Beavers Run Rampant Over Bears

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On an afternoon when the Cal athletic family welcomed its new Hall of Fame class to Memorial Stadium, the Bears football team was looking to create a little fame of its own.

Nick Harris set a new NCAA punting record.

Kyle Boller threw for a career-best 349 yards.

And Mark-Christian Jensen surpassed his career-long for a field goal - not once, but twice.

But try as the Bears did to emulate the performances of those honored at halftime, it wasn't enough to derail an Oregon State football team with just one thing on its mind - the Rose Bowl.

The No. 14 Beavers showed just why they are one-third of a three-team race for the Pac-10 crown Saturday, pulling out a solid 38-32 victory over Cal.

The Bears pulled within six points of a tie on Jensen's career-long 40-yard field goal with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter, but his onside kick went seven yards too long and was recovered by the Beavers to seal the defeat.

The loss sent the Bears (3-6, 2-4 in the Pac-10) tumbling out of bowl contention and OSU (8-1, 5-1) primed for a New Years' Day showdown in Pasadena.

"It's hard because it knocks us out of the bowl picture," said Cal head coach Tom Holmoe. "I think we had a legitimate chance. People might not agree, but our boys did. They really believed we could win the last three."

Instead, the Bears will have to settle for being the spoiler next weekend to Oregon's Rose Bowl hopes, after failing to stop the Beavers' juggernaut offense.

OSU racked up 524 yards on the afternoon, 207 of them on the ground. Six of the Beavers' plays went for over 30 yards, including a 64-yard run by running back Ken Simonton on OSU's first drive, which setup a Simonton touchdown on the next play.

The minute, 5-foot-7 tailback single-handedly wreaked havoc on the Bears' defense, racking up 107 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone. He finished with 125 yards on 17 carries - without playing much in the second half due to a tight groin muscle.

His backup, Patrick McCall, nearly equaled those stats, running for 116 yards.

So as much as Cal's offense struggled early in the season, it was the defense that dug the huge hole for the Bears by spotting the Beavers a 14-0 lead to start the game.

"It's hard to say, but that's the truth," Cal defensive end Andre Carter said. "You saw it for yourself. Defensively, we didn't play the way we should have. We came out soft."

Last week against USC, the Bears slumbered through the first half before defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich gathered his troops and held the Trojans to just 55 more yards of offense. This week, the talk wasn't enough.

"He yelled at us and said 'I told you so,' but it was too late," Carter said. "Coach said we played soft and he was right."

While the Bears couldn't contain the Beavers' running game, they had even less luck confining OSU's aerial assault. With the Beavers running plays that continually tested Cal's weakside players, OSU spread the defense and was able to turn the corner on several runs and passes.

On second-and-eight with 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Bears cornerback Chidi Iwuoma was in step with Chad Johnson, but couldn't prevent the wideout from coming up with the catch and scrambling for 32 yards.

Iwuoma was victimized all afternoon, slipping on a 25-yard pass completion two plays later that set up Simonton's third touchdown with nine minutes left in the half. He was also stiff-armed by Johnson on another 25-yard play in the third quarter.

"They knocked us down, they beat us up big time," Setencich said. "The mentality of Oregon State bothered us."

It bothered the Bears enough that even when Cal was in position to make a play, the Beavers still managed to come away with the upper hand.

Case in point - with momentum swinging toward Cal in the fourth quarter after a short Boller screen pass to Derek Swafford turned into an 81-yard touchdown reception and 31-29 deficit, the Beavers were facing a third-and-nine on the Bears' 48-yard line.

Cal safety Nnamdi Asomugha had a clear shot at quarterback Jonathan Smith on a safety blitz, and wrapped him up, only to watch Smith wriggle out of his grasp and scramble 23 yards for a first down.

"If you make the tackle, you stop the them, you probably win the game," Setencich said. "There were six plays like that from the top of my head (watching from) the box."

Instead of being stopped for a loss, OSU ran for its final touchdown on the very next play.

"When we came within three, the ball just bounced in funny ways," Holmoe said. "We had (Smith) sacked and he squirts through for a first down. Those are hard to swallow."

The loss ruined an otherwise record-setting day for the Bears. Harris claimed the NCAA's all-time career punting mark on a 47-yard dribbler that pinned the Beavers at their own 7 in the first quarter.

Then, in the fourth, Carter sacked Smith to pull into a tie with Regan Upshaw for Cal's all-time career sack record.

It was a bittersweet day for Carter and the seniors, who saw their final chance at a collegiate bowl game slip away with the defeat.

Said Carter on whether or not he would have returned for his senior season, knowing that the Bears would come up short of a bowl:

"I still would've come back. I've never played with a group of guys (like this). I cherish them as if they were my family. They are my family."


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