By Morris Phillips
With California football stuck in a rut deep enough to ruin consecutive seasons, the last opponent the Bears needed to see on Saturday night was Oregon State. So when Sean Mannion looked like Sean Canfield and Brandin Cooks approximated Jacquizz Rodgers, you didn’t need to answer a quiz to know the Bears were cooked, falling 49-17 to the Beavers.
Mannion completed 35 of 45 for a whopping 481 yards while Cooks ran and caught to his heart’s content, finishing with 13 catches for 231 yards as Cal’s deficiencies in the secondary and linebacker corps compromised the entire Cal defense as OSU jumped to a 28-3 halftime lead.
“We didn’t play well, didn’t coach well,” a frustrated Coach Sonny Dykes said. “I’d like to be able to say something happened other than what did. You saw what happened, I don’t need to say much about it.”
The loss was Cal’s 11th consecutive over two seasons against Division I competition. The losing streak now stands as the longest of any team in a BCS conference with the Bears last win coming against Washington State over a year ago. And Cal hasn’t much success with OSU in any state, losing to the Beavers for the 12th time in their last 15 meetings.
Much of that streak coincides with Mike Riley’s arrival in Corvallis in 1997 and his quick-twitch passing game that has given Cal fits. Just as Canfield and Yvenson Bernard were hard to contain in OSU monumental 2007 upset of No. 2 Cal, Mannion and Cooks were a lethal combination on Saturday. While Mannion flawlessly executed the quick screens and occasional downfield strikes, Cooks did the rest, scoring twice—first on an end-around run and then on a 34-yard pass play– in OSU’s first half explosion.
“He is a heck of a football player,” Dykes said when asked what tactics Cal used to attempt to slow Cooks. “That is what good players do, make plays when they have an opportunity to do so. He did it over and over again.”
The Bears lost their lone experienced corner Stefan McClure for the season two weeks ago, and their youthful secondary paid dearly without him as the Beavers’ quicker playmakers had their way throughout. The Bears got back corner Joel Willis and linebacker Jalen Jefferson but the result was a hodge podge of poor tackling, inability to engage and shed OSU blockers as the Beavers and Mannion made play after play.
With the Bears trailing 35-3 in the third quarter, Dykes replaced starting quarterback Jared Goff with Zach Kline, and the redshirt freshman from Danville provided a spark, leading the Bears on their only two touchdown drives of the night. Kline finished 11 of 16 for 71 yards and the two scores while Goff was 21 of 31 for 220 yards. Dykes said along with the lopsided numbers on the scoreboard, he felt that Goff was having trouble holding on to the football, similar to his three fumble performance at Oregon in the rain.
“I’m extremely upset with myself,” Goff said. “I need to play better to give us a chance to win.”
Statistically, Cal didn’t display many warts between the 20’s, but once again bogged down in scoring range due to penalties and a Vincenzo D’Amato missed field goal attempt. Primary playmakers Chris Harper, Richard Rodgers and Brendan Bigelow combined for 18 catches but none of three could put the ball in the end zone. On the night, the Bears ran 77 offensive plays—below the 90 plays Dykes would prefer–and amassed 366 yards in offense.
The Bears (1-6, 0-4) visit the refurbished Husky Stadium in Seattle next Saturday in a meeting with Washington. Oregon State—already winners of three Pac-12 road contests—returns to Corvallis for a showdown with Stanford.