Beavers' offense, run defense ineffective in 23-6 loss at Cal
SAN FRANCISCO - It's not as if Oregon State is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Not when the Beavers are giving up chunks of real estate the size of Manhattan on the ground.
It still felt that way after California's 23-6 victory Saturday at AT and T Park, the latest in a season of indignities for Oregon State.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Beavers (2-8 overall, 2-5 in Pac-12 action), and it snapped a four-game win streak over the Bears (6-4, 3-4), who gained bowl eligibility and a measure of confidence in their run game.
Junior tailback Isi Sofele gained 190 yards on 23 carries in setting a career-best for the second straight week. Cal's run game, which reaped 296 yards, was the catalyst for touchdown drives of 91, 96 and 75 yards.
Oregon State, meanwhile, got only three points from three visits into the red zone, with an interception at the goal line and a fumble while inches away from paydirt on another possession.
'We turned the ball over with opportunities to score, and (the Bears) rushed for (almost) 300 yards,' OSU coach Mike Riley said. 'That pretty much tells the tale of the game.'
Not quite. The other major factor was Oregon State's non-existent run game, which reaped 27 net yards. In losses to Utah, Stanford and California, the Beavers have been outrushed 821 yards to 92.
'We're just not running the ball well enough to be a balanced team, which is what we need to be if we're going to win,' Riley said. 'That was very apparent tonight.'
Starting tailback Malcolm Agnew carried six times for three yards in the first half and didn't play after intermission. Jovan Stevenson came on for a 13-yard run to start the second half but gained only two yards on four later carries. If not for 24 yards on fly sweeps by Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers, Oregon State would have had three yards net rushing.
'We've just finished a stand against the top three defenses (statistically) in our league,' Riley said. 'They're all really good. Hopefully that gives us practice in doing better next week (against Washington).
'We're not going to lose our will to be a running team, but we certainly are not right now.'
California seems to be. The Bears threw only when necessary Saturday, with quarterback Zach Maynard completing 13 of 19 attempts for 128 yards and a TD.
OSU's Sean Mannion was 25 for 39 for 247 yards passing, but for no touchdowns and with two interceptions.
'We had some nice drives, but when we get into the red zone, we have to take pride in it and get points,' Mannion said.
Red-zone miscues. Three turnovers. Untimely penalties. And an inability to slow down Cal's steamrolling run game.
'We had a lot of killer stuff,' Riley said.
California scored on a pair of 90-plus-yard drives to take a 14-6 lead into halftime.
The Bears extended it on the first possession of the second half, moving 75 yards in 11 plays. When Sofele skirted left end, cut back and scored on a 20-yard run to boost the Bears' advantage to 20-6 with 10:01 left in the third quarter, Oregon State appeared in deep trouble.
The Beavers advanced to the Cal 18-yard line, but Mannion's pass bounced off James Rodgers' hands in the end zone to the Bears' D.J. Campbell, who snatched it for an interception at the Cal 4-yard line.
The Bears went three-and-out, and after a short punt, Oregon State took over at the Cal 49. On fourth-and-four at the Cal 43, Johnny Hekker threw to Lance Mitchell out of punt formation. Mitchell was tackled for a 4-yard loss and the Bears took over at their 47.
After a punt, the Beavers were on the move again. A pass-interference call against Steve Williams defending Rodgers in the end zone gave them the ball first-and-goal at the Cal 2. On first down, Stevenson kept his legs churning and Riley thought he crossed the goal line, but forward progress was ruled stopped just short.
'I don't really get that,' Riley said. 'I've coached a long time, and don't know if I've seen that ever. Looked like a touchdown.'
'I'm not a referee, but when (Stevenson) is driving his feet like that ... pretty much any other game, that's going to be a touchdown,' OSU offensive tackle Colin Kelly said. 'Unfortunately in this one, the call didn't go our way.'
Still, Oregon State had the ball second down, inside the Cal 1. Mannion's quarterback sneak didn't make it into the end zone. On third down, the Beavers appeared to have the play blocked over left tackle, but the handoff from Mannion to Stevenson hit the turf, and the ball was gobbled up by Cal's Sean Cattouse at the 3-yard line.
'Unbelievably bad execution by our team,' Riley said. 'It's a pretty simple play we've probably run 1,000 times (in practice). I'd say they were both responsible to execute that play.'
'That was huge,' Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. 'A score would have made it a one-possession game.'
Instead, Cal - taking the ball with 11:21 remaining - kept it for 15 plays and 82 yards, running 9:03 off the clock before Giorgio Tavecchio's game-clinching 32-yard field goal with 2:23 to play.
The red-zone turnovers, Kelly observed, 'are momentum-killers. We're almost there, we're pushing, we're trying to get ourselves back in the game, and then we turn the ball over right when you can almost taste it. Leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.'
Oregon State got a short field to open the game when Brandin Cooks returned the kickoff 42 yards to the California 49-yard line. The Beavers settled for a 32-yard Trevor Romaine field goal, though, after getting a first-and-10 on the Cal 13.
'We just have to make the plays when we're down there, that's all there is to it,' said Rodgers, who caught six passes for 76 yards.
OSU had excellent field position again after Cal's first possession of the game with Mitchell's interception and 12-yard return to the Beavers' 39. They drove to the Cal 30, but on-third-and-11, Mannion was sacked, forcing a Hekker punt.
'We have to execute better,' Mannion said. 'There are times when we can extend drives.'
Cal has the blueprint for that. After the Hekker punt, the Bears drove 91 yards in only six plays, Sofele getting them started on first down from the 9-yard line with a 56-yard run. Maynard hit Michael Calvin over the middle for 18 yards and a touchdown and a 7-3 advantage with 1:02 to go in the first quarter.
After a Hekker coffin-corner punt pinned Cal on its own 4-yard line, the Bears covered 96 yards on 16 plays on a scoring drive that took 9 minutes and one second. That drive was extended by a pair of personal-foul penalties by the Beavers, to Cameron Collins and Rusty Fernando. Fernando's came after a third-down play in which the Bears failed to make a first down and would have had to settle for a field goal.
'That's just ridiculous - there's no reason for that,' Riley said. 'Poor choices (by Collins and Fernando). They're trying hard, but that's no reason to make a poor choice.'
Down 14-3 with only a minute to work with, Mannion connected on five straight passes, including a 21-yard strike to Jordan Bishop. That took the Beavers to the Cal 29, and Romaine drilled a 46-yard field goal to cut the margin to 14-6 with two seconds left in the half.
They stayed within striking distance most of the rest of the way, but the Bears played it conservatively on offense and were stable on defense.
'It feels really frustrating right now,' Riley said. 'It just didn't feel like good football. This would have, and could have, been a good game if we'd taken advantage of our opportunities and scored - even kicked field goals. We'd have been in position to score at the end and win it.
'We had a real hard time stopping (the run), but it wasn't like (the Bears) were putting astronomical numbers on the scoreboard. So had we done anything, we could have been in this game.'
Oregon State's players put on a brave face afterward.
'We're right there,' Rodgers said. 'We just have to keep working at it.'
'No one's going to quit,' Mannion promised. 'We're going to keep working, continue to stay positive and try to get better as a team.'
Riley said the Beavers will try to get the most of the next two weeks, with only next next Saturday's home date with Washington and the season finale at Oregon left on the schedule.
'We want to win those games, and we want to get better in practice,' Riley said. 'We're not going anywhere at the end of the season, So we have to get everything we can the next six practices, and do everything we can to win.
'There is plenty (of motivation) for going after (victories). All these games are very important in our lives and these kids' lives.'
NOTES - Rodgers moved past James Newson into second place on the Oregon State career receptions list with 218, two shy of record-holder Mike Hass. ... The Beavers were minus starting center Grant Johnson (ankle), but middle linebacker Feti Unga - who had missed the previous four games with a calf injury - saw some second-half action. ... Oregon State had won five straight at Cal and had beaten the Bears in 10 of the last 12 meetings. 'It was a great victory,' Cattouse said. 'I haven't beaten them since I've been here. The media took a couple of shots at us (about that) during the week. It was really gratifying to get out there and get the 'W'.' ... Cooks also had a 28-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. ... Midway through the second quarter, Sofele already had a 100-yard rushing day.
Cal has several state-of-Oregon connections on its coaching staff. Head coach Jeff Tedford, of course, was offensive coordinator at Oregon from 1998-2001. Offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik coached at Oregon State under Dennis Erickson from 1999-2001. Associate head coach Ron Gould was a defensive back at Oregon who started his coaching career with two seasons as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, then spent a year at Portland State. Wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau was a quarterback at Portland State and spent a brief time as teamwork coordinator at Oregon. ... Brothers Kameron and Kaulin Krebs, who transferred from Oregon State, are both juniors at Cal - Kameron a linebacker and Kaulin a receiver. Neither has played this season. ... Brennan Scarlett, a 6-4, 255-pound true freshman from Central Catholic High, had knee surgery earlier this season after making four tackles in three appearances as a linebacker for Cal. The Bears will petition for a medical redshirt year. ... Oregon State has more than a dozen players from northern California, including Mannion from Pleasanton, Cooks from Stockton, safety Ryan Murphy from Oakland, defensive end Dylan Wynn from Concord, fullback Tyler Anderson from Walnut Creek, linebacker Kyle Egan from Danville and tailback Terron Ward from Antioch.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Oregon State 3 3 0 0 - 6
California 7 7 6 3 - 23
OSU - Trevor Romaine 32 field goal 10:45.
CAL - Michael Calvin 18 pass from Zach Maynard (Giorgio Tavecchio kick) 1:02.
CAL - Zach Maynard 5 run (Tavecchio kick) 1:06.
OSU - Romaine 46 field goal :02.
CAL - Isi Sofele 20 run (Tavecchio kick) 10:01.
CAL - Tavecchio 32 field goal 2:23.
ATT. - 39,602.