OSU: Rose Bowl Still Realistic Despite Mental Miscues





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With one of his National Championship rings blinging on his left hand, Oregon State head coach Dennis Erickson looked like a beaten man.

His star tailback didn't play much in the second half. His Beavers continued to commit costly penalties, which he knows will catch up with them sooner or later.

But OSU did win the game, fending off a pesky Cal squad 38-32.

"I'm happy that we got our eighth win," Erickson said. "I don't think we played extremely well. We did a lot of dumb stuff out there penalty wise."

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter robbed the Beavers of a first-and-goal situation at the 3-yard line. The lapse of judgement cost OSU prime field position and helped lead to Ryan Cesca's missed 45-yard field goal attempt.

Roughing the passer calls kept Bears drives going when Cal should have been calling on Nick Harris.

"That's what I'm talking about -dumb things," Erickson said. "Someday we're going to learn. I just hope it doesn't cost us a football game."

When OSU looked like it had finally slammed the door in Cal's face, safety Jake Cookus intercepted a pass late in the game, killing one of Cal's final scoring drives.

But near his own sideline and in front of his coach, Cookus decided to lateral the ball to linebacker Darnell Robinson.

Luckily, Robinson held on before being brought down.

"I almost had a triple bypass," Erickson said. "We really did a lot of dumb stuff out there."

Such mental breakdowns didn't cost OSU this time.

The Beavers escaped, raising their record to 8-1 for the first time in school history, moved to No. 10 in the national rankings and kept their hopes of playing in the Rose Bowl alive.

"It's hard to find players that can get on the same page and have the same goals and work," OSU tailback Patrick McCall said. "We're 8-1. No one is complaining as long as we win."

McCall knows a bit about working towards a goal.

As a freshman, McCall was a reserve tailback and special teams player for Michigan when the Wolverines were national champs in 1997 and knocked off Washington State in the Rose Bowl.

McCall joined the Beavers in 1999 and redshirted last season because of NCAA transfer rules.

So when Beavers star tailback Ken Simonton took himself out of the game because of tightness in his groin and hamstring, Erickson turned to McCall.

"Ken's got some pulled muscles," Erickson said. "He's been tight for a while. He felt like Patrick could run better."

With McCall and Simonton, OSU leads the Pac-10 in rushing and forms one of the best 1-2 punches in the country.

"We're really blessed that we've got two, really three guys who can come in and make plays" Erickson said. "Patrick is a talent that nobody knows about. We're fortunate to have both with us."

If he continues to play like he has this season, McCall won't be anonymous much longer.

After Simonton racked up 125 yards in the first half, McCall finished the game with 116 yards on 17 carries.

McCall broke the Bears' backs after they had climbed within two points, taking the ball on a counter and following his blocks up the sideline.

Twenty-seven yards later, McCall was in the end zone and Cal was done for the afternoon.

"Great blocks by the line," McCall said. "I got the blocks, saw daylight, and I ran, ran."

This wasn't the first time McCall has provided a winning spark. Two weeks ago against UCLA, McCall's 66-yard touchdown put away the Bruins.

"(McCall is) a very special player," Cal head coach Tom Holmoe said. "For a second-team guy, he looks very good."

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