BERKELEY - The roar of the small contingent of Beavers fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium was often louder than the entire Cal crowd during much of OSU's 49-17 routing of the Golden Bears on Saturday night. And while we'll cover all the reasons while that was so, there's some you may not have seen watching the game. Take the gunner performance by a Beav last night...
We'll get to that gunner later, but first...
Players of the Game Offense
Sean Mannion, no questions asked. The junior put up 315 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone, and ended the evening with 481 yards and four touchdowns on 35-45 through the air. The only negative stat for Mannion tonight - if one must be picky - would be that he was sacked twice.
But where would Mannion be without junior wideout Brandin Cooks? The junior gobbled up nine receptions and 197 yards in the first half. Holy smokes.
Cooks' came out early in the fourth quarter, but you won't hear many complaining about the 232 receiving yards and touchdown. Ten yards rushing and another stellar touchdown on two run attempts was merely icing on the cake.
Scott Crichton, Dylan Wynn and Mana Rosa take this one to the house. Cal QB Jared Goff was constantly on the move, dipping and dodging to avoid a pass rush that was as if shot out of a cannon in the first half.
On top of that, constant pressure in the Cal backfield made things tough for the Bears all night long. Crichton was back to his old self it seemed, recording Oregon State's only sack and notching two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and two pass deflections. Wynn and Rosa united for 10 tackles and two fumble recoveries as well, and were huge in generating lots of pressure that put an early plug on the Cal offense.
Turning Point/Game Changer – Goff's Cough
Goff's fumble on the Golden Bears first drive of the third quarter set the Beavers up close to their own red zone after going up 35-3 to open up the half. OSU was forced to punt on the drive, but Goff's soap dish miscue showed the OSU rush was in Goff's head and his offensive line wasn't doing much to stop them.
Defensive Play of the Game -
It's a tossup between the Rashaad Reynolds interception in Cal territory with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter, and the sack/forced fumble by Crichton with just under two minutes remaining in that very same quarter. Both plays offered even more life to the OSU sideline – and the Beaver defensive dam was to be in full effect pretty much the rest of the way.
Offensive Play of the Game -
Mannion's third quarter throw to sophomore split end Richard Mullaney on a 15-yard TD completion stuffed Cal into a hole they would be unable to dig out of even with the sturdiest of titanium claws. The six-play drive that resulted in Mullaney's pylon crossing covered 65 yards in less than three minutes, and was a first class response to the Bears' initial TD from QB Zach Kline, who replaced a staggering Goff after OSU went up by 32 midway through the third quarter.
Even the Cal media was impressed by the fake run that turned into a fly sweep to Cooks for an easy six in the red zone. Mannion sold that fake perfectly right before lightly dumping it off to the speedy receiver, who seemed to practically glide around a rumbling D-line for his second rushing touchdown of the season.
Unexpected Developments -
Oregon State's defensive efforts kept more than just a lid on the pass happy Cal offense – it suffocated them, especially in the first half. The Beavs limited the Cal chain movers to 220 yards through the air and a meager two yards of net production on the ground. Jared Goff and Zach Kline's myriad attempts to pick apart the Beaver secondary were either thwarted by stout CB play on behalf of Reynolds, Steven Nelson and Sean Martin, or otherwise shut down due to a productive blitz from defensive coordinator Mark Banker.
Sonny Dykes' call to change quarterbacks was surprising at first. Cal removed Goff and added Kline in the middle of the third quarter, a transition that must have left many onlookers rubbing their eyes or wondering how much they had to drink at the tailgater. The switch sure had the Beavs confounded for a spell, as Kline and Co. marched right into the end zone for a score on a 15-play, 88-yard drive that chewed nearly five minutes off the ticker.
Frankly, that whole first quarter defensive showing by the Beavers was a tad bewildering. Two blocked passes at the line of scrimmage, an interception, a sack and fumble forced which was subsequently recovered by OSU – this was the best first 15 minutes of defense that the Beavers have put together in 2013 and that's saying something given the first quarter at Utah.
Cooks had 197 yards in the first half… Sometimes his talent is just scary.
Meaningless Stats of the Game
Just 11 rushing yards in the first half between Woods and Terron Ward…ouch. Prospects did not improve much for the running backs as the game dragged on, and Woods/Ward left Memorial Stadium with a shared tally of 57 rushing yards, though they also had two TDs. Both of the scores belonged to Ward, and both came on one-yard pile drivers in the red zone that were enabled by a big push from the OSU offensive line unit.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking –
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But these sideline passes and half-bubble screens that OSU ran five times in the first quarter just need to go. They haven't really worked all season for Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, and they produced next to nothing against a young and relatively inexperienced Cal secondary. As Jack Kerouac would say, it's time to kill your darlings -- and before it leads to a disastrous pick six or worse yet, and injury.
I questioned Riley keeping D.J. Alexander in the contest after he limped off the field at the end of the second quarter. While no ill end came of the decision to keep Alexander in during the second half, I found myself asking if it was really worth risking the health of another linebacker when OSU was up 25 at halftime. Guess this is why I am not a coach.
For that matter, did Oregon State really need to put Mannion and Cooks back in for any part of the final 15 minutes? The fourth quarter must have momentarily scared the bejeezus out of Beaver fans when Cooks went down and was slow to get up after just barely dropping a deep bomb from Mannion. Seriously, all signs point toward these two being the lifeline of Oregon State football in 2013, is the risk worth the reward? I should think not.
Lastly, perhaps it's time for me to begrudgingly admit that the primary function of the OSU tailbacks this season is to make plays out in the pattern as opposed to actually running the ball. I officially concede. Woods and Ward combined for nine receptions, 95 yards and a TD on the evening, and played a big part in the Beavers securing a victory in Berkeley.
Special Teams Edge Goes to… Nobody< br>
Orange, black, blue and gold were on an even keel Saturday night when it comes to the special teams. Both Trevor Romaine and Vincenzo D'Amato missed field goals, and both team's return men were lackluster sans for a few semi-exciting run backs aided by stout blocks.
If I had to kick the edge over to one team it would be the Beavers. When Keith Kostol punted against Cal, OSU looked to have found one hell of a gunner in Cyril Noland. The freshman safety-turned-linebacker displayed a tremendous burst when defending OSU punts in the first quarter, and twice tagged Cal's Bryce Treggs, producing -1 yards on Cal punt returns. Noland is one to watch here.
Anyone else get a really good feeling about Chris Brown after watching his six runs to close out the game? I know it was garbage time. But he can hit the holes and fast. Brown tallied 36 yards on six carries, the longest of which went for 26 yards. The combined ypc of Woods and Ward was 3.6 against Cal.