 miles away in Eugene, spirits were soaring in Corvallis. Three seconds after Jordan Williamson (Stanford) notched a field goal for the W over the Ducks in overtime, Cooks snaked through Cal defenders to score the go ahead TD on a 48 yard pass from Sean Mannion.
With that play, the Beaver's effectively ran away with the game. The first half was a veritable shut out, with the scales weighted heavily toward Oregon State. By the time the whistle blew on the second quarter, Mike Riley, Mannion and Co. held a commanding 35-7 lead over Jeff Tedford and the Golden Bears.
You look at the score and think "Wow, what a blowout. What happened to Cal?"
But don't let the box score fool you. Cal found room early with the ground attack, and found a lot of success against the OSU defense with bubble screens and slot screens that consistently found the likes of Darius Powe and Chris Harper, who attempted to fill the tremendous void left by the absence of junior Keenan Allen, Cal's golden ticket at wide receiver.
Yet in virtually every other vein, Cal was unsuccessful. And therein resides the cause of what was the shellacking in Corvallis. Bridgford struggled all night to make the big plays happen. A potent Cal run game (combining for 190 yards and a touchdown between Isi Sofele, C.J. Anderson and Brendan Bigelow) could only carry so much of the weight, and slowly but surely, the white and yellow clad players from Cal got tired and frustrated.
The opposite should be said of a hot Beaver offense that, despite the miserable weather conditions and a fourth quarter substitution of redshirt QB Richie Harrington for Mannion, stayed sharp as a tack as the whole game through. But the real star was the Beaver D.
Down after down, Oregon State's defense (specifically the secondary) put the proverbial nails in the coffin. On seemingly every play white jerseys were crushed, smacked and otherwise pummeled by the likes of Rashaad Reynolds, Jordan Poyer and Ryan Murphy. Beaver defenders held Cal to 6-14 on third down conversions, and less than a five yard/play average in regards to both the aerial and ground attacks. Bridgford closed out the evening 18-31 for 132 yards (no TD's, one INT) – his longest completion stretched a mere 22 yards.
Compare that to Mannion, who had (arguably) his best game of the season through 3.5 quarters of play. Mannion cleaned house with 325 yards on 24-34 for one interception and four touchdowns. The sophomore QB won the starting job on Thursday after Riley and Co. had determined that frontrunner Cody Vaz was unfit to play due to an ankle injury he sustained against Stanford – Beaver Nation was not disappointed.
Another key factor in this bout – Riley finally found the "run" section of the playbook again. And once again the little engine that could (crush you), a.k.a. Terron Ward put up some magnificent numbers to help lead the Beavs to their healthy 48 point margin of victory. Ward ended the evening with 132 yards, two touchdowns and averaged just over nine yards per carry.
Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew combined for an additional 85 yards and a TD on the ground. Markus Wheaton had 99 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions – Brandin Cooks (who left the game in the second quarter after a shot to the head from Cal's senior safety Josh Hill) only managed two receptions, but posted 60 yards and the touchdown that broke open the floodgates.
Connor Hamlett also had a big day – the sophomore tight end notched 80 yards on six receptions and took one all the way for six and was an eyelash away from another score.
The offense clicked, the defense cut through a depleted Cal offensive attack like a hot scythe, and that's how this battle in the Northwest was won. It may not have been the prettiest or most exciting tilt, nor the cleanest (Cal had 15 penalties for a total of 172 yards, OSU had five for 55 yards) – but in the end it was a solid indicator of how dangerous this Oregon State team can be when they are clicking at every position on the field and playing to their strengths.
Watch out Oregon?
Momentum swings both ways and Ol' Mo has favored OSU in every home game they have played this season.
Next week is going to be a doozy.
Beavs do something they haven't all season
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