Instant analysis/reaction: Bears bust Beavers’ game plan

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Eran Kohen Behar/Staff

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Game summary

As seems custom for the Bears this season, they came flying out of the gates. Midway through the second quarter, they led 17-3 after stifling OSU’s usually prolific rushing offense and finding success in the running game themselves. The Beavers came within six at the start of the fourth quarter before the Bears responded with a touchdown and two-point conversion that put the game out of reach. Cal won, 39-25.

Key Takeaways

Cal’s run defense won this game

Oregon State’s offense boasted the seventh best rushing offense in the country before their trip to Strawberry Canyon. But midway through the third quarter, the Beavers had earned just 72 yards on the ground. They finished with 134 rushing yards, well below their season average of 245 rushing yards per game. The run defense forced Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith into making a decision: Stick with his team’s run-heavy identity or try passing the ball more. 

Oregon State mistakenly reverted to the passing game 

The expectation heading into Saturday’s matchup was that OSU would run the ball no matter what, just as it has all season. But it was clear by the end of the first quarter that those expectations were wrong as Beavers Quarterback Chance Nolan led a seven play, 72 yard drive right before the half by using his arm. At halftime, they led the Bears in passing yards. But seeing as Oregon State’s passing offense has been poor all season, it couldn’t (and didn’t) end up working. The Beavers averaged 35 points per game before Saturday but finished with just 25 against a Cal defense that has steadily improved.

The Garbers dual-threat made a big difference

A few scrambles early in the game kept the OSU defense honest, which opened up the passing game. Late in the third quarter, following a blocked punt that gave Cal excellent field position, the fourth-year starter dropped a perfectly weighted deep ball right into the hands of wide receiver Trevon Clark who ran the rest of the way for the score. Wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter’s dropped pass in the end zone late in the first quarter would have made it two long touchdown passes on the night. It was his dual-threat ability that kept the Beavers guessing all game long. 

Cal’s Game MVP

Christopher Brooks’ hard-nosed running in the fourth quarter was crucial. OSU had cut Cal’s lead to six points with just 11 minutes left in the game, so a prolonged drive felt necessary to keep the Beavers from building on a game-changing touchdown drive. Brooks’ violent runs kept the chains moving and he was rewarded with a touchdown reception to cap off the 11 play, 75 yard drive. He didn’t light up the box score but he showed up when the Bears needed big plays. 

Looking Ahead

Cal heads to the desert next Saturday for a noon kickoff game against Arizona. The Wildcats are currently winless through seven games and, as their record suggests, they don’t do anything all that well. Head coach Rich Rodriguez’s team has tallied just nine offensive touchdowns all season, the fewest in the nation. Their defense is one of the worst in the nation. Case in point, Arizona lost 34-0 to Colorado a few weeks ago, whom Cal held to a field goal.

William Cooke covers football. Contact him at [email protected].