Oregon State's game at Berkeley on Saturday night, a 54-24 blowout loss, was one of the most frustrating games in recent times, never mind this season.
And not just because the access/egress and game experience outside of Memorial Stadium is absolutely the worst one in the west, never mind the Pac-12. Or because a cold, late night in Memorial Stadium that was only half full (in a game the Bears were playing for bowl eligibility) when it began, and was a lot less full after half time, wasn't that great of an in-game experience, compared to what a game on what was a warm, sunny afternoon would have been.
It's because the game was not only yet another, but possibly the most glaring yet, reminder of the depth to which the Beavers' program has sunk to.
There were a number of positives that need to be noted.
Paul Lucas running for 70 yards, and the Beavers collectively rushing for over 200 yards. This without either power pounding runner Ryan Nall or Chris Brown, not to mention Seth Collins.
Getting not only points, but 2 touchdowns, the first points of the year against a Power-5 opponent in the 3rd quarter.
Finally getting important production from the tight end position, never mind a touchdown to Noah Togiai, on one of the best run plays of the season, given just how open he was.
Jordan Villamin having the most catches in the game, 7, of any receiver, on a night when the endless array of Cal receivers in the "Bear Raid" were primed and ready.
Oregon State, and Nick Mitchell, also didn't turn the ball over. Not once. As a result, they won the turnover battle.
The Beavers, and Kyle Peko, even blocked a Bear kick.
Gabe Ovgard having a break-out game, with 8 tackles, and a great interception of Jared Goff.
The Beavers also had fewer penalties, and for fewer yards, than the Bears. This has been a serious issue all season, and notable improvement is an equally serious accomplishment/improvement.
And the Oregon State, which had a surprisingly strong road fan contingent, given the ridiculous challenges of attending a game in Berkeley ON TOP OF how the season, also had (for a change) on the road great support from the OSU Marching Band.
All positive things that directly contribute majorly to improved play.
And yet it was not enough. Worse, what should have led to at least a competitive contest, WAS NOT EVEN CLOSE to enough.
California rolled up 760 yards, more than any team has ever piled up on any Oregon State team. EVER.
Goff threw for 6 touchdowns, and the defense, which had been showing some effective halftime adjustments, got absolutely rolled over for 3 long scoring drives in less than 6 ½ minutes coming back from the break.
These were worse results than anything that happened during the worst of the Avezanno and Pettibone eras, times when the school wasn't really even trying to field a competitive football team.
Mike Parker, the voice of the Beavers, and least objective medial member in the world, said it was "Somewhat, on some level, a catastrophic performance."
Documentably the worst defensive performance in well over 100 years is a catastrophic performance on EVERY level.
He went on to say "There might still be a talent gap if there were no injuries."
The talent gap that has to be closed in support of what is actually some pretty good, if hopelessly outnumbered, guys on this team, is massive. Massively massive.
Arguably the most frustrating part of this rebuild is that there are those that continue to say the rebuild won't take 2-3 years for the Beavers to be competitive again under Andersen.
This non-sense only contributes to the problem.
For one thing, if next year absolutely everything goes markedly better than even the wildest of unfoundedly optimistic hopes, it will still be a 2 year deal, since we are almost 1 year through it already.
In reality, no one goes from worst in this competitive conference to the top in 1 year, or even 2. Next year, Andersen's first recruits will mostly be red-shirt freshmen, with sophomores being most of the experienced, battle tested veterans.
Not embarrassing themselves on a regular basis as they have done so this season will be the major step forward that might (assuming continued recruiting actually pans out as hoped) set the stage for getting into the hunt in the middle of the North in year 3.
Actually winning the North, never mind the Conference Championship, is further out than that.
And California was a good reminder of that. Their 3 year rebuild finally got them to a minor bowl. And consider that just up the road at Washington State, it has taken Mike Leach, currently being talked about for Conference Coach of the Year honors (despite the Portland State incident), 4 years to get the Cougs up to minimum standards; cracking the top 25 and making it to a mid-tier bowl. Any shot at the division sailed away when the field goal that would have beat Stanford sail wide back in October.
Oregon State currently has middle of the pack Mt. West talent, or more accurately, depth, at best. It's why each and every injury, illness, or other incident leads to a mismatch some Pac-12 opponent finds a way to maximize.
It's why we are seeing a team playing for a good play, or an occasional good drive, not a good, or sometimes winning, game, like what every other team in the conference is playing for.
It doesn't mean that progress isn't coming, or that there's nothing entertaining about following the Beavers (though maybe not in Berzerkley). But it's also going to continue to be frustrating.