CORVALLIS — A year ago, California had Oregon State on the run.
In their 2011 meeting in San Francisco, the Golden Bears shredded the Beavers' defense for 296 yards rushing in a 23-6 victory. And, for a few minutes Satuday night, it looked like Cal might do the same thing again in Pacific-12 football at Reser Stadium.
Just over midway through the first quarter, Bear tailback Isi Sofele capped an 82-yard drive with two quick bursts over the left side that covered the last 30 yards. It wasn't just that he'd scored to tie the game 7-7, it was the way he'd left OSU defenders grasping at air tracks that was worrisome for Oregon State.
By that point, Cal had already rushed for 74 yards; stay anywhere near that pace for 60 minutes and the Bears were looking at coming close to — or perhaps exceeding — that mark from last season's thrashing.
This time around OSU managed to write a different ending.
A quarter-and-a-half and six possessions later, Cal had picked up just 34 more yards on the ground. The 15th-ranked Beavers had rolled out to a 35-7 halftime lead en route to a 62-14 win.
Cal came into the game averaging 182.4 yards per game on the ground. Oregon State ranked second in the conference in rushing defense, allowing an average of just 99.7 yards per game, and that matchup figured to go a long way toward deciding Saturday's outcome.
Sofele, who ran for 190 yards against OSU a year ago, was limited to 104 yards on 18 carries this time around. The Bears did and up with 190 yards rushing, but many of those came long after the outcome had been decided.
The reversal of rushing results extended to when Oregon State had the ball. In 2011, the Beavers gained just 31 net yards on the ground; Saturday, OSU had 94 yards by halftime and finished with 200. Terron Ward led OSU with 128 net yards and two touchdowns.
BIG BEAR BEATING: Oregon State's 55 points was the most the Beavers have ever scored against California, topping the 42 they scored in a 48-42 overtime loss at Berkeley in 1996. OSU's highest score in a win over the Bears came in a 38-32 victory at Cal in 2000. The 48-point margin of victory was OSU's largest ever over the Bears, topping a 35-3 victory in Berkeley in 1969. The most Oregon State points in the series in a game in Corvallis was 35 in a 35-7 win in 2010.
OSU's 62 points tied for the 14th-highest-scoring game in school history, matching a 62-0 win over Albany College (now Lewis & Clark) in 1893 and a 62-0 win over Whitman in 1925. It was the Beavers' highest-scoring game since a 66-13 win over Washington State in 2008, and that's the only Pacific-8/Pacific-10/Pacific-12 game in which the Beavers have exceeded Saturday night's point total.
WHEATON WOW: Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 33. Wheaton had seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown; six of those catches, 94 yards and the touchdown came before halftime.
BERNARD TAKES A KNEE: Midway through the second quarter, just after Oregon State scored to take a 28-7 lead, Reser Stadium public address announcer Mike Stone called the crowd's attention to the north end of the field, where former Beaver running back Yvenson Bernard was standing with his girlfriend, Michelle Williams. Bernard dropped to one knee, and a few seconds later Williams was his fiancé after she said "yes" to his marriage proposal.
BACK-TO-BACK: The biggest roar of the evening at Reser Stadium had a dual cause. Within 10 seconds of each other, Stanford kicked a field goal to beat Oregon and Brandin Cooks hauled in a 48-yard touchdown pass from Mannion to put the Beavers up 21-7. The noise began coming from a few OSU fans with access to video of the game in Eugene, then reached a crescendo as Cooks adjusted to an underthrown pass from Mannion, made a leaping grab, then cut back across the field for the score.
HIGH NOON: Game time for next Saturday's Civil War was announced Saturday night. The game will start at noon and be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
DANGER-VU: With 8:50 left in the second quarter, the Beavers had an uneasy sense of déjà vu. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks snagged a pass over the middle and took a blow to the helmet from Cal defensive back Josh Hill. OSU had seen the other half of its big-play receiving duo, Wheaton, knocked out of a loss at Washington when he was hit in the head. The difference this time was that Hill was flagged for a penalty, whereas Wheaton's assailant drew no foul. Cooks did not return to the game but remained on the OSU sideline in uniform.
HATFIELD HIGHLIGHT: Oregon State wide receiver Micah Hatfield had just one catch for three yards this season prior to Saturday. Stepping in after Cooks was hurt, he had three catches for 20 yards in the first half against Cal. One of those was beauty that put the Beavers up 35-7 in the waning seconds of the first half; on a play from the Cal 9-yard line, OSU quarterback Sean Mannion scrambled to keep a play alive and finally found Hatfield at the back of the end zone. Hatfield stretched to his full height to get his hands on the ball but kept his toes inbounds before falling out of the end zone. It was his second career touchdown, and he finished with four catches for 35 yards.
BAD NEWS BEARS: California wrapped up its season with a losing record for the second time in the past three years, and head coach Jeff Tedford is set to meet next week with school athletic director Sandy Barbour to discuss the future of the program — and whether it includes Tedford. Cal, which went 7-6 in 2011 with a Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech, had 27 players miss time due to injuries this season. Cal had lost three straight games going into Saturday's game with Oregon State. Its conference wins prior to Saturday had been over UCLA and Washington State in back-to-back weeks, and the Bears had also beaten Southern Utah.
Cal's frustration was evident as the Beavers pulled away. Among the Bears' seven penalties in the first half were three personal fouls.
BOWL PICTURE: After losing to Stanford a week ago, the Beavers need a Civil War win to have any shot at a Bowl Championship Series berth. Should that not happen, OSU's most likely destinations are the games set to take the Pac-12's second- through fifth-place teams: the Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Sun Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl.
Holiday Bowl president Eric Graves was quoted in Saturday's Corvallis Gazette-Times as saying the Beavers are a "high-value pick" for his bowl because OSU has never before played in the San Diego game, and because Oregon State head coach Mike Riley was head coach of the city's NFL Chargers from 1999-2001.
After Saturday's games, the Pac-12 has eight bowl-eligible teams: Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, Southern California, Arizona and Arizona State. Utah, California, Washington State and Colorado cannot reach bowl eligibility.
THIS AND THAT: OSU still trails California in the all-time series 301-34 but the Beavers have won 11 of the last 14 meetings, dating back to 1999 "…Oregon State entered Saturday night's game looking for a win that would likely keep it in the national rankings for the ninth straight week when the new polls are announced Sunday. That would be a school record for most consecutive weeks in the national rankings within one season "…Oregon State has won all five of its home games this season and has a six-game winning streak dating back to last season's win over Washington. The Beavers' last 5-0 home start had been in 2008, and OSU's last six-game home win streak had come over the 2009 and 2010 seasons.