The Reser Stadium crowd let out a big roar early in the second quarter as Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks made a catch at the 12, then weaved to the left and scored a touchdown to put the Beavers up 21-7 over Cal in their Pac-12 Conference battle.
Minutes later, they erupted again as Stanford’s 17-14 win over No. 1 Oregon was shown.
Oregon State fans had plenty more to cheer about on this cold and rainy night.
OSU forced a three-and-out on the next Cal series, then marched down the field and scored again. The 15th-ranked Beavers never looked back and set up a noon showdown with the stunned Ducks next Saturday with a 62-14 win over the Bears in front of a crowd of 43,779.
The Beavers (8-2, 6-2) still have a chance to tie for at least a share of the Pac-12 North Division title. OSU needs to defeat the Ducks next Saturday in Reser Stadium, and have Stanford lose to UCLA. Still, Stanford would earn the berth to the title game by having defeated both OSU and Oregon.
“I thought it was a great reaction to losing last week’s game,” OSU coach Mike Riley said. “That was a hard-fought game and probably everyone understands now that Stanford is a pretty good football team. It was disappointing for our kids, but they made a nice statement about bouncing back and being ready. They really got ready to play tonight and competed from the beginning. I was proud of our coaches and players for the preparation and they put it to work tonight.”
While the Beavers have plenty to play for, the Bears (3-9, 2-7) end a dismal season. It could also be the end of coach Jeff Tedford’s 11-year tenure as the Bears’ head coach. Cal has gone just 15-22 the past three seasons and missed the postseason twice.
“Not very good,” Tedford said of the season. “It’s not something we’re used to. It’s obvious we have to work to do.”
This one was basically over by the half.
Sean Mannion returned as the Beavers’ starting quarterback and threw for 239 yards and four touchdowns in the first half as the Beavers built a 35-7 lead at the break.
He finished 24 for 33 for 325 yards and the four touchdowns. He did have an interception that ricocheted off tight end Colby Prince on OSU’s first drive.
“He had a great week of practice, prepared hard and studied a lot,” Riley said of Mannion. “He came out very aggressively. He played with confidence, was fast and went after it. Good things happened.”
OSU’s defense set up three scores in the first half, and the final one of the game, with takeaways.
Mannion and Markus Wheaton teamed up for 11 yards on OSU’s second drive for a 7-0 lead. The drive was set up by Jordan Poyer’s sixth interception of the season.
Cal was able to answer with Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson doing the damage on the ground. They combined for 59 yards on the drive, which was aided by a 15-yard taunting penalty on Scott Crichton, with Sofele scoring from 9 yards out.
The Beavers responded with a five-play, 68-yard drive capped by Tyler Anderson’s 1-yard run. Storm Woods looked to have scored from eight yards out but the play was reviewed and Woods was ruled down at the 1.
The Beavers turned a second takeaway into points in the second quarter. West Albany High grad John Braun recovered a fumble and three plays later, Mannion teamed with Cooks for the 48-yard score and a 21-7 lead. Cooks later left the game and did not return after being hit in the helmet
Mannion tossed his third TD pass of the half on OSU’s next drive, a 14-yarder to Connor Hamlett to cap a six-play, 69-yard drive.
Poyer was at it again, falling on a fumble late in the first half. With time about to run out, Mannion hit Micah Hatfield in the back of the end zone from six yards out for a 35-7 lead.
The 35 points are the most the Beavers have scored in a half since going for 42 against Eastern Washington in 2006.
The Beavers were nearly flawless on offense in the first half. While Mannion did throw a first-quarter pick, the Beavers had just one negative play, a 1-yard loss by Woods. The offensive line was solid, not allowing a sack, and gave Mannion plenty of time to throw.
The Beavers had 333 yards of total offense and averaged nearly 8.8 yards per play.
“We have guys playing through things and Oregon State was hitting on all cylinders,” Tedford said.
It was much of the same early in the second half. The Beavers took the kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays and Woods capped it with a 1-yard score for a 42-7 lead.
The lead ballooned to 49-7 after Terron Ward burst 47 yards down the right sideline with 4:58 left in the third.
While the Beavers found plenty of success on offense, the Bears were not nearly as effective when the game was still close. Alan Bridgford, making his second start, completed 18 of 31 passes for 132 yards and one interception. It was a personal best for completions and yards.
“All the defensive coaches had a really good game plan and well thought out objectives on what we needed to do to beat Cal, particularly controlling the run game,” Riley said. “I thought it was a good plan, well executed and the players played hard and made some opportunities and big plays with turnovers.”
The Bears were able to end a string of 42 unanswered points by the Beavers late in the third quarter as Bridgford scored from a yard out to make it 49-14.
But Ward scored his second rushing TD of the game early in the fourth as the Beavers broke the 50-point barrier. OSU missed the point after try and led 55-14.
OSU’s final score came with 2:24 to play as Malcolm Agnew caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Richie Harrington.
Wheaton had seven catches for 99 yards and Hamlett six for 80. Ward finished with 128 yards on 14 carries and the two scores, while Woods added 64 yards on 11 carries and one score.