Bears brought back to earth
Cal could not maintain the standard it set in last week’s performance against No. 9 USC: The Bears started flat in Corvallis and could never work their way back into the game. Oregon State surged to a commanding 21-0 lead early in the second quarter — a winning margin it expanded to win 38-10.
The Bears’ offense, which racked up 35 points against the Trojans, was utterly void of inspiration as its typically influential players all failed to meaningfully impact the game. Cal’s offense only generated three points, never touching the endzone, in the unit’s worst scoring performance this season.
Dominating the trenches
The game was decided at the line of scrimmage.
Oregon State committed to the run from the get-go. The Beaver offensive line opened up gaping holes for running back Damien Martinez, who gashed the Cal defense with his bruising, downhill runs. The Beavers’ powerful push off the snap enabled them to dominate short-yardage situations on third down and at the goal line. Emboldened by the success of his big blockers up front, Martinez finished the night with 105 yards.
Cal’s offensive line was as permeable as Oregon State’s was secure. The Beavers’ interior defense regularly flushed quarterback Jack Plummer out of the pocket, forcing him to make uncomfortable and inaccurate throws.
Meanwhile, star Cal running back Jaydn Ott could never get rolling, as he had to fight tooth and nail for negligible gains. He rushed the ball eight times but could only muster 20 yards, his worst rushing tally this season. Without the requisite protection for passes or runs, Cal’s offense was completely stifled at the point of the snap.
Cal’s Game MVP
Cal desperately needed a standout performer tonight.
But no one seemed to step up.
Plummer did not make good use of his few plays without pressure — he underthrew a touchdown opportunity to Mavin Anderson and lacked any zip on his short passes. By extension, Cal’s receivers struggled. Defensively, the Bears were bullied at all three levels as Oregon State ran the ball at will and equally cashed in on a few long passes.
Even Cal’s special teams had a forgetful night. Oregon State had multiple dangerous kickoff returns, and punt returner Anthony Gould made multiple Cal special-teamers miss to bring a punt back to the endzone in the second quarter.
It would be a stretch to give any Cal player the MVP award.
After 60 minutes of football, Cal put nine rushing yards on the stat sheet. Oregon State, on the other hand, managed to rush for over 18 times this number, generating 166 yards on the ground. On a frigid November night, the ability to create easy yards with the run was the most decisive factor in the Beavers’ success.
Oregon State’s resistance to sacks (reflected in the rushing yards) enabled the Beavers to preserve their offensive progress; Cal suffered two sacks for a mammoth 35 yards — drive killers.
The Bears will return to Berkeley to host Stanford in the 125th iteration of the Big Game Saturday. Cal, which dominated last year’s matchup 41-11, has not retained possession of the Stanford Axe in competitive seasons since 2009. The Bears will need to dramatically improve on both sides of the line of scrimmage if they hope to hold on to their bragging rights.