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OSU attack shreds Cal defense

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Monday November 06, 2000

After going down 14-0 less than seven minutes into the game, the Cal Bears nearly pulled out a comeback win over No. 14 Oregon State Saturday, only to have the usually staunch defense let them down. 

Backup Beaver tailback Patrick McCall raced down the left sideline 27 yards to score Oregon State’s final touchdown of the game, giving them a 38-29 lead with just six minutes left a the game in which the Bears never had a lead. The Bears (3-6, 2-4 Pac-10) couldn’t overcome this final nail in their coffin, managing only another field goal before losing 38-32. 

On the previous play, a third-and-long for the Beavers, Cal safety Nnamdi Asomugha had OSU quarterback Jonathon Smith wrapped up in the backfield, but Smith slithered away and scrambled for the first down. 

“That really broke our back,” Cal linebacker Scott Fujita said. “About three guys had a shot at him, but no one got him.” 

Oregon State (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) piled up 524 yards on the Cal defense, including 207 rushing yards. When the Pac-10’s leading rusher, junior Ken Simonton, went down with pulled muscles, McCall filled in ably, gaining 122 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Simonton, who didn’t play much in the second half, had 126 yards on 17 carries. 

“I don’t want to say McCall’s just as good as Simonton, but he’s awfully darn good,” Fujita said. 

The Beavers were able to get their tailbacks to the outside all game long, starting with their second play from scrimmage. Simonton burst left and turned the corner, rumbling 64 yards to the Cal 2 before being shoved out of bounds. Simonton dove over the goal line on the next play to give the visitors an early seven-point lead. 

“It’s really simple. If their linemen knock our outside guys down, their runners get to the edge. If our guys knock their guys down, they don’t get out there,” said exasperated Cal defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich. “There were about six big plays where we had them stopped, scheme-wise, but we just didn’t get it done.” 

On their next possession, the Beavers took to the air, with quarterback Jonathon Smith hitting wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a 36-yard gain. A Nnamdi Asomugha pass-interference penalty prolonged the drive on a key third down, and Simonton punched the ball in from three yards out to put the Bears in a 14-point hole. 

Cal quarterback Kyle Boller finally got the ball rolling on the ensuing drive, hitting freshman Chase Lyman on a slant for 47 yards, then threading the ball through two defenders to Chad Heydorff for a 10-yard score. The Cal running game, however, was stymied by a quick Oregon State defense for the entire game, rushing for just 94 yards on 30 carries. 

Cal’s Nick Harris became the all-time NCAA record holder for total punting yards with his third punt of the game. The senior has 13,161 yards in his career with two games left. 

“I didn’t really think about it a whole lot,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to pin the other team deep.” 

Cal was the recipient of some good fortune late in the opening quarter, as Oregon State long-snapper Tim Murdick launched the ball over punter Mike Fessler’s head and out of the end zone, giving Cal a safety and two more points. 

Cal came through with a 12-play, 59-yard drive that ended in a 23-yard Mark Jensen field goal, cutting the Beavers’ lead to 14-12. But big plays hurt the Bears again, and Smith victimized senior cornerback Chidi Iwuoma for two big gains on the next possession. Two short passes to wide receiver Chad Johnson turned into a 32- and 25-yard gains when Iwuoma missed tackles, and Simonton turned the corner once again to score for six yards out to open the lead back up to nine points. 

Boller threw an interception on the next play on an attempted fade pattern to Lyman, and the Beavers took advantage of the good field position with a 39-yard pass to wideout Robert Prescott and a three-yard dive by McCall for the team’s fourth rushing touchdown of the day. When kicker Ryan Cesca hit a 32-yard field goal with just 2:35 left in the half, the Bears were looking at a 19-point deficit. 

Boller cut into that deficit just before the half, hitting Lyman on a 30-yard slant that the freshman was able to take into the end zone, and the score was 31-19 going into halftime. 

“Kyle actually called that play himself,” said Cal head coach Tom Holmoe. “He suggested it to us, and we said ‘Alright, go for it.’ Boom, touchdown.” 

The Bears caught a break early in the second half, as Houshmandzadeh fumbled a punt that linebacker Matt Nixon recovered on the OSU 17-yard line. But a holding penalty knocked the Bears back to the 31, and they had to settle for a 39-yard field goal. 

After linebacker Chris Ball came up with an interception on the Cal 18, the Bears got a big play from wideout Derek Swafford. Taking an inside screen pass from Boller, who had a career-high 349 passing yards, the junior slid past two defenders, hurdled one of his own linemen and raced 82 yards to the end zone. Backup fullback Ray Jackson cleared Swafford’s path with a beautiful crackback block that took out two OSU defenders, and the Bears had cut the Beavers’ lead to 31-29 with more than nine minutes left in the game. But the Bears would never get any closer, as a late OSU interception sealed the deal and kept the Beavers in the Rose Bowl hunt. 


Cal defensive end Andre Carter tied the school record for career sacks late in the game, tallying his 28th with 3:33 remaining. He is tied with Regan Upshaw (1993-95). 


Wide receivers Swafford, Lyman, Heydorff and Sean Currin all set career-highs in receiving yards in the game. Swafford had 112 yards, Lyman 98, Currin 55 and Heydorff 45 against the Beavers.