Bears Lose Back-And-Forth Affair To Beavers
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The depleted Cal football team went back and forth with Oregon State on Saturday afternoon before finally falling 31-27 at Reser Stadium.
The Bears took a 27-24 lead on quarterback Chase Garbers' third touchdown pass of the game with 8:04 to play, but the Beavers took advantage of a blocked punt to reach the end zone to go back in front with 4:30 remaining.
Cal almost came back for a winning score, driving 69 yards on 11 plays to move to the Oregon State 10. But the Beavers stopped the Bears on a tipped interception with 1:05 left and were able to run out the clock.
"It's a very frustrating loss for everyone," Cal head coach Justin Wilcox said. "There were some parts of the game where we did some things pretty well. We had opportunities to win the game, and we're going to channel that emotion into improvement."
The Bears entered the game without three starters on their offensive line, while Cal was also without stating running back Christopher Brown Jr., starting linebacker Braxten Croteau and starting tight end Collin Moore. The Bears lost starting center Michael Saffell to injury during the first half. Prior to the game, Cal announced that one player had tested positive for COVID-19 and several players were in quarantine as a result of contact tracing.
Still, Cal dominated for much of the game. Oregon State stunned Cal with a 75-yard touchdown run on the game's first play from scrimmage, but the Bears answered back immediately with an 8-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard scoring pass from Garbers to wide receiver Makai Polk. The Bears scored the final 13 points of the first half to lead 20-14 at the intermission.
After a difficult 34-10 loss to UCLA in its season-opener that followed another COVID-19 positive test that caused mass disruption in Cal's early-season preparations, the Bears looked much better against the Beavers. Cal's replacements along the offensive line performed admirably, helping the Bears amass 439 yards of total offense. Garbers was terrific, completing 28 of 42 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. It marked a career high for completed passes and attempts in a game and the fifth time in his career he has thrown for at least three touchdowns.
Wide receiver Kekoa Crawford was unstoppable, setting career-bests with 10 catches for 141 yards while also scoring on a 21-yard pass from Garbers. It's the first time a Cal receiver has had at least 10 receptions in a game since Chad Hansen in 2016.
Tight end Jake Tonges had a career-high nine catches for 55 yards. His 2-yard scoring catch from Garbers gave the Bears' their final lead of the game. Polk had four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
"We did a lot of good things," Cal guard Matthew Cindric said. "There are just a few plays here and there where we have to be better. We'll look at the film and make sure those 5 to 10 plays – that we are finishing on those and not giving up the game on those."
Senior Marcel Dancy got the start in place of Brown and rushed for 76 yards on a career-high 17 carries.
Senior linebacker Cameron Goode was all over the field on defense, recording a team-best seven tackles – including 2.5 for loss. He also made a key fumble recovery on a punt return to preserve possession for the Bears.
Defensive backs Josh Drayden and Elijah Hicks recorded interceptions for Cal.
"We need to limit our mistakes. We left too many plays out there on defense," Hicks said. "We all have to look at our own individual performances and see how we can learn from our mistakes."
A week after nailing his first career field goal, Cal kicker Dario Longhetto converted two more on Saturday – including a 52-yarder as time expired in the first half.
The Bears return to action next week in the 123rd Big Game against Stanford on Friday at California Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. and the game will air on Fox.