Oregon St.'s Sean Mannion found Markus Wheaton 7 times for 99 yards, both game highs, against California. - (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
Oregon St.did what they were supposed to do Saturday night, which was to destroy an inferior opponent. Not many necessarily anticipated the degree to which the Beavers dominated the struggling Bears, however, as Oregon St. rolled up their second largest point total EVER against a league foe, and administered the worst defeat California has EVER suffered. (Which eclipsed Oregon's effort last week that held that distinction briefly, and may have been the final nail in the coffin containing coach Jeff Tedford's career at California.)
Before getting too carried away though, its important to remember that California is a team (seriously) degraded by injuries, with little motivation to persevere on a miserable night. Results might not transfer to other upcoming contests. At the same time, its worth noting that Oregon St. accomplished what they did by making appropriate risk/benefit decisions considering the circumstances.
The game was comprised of 3 distinct and different parts, the competitive first quarter, the second period, when Oregon St. elevated their game, and California couldn't, and the second half, when the Beavers came out of the locker room and eliminated all doubt about the outcome, turning the rest of the game into something to be endured, or, optionally, skipped. Which most of the crowd of 43,779, held down by the weather and the late night, but still 23rd largest in Reser Stadium history, did.
At least half of those in attendance had had enough by halftime, and after the Beavers marched 75 yards in 3 1/2 minutes to start the third quarter, the exodus began in earnest. By the end, there probably weren't 4,377 left in the stadium, and had the Bears elected to leave early as well, nothing would have really changed. Or maybe they did.
After a day-lone deluge, the rain actually abated in time for Beaver Walk, last minute tail-gating, and most of the first half. And early on, it looked like the less than Golden Bears were still going to be sturdy Bears, and give the 15th ranked Beavers a game.
Despite a 48 yard completion to Markus Wheaton on Oregon St.'s first offensive play, Sean Mannion, making his first start since the fiasco in Seattle 2 weeks ago, suffered an interception 2 plays later, on a pass that bounced off Colby Prince's hands.
Jordan Poyer got the Beavers the ball back 3 plays later, with his 6th interception of the season, above, and Mannion completed 3 of 5 passes on the ensuing drive to put Oregon St. up 7-0, on an 11 yard completion to Markus Wheaton, the first of 4 touchdown passes Mannion would throw on the night.
But the Bears answered, with a 9 play, 82 yard drive, accomplished entirely on the ground, and capped by Isi Sofele's 9 yard touchdown run. Sofele, who tore up the Beaver defense for 190 yards last year, and would run for 104 of the 190 yards the Bears would pile up on the ground on the night, capped the drive with a 9 yard scoring run, below, and it appeared that the game was on.
Even after Oregon St. scored again, when Tyler Anderson removed the doubt about an apparent Storm Woods touchdown that was subsequently ruled to come up a yard short, California's ability to run the ball left some doubt about the outcome, as the first quarter ended 14-7 in favor of the Beavers.
Those doubts were doused in the second quarter, however, as Oregon St. exploded for 3 touchdowns, and California self-imploded.
Aided by a couple of "Pac-12" penalties, California advanced into Oregon St. territory with their first possession of the period, looking to even the score. However, the Bears' Dan Lasko fumbled, and 3 plays later, Mannion hooked up with Brandin Cooks for a 40 yard touchdown. The pass was well underthrown, but Cooks made an impressive come-back, below, and then proceeded to outrun everyone all over the secondary on his way to the endzone.
It wasn't a good pass, but given that the California is not good, it was an example of one of those good risk/reward decisions, where Mannion realized doing anything that allows Cooks or Wheaton to make a play was a good thing to do.
It was also the weird moment of the night, as the field goal that Stanford kicked to defeat Oregon in overtime happened simultaneously, and in the modern era of varied electronic devices ubiquitous in the crowd, the Oregon St. crowd found themselves celebrating the upset of their rivals and a Beaver touchdown at the same time.
Cooks would get knocked out of the game, after a hard collision on the next drive, which resulted in a personal foul on Josh Hill. Cooks' non-return was a decision not to take any unnecessary chances. The training staff cleared Cooks, but the Beavers were on their way to blowing the game open even without him.
The Oregon St. defense had forced a 3 and out, and Mannion proceeded to go 5 for 5 on the drive, capping it with a 14 yard touchdown pass to Connor Hamlett. California contributed to their own problems on the drive in other ways than Hill's hit, as a play before the touchdown toss to Hamlett, Mannion under-threw the ball into double coverage. Why, exactly the Bears doubled Micah Hatfield, who was filling in for Cooks while he was undergoing evaluation, is a mystery, but it didn't help.
Instead of stopping the Beavers and getting off the field, Hill dropped the interception while Deandre Coleman was picking up a personal foul for a late hit on Mannion.
It was typical of the way California self-destructed. By the time the night was over, the Bears had committed 4 turnovers, and been penalized 15 times for 172 yards.
Terron Ward and Mannion alternated runs for gain and completions 8 times, with Mannion finding Hatfield for his first career touchdown 15 seconds before halftime, making it 35-7 Oregon St. as the rain returned in force.
Why or whether California would bother to come out of the locker room for the second half was up for debate, and when Oregon St. marched the field to make it 42-7, it was clear they shouldn't have.
Oregon St. did get a lot of playing time for a number of second and third string players, and the fact that we are documenting the good job Richie Harrington, above, did, completing 4 of 5 passes, including an 8 yard touchdown toss to Malcolm Agnew to cap the evening, Harrington's first scoring throw as a Beaver, tells you all you need to know about how badly things went for California.
Cody Vaz was dressed, and available if needed, but once Mannion got the Beavers comfortably ahead, there was no reason for Oregon St. coach Mike Riley to risk him, with still 3 games to play this season.
Storm Woods, above, stormed through the California defense for 64 yards and a touchdown,
and Terron Ward, below, added a game high 128 yards, and 2 touchdowns, on 14 carries.
The Beavers ran for 200 total yards.
Connor Hamlett had his career best night, catching 6 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Sean Mannion completed 24 of 34 passes, for 325 yards, and 4 touchdowns, after an early interception, and good protection, as above, had a lot to do with it.
The biggest drawback to the drawn out night (the third quarter alone took over an hour to play) was the large number of players from both sides who got hurt to one degree or another. As noted, is appeared Cooks could have continued, and offensive guard Josh Andrews, who had to be helped off after twisting an ankle, did return. But Anderson left on a cart shortly before halftime, and will need knee surgery, ending his season. This could be a problem, with Clayton York already hurt. Michael Balfour did do a decent job filling in. Woods gave way to Ward after experiencing what were termed "mild" concussion-like symptoms, but is expected to be ok.
Oregon St. improved to 8-2 for the year, and 6-2 in the Pac-12, heading into next week's Civil War showdown against Oregon (10-1, 7-1). The game will be at noon, and televised on the Pac-12 channel, which means more people who would watch either the game or a replay won't see it than will. The Ducks open as 13 point favorites.
California finished their season with a 3-9 mark, and went 2-7 in the Pac-12, losing their last 5 games.
Conditions made the game possibly the least enjoyable 48 point win in the history of football, but in the end, it was a much better night to be a Beaver than a Bear.
Cue the fight song!
(Due to continuing technical difficulties with the SB Nation system, this report was delayed, and photos were further delayed.)
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)