Over the weekend, Cal football finally lived up to expectations.
For the first time since 2018, the blue and gold beat Oregon State. In 2018, the Bears lit up the Beavers to the tune of 49-7. Saturday evening’s 39-point outing was the highest scoring output by a Cal offense against a conference opponent since that game three seasons ago.
Simply put, Cal’s offense was phenomenal. Redshirt senior quarterback Chase Garbers finally lived up to the billing of a fourth-year starter in a Power Five conference. Garbers made plays with both his arms and his legs, masterfully using his dual-threat ability to control the tempo of the game. Senior running back Christopher Brooks carried the ball with a sense of purpose and violence as he mauled through several of the Beavers’ defenders on multiple occasions. His effort appeared to rub off on the rest of the offense as the Bears’ receivers found open creases down the field and Cal’s offensive line gave up no sacks, one quarterback hurry and just one tackle for loss.
But it was not just the Bears’ offense that channeled a never-say-die mentality.
Cal’s defense turned back the clock to the days of the Takers and held an Oregon State offense that led the Pac-12 with an average of 35 points per game to just 25. By neutralizing running back B.J. Baylor and the Beavers’ prolific rushing attack, the Bears forced freshman quarterback Chance Nolan to win the game by himself and as a result, generated three turnovers. The blue and gold produced an inspired effort, flying all over the field and playing with a level of swagger that has been sorely missed in Memorial Stadium.
What’s more is Cal’s special teams unit was just that: special.
Bears kicker Dario Longhetto nailed a 45-yard field goal and converted on all four extra point attempts — something that this season has taught us should not be taken for granted. Cal even blocked a punt late in the game, which can somewhat be seen as a form of revenge for the Beavers doing exactly that to the Bears last season.
All of this is to say that Cal played a complete game against a legitimate opponent for the first time this season. In fact, one three-play stretch perfectly encapsulated how the Bears dominated in all three phases of the game; a defensive stop on third down led Oregon State to punt on fourth down. That’s when Cal blocked the punt, and on the very next play, Garbers found receiver Trevon Clark deep for a touchdown. The sequence was something you don’t see often in football and it was a knockout punch in the truest sense of the word.
Herein lies my main point: When Cal plays a complete game, it can compete with (and even beat) any team in the conference. We saw shades of this when the Bears went toe-to-toe with No. 7 Oregon a few weeks ago. The blue and gold stumbled then, but this time, against the 5-2 Beavers, who were tied for first in the Pac-12, 2-5 Cal finished the job.
Saturday’s win was by far the Bears’ most impressive of the season. But it wasn’t just what the blue and gold did that renewed faith, but how they did it. Cal clearly learned from past mistakes and worked to rectify them — the offense never took its foot off of the gas in the second half, the defense focused on fundamentals and special teams took advantage of their chances.
Knocking off the conference leaders shows that the Bears are not willing to roll over. Now riding a winning streak for the first time this season, Cal has responded to a rough start — but the team still has a long way to go. The Bears still need to win three of their last four games to qualify for a bowl game, but this win should inspire some hope for the players and for their fanbase.