On October 13, 2007, the #2 ranked California Bears were unofficially the #1 ranked team in the nation. Earlier on that fateful day, the 17th ranked Kentucky Wildcats upset top-ranked LSU in triple overtime. Cal’s job was simple that day in Strawberry Canyon, beat the 3-3, Oregon State Beavers and the #1 ranking would be theirs.
Oregon State entered the Cal game as 14 point underdogs. They entered the 2007 season with high expectations. The Beavers were projected to finish around 4th place in the Pac-10 while flirting with the top-25. However, they struggled to a 2-3 start. Many in Beaver Nation were calling for Head Coach Mike Riley’s job. Although, turnovers and special team gaffs deserved much of the blame. Sophomore starting Quarterback Sean Canfield had 7 TD passes and 13 Interceptions going into the Cal game. Riley had pulled Canfield in the Arizona game for backup QB Lyle Moevao for several offensive series , but Canfield returned to finish the game. The pressure was on Canfield. He was going up against the #2 team in the nation on the road and he had to prove something to keep his starting role. In addition, the Beavers also lost star WR Sammie Stroughter earlier in the season. Despite the struggles Senior RB Yvenson Bernard and young Freshman sensation WR James Rodgers were major bright spots.
While the Beavers struggled on Offense in the first half of the 2007 season, the Defense did not. They were led by former Beaver greats such as LB Derrick Doggett, DE Dorian Smith, S Al Afalava, and CB’s Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes. The Beaver Defense would finish the 2007 season as the #1 ranked Defense against the run!
Cal entered the 2017 season ranked #12. They defeated #15 Tennessee 45-31 in week 1. Going into the season, Head Coach , Jeff Tedford, believed that the 2007 Cal Bears were the “fastest and strongest” team he had coached at Cal. The 2007 Bears featured future NFL players such as CB Daymeion Hughes, DT Brandon Mebane, LB Desmond Bishop, RB’s Justin Forsett and Javid Best, and Heisman Trophy Candidate WR DeSean Jackson. Cal was going into the Oregon State game after a bye week. Two weeks before the Beaver game, Cal defeated the #12 Oregon Ducks 31-24 in Autzen.
The main story in the days leading up to the game was the availability of Cal Junior QB Nate Longshore. Longshore injured his ankle in the final minutes of the Oregon game. It was assumed by the media and fans that Longshore would start against the Beavs (Longshore’s injury was probably the reason why the point spread was not larger than 14). The Golden Bears Freshman QB Kevin Riley (from Beaverton, Oregon) was informed that he would make his first start 10 minutes before the game.
The Beavers were able to strike first with a 1 yard Touchdown to Andy Stewart. The Beaver Defense held Cal scoreless until QB Kevin Riley hit WR Lavelle Hawkins with a 10 yard touchdown pass with 14:11 left in the first half. Beaver DE Victor Butler was able to pick off Kevin Riley at the Cal 47 and returned it to the Cal 17. Afterwards, Beaver Kicker and 2005 Lou Groza Award Winner, Alexis Serna nailed a 22 yard field goal to help the Beavs reclaim the lead, 10-7. Kevin Riley, who was becoming more comfortable in the 2nd quarter, ran it in 3 yards to give Cal their first lead of the game, 14-10, with less than a minute left. On the kickoff, Cal botched a pooch kick, which gave OSU excellent field position. The Beavs, playing with nothing to lose, marched it down to the Cal 35. Serna was able to hit a 52 yarder as time expired. Beavs trailed 14-13 at the half. The Memorial Stadium crowd was tense. Another important note about the first half was that Sean Canfield did not throw an interception.
The Beavers received the ball to open the second half. The Beavers were able to march down the field thanks to some impressive running by RB Yvenson Bernard. Bernard rushed for 110 yards on 33 carries that day in Berkeley. Beavs marched 76 yards, which was capped off by a 1 yard TD run by Bernard. Beavs were leading 20-14. The next Cal drive was memorable, mainly for the end of it. The Beavers were able to hold Cal thanks to a memorable goal line stand that many in Beaver Nation fondly remember. Watch it below.
After the incredible goal line stand, the Beavs Offense, which had been solid all day, stalled out. Cal would reclaim the lead thanks to RB Justin Forsett’s 7 yard TD run with 14:25 left in the game. Forsett rushed for 150 yards that day on 28 carries and 1 TD. Forsett had an impressive game against the #1 ranked rushing Defense in the country. Cal had a 21-20 lead. Momentum was on their side. Fans had chanted, “We’re number one,” earlier in the game. The home crowd of just under 64,000 was eagerly anticipating their first #1 ranking since 1951. The Beavers, however, were not ready to roll over and quit. The Beaver’s Offense was faced with a fourth down and goal on the Cal one yard line. Rather than electing to go ahead with the field goal, Mike Riley decided to go for it, and his decision paid off as Yvenson Bernard leaped over the Cal Defense for his second TD of the evening, to give the Beavs the 26-21 lead with 8:30 left. Canfield hit WR Anthony Brown with the 2pt. Conversion pass to extend the Beaver lead to 28-21, with 8:30 left in the game.
The nation was watching closely. Remember, this was 2007 where top 2 teams were dropping like flies. Beaver Nation was glued to their media devices as they could witness one of the largest upsets in Beaver history. The Cal crowd was silent. The Beavs were able to force and recover a fumble on the kickoff proceeding Bernard’s second TD. Serna added a 33 yard field goal with 6:13 left in the game to give the Beavs their largest lead 31-21. The clock was becoming a huge factor. The Beaver fans were just begging, begging that the clock would just keep running. Cal fans, however, were wishing for the clock would stand still, so their favorite team could pull off a memorable comeback. Thanks to a Beaver coverage breakdown, Kevin Riley was able to hit Lavelle Hawkins for a 64 yard TD pass with 2:31 left. The score was now 31-28 Beavers. Cal went for the onside kick but Oregon State recovered. The Beavers weren’t able to move the ball, and Cal burned all of their timeouts. Cal was going to get the ball back on their own 6 yard line with 1:27 remaining and no timeouts.
Kevin Riley was nearly sacked in the end-zone on one occasion, and he also completed a 19 yard pass to Lavelle Hawkins on 4th and 17. Cal fans were going berserk. They were getting the sense that this Freshman kid from Beaverton is going to help them make an incredible comeback. Beaver Nation was very tense. Many in Beaver Nation felt like they were just waiting for the worst to happen. They played out of this world all game. To lose like this would be totally devastating. Cal marched all the way to the Beaver 12 yard line with 14 seconds left, with no timeout. It was third down. If they didn’t get to the end-zone, they could always kick the field goal and send the game to overtime, which Beaver fans were rooting for that option rather than lose on a late touchdown.
Then, the big play happened. On third down, Kevin Riley’s receivers were all covered. Rather than throwing the ball away, Riley ran the football. He was tackled by Joey Larocque after a two yard gain. Remember, there were no timeouts. Cal was in chaos. It was now 4th down and the clock was ticking. The field goal team tried running onto the field, but it was too late. Time had expired. The Beavers were able to pull off one of the biggest upsets in school history, as they won 31-28 and the team rushed out on to the field to celebrate. Here is video of that play. (Note: Building the Dam or myself do not approve of the title of the video on Youtube. I thought Kevin Riley played amazing in his first college start).
This was an amazing game both teams played amazing. The Cal vs OSU game got lost in the shuffle of amazing upsets of 2007. The crazy part of that season was that a two loss LSU (with all due respect to that team) won the National Title. Cal went on a free fall after the loss to the Beavs. They would lose 5 out of their next 6 and finish the regular season at 6-6. Cal, however, was able to win the Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force to finish 7-6. It’s too bad because Cal’s finish to the season almost lessens the significance of this upset. Regardless, it was a huge moment that fans of both teams will never forget. The Beavs would finish the season 9-4, including an Emerald Bowl victory over Maryland, and a classic 2OT victory in Eugene, that our very own at Building the Dam, Marcus Russell wrote an excellent piece about that game. The link to that piece is below.
Thanks for joining me in our journey reliving this classic game from 2007.