Cal’s offense throttles Oregon State to keep bowl hopes alive

BERKELEY — Christopher Brooks, seemingly under-utilized much of this season, got the ball Saturday night. Over and over again.

The Cal senior running back rushed for 83 yards, caught two touchdown passes and ran for a two-point conversion as the Bears enjoyed their best offensive game of the season in a 39-25 win over Oregon State in front of an announced crowd of 38,572 at Memorial Stadium.

The Bears (3-5, 2-3 Pac-12) won for the second straight week to keep alive their still-long shot bowl hopes. They play next Saturday at winless Arizona but need three wins in their final four games to become eligible for the postseason.

Brooks, two years removed from rushing for more than 900 yards, had carried the ball just 46 times in the Bears’ first seven games. He had 20 rushes against the Beavers (5-3, 3-2), who were hoping to secure their own bowl eligibility.

Chase Garbers played an error-free game, completing 17 of 26 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, including a 38-yarder to Trevon Clark. Garbers also rushed for 58 yards and his 3-yard scoring run in the first quarter gave him 10 career TDs, most by a Cal quarterback.

The Bears rang up 517 yards, had no turnovers and just one penalty. And they could have scored more, but opted to run out the clock after Damien Moore’s 56-yard run to the 1-yard line in the final 3 minutes. Moore finished with 111 rushing yards.

Cal’s defense forced three turnovers from the highest-scoring team in the Pac-12, which was held 10 points under its season average.

Cal went 75 yards in eight plays to open the second half, pushing its lead to 24-10 when Garbers found running back Brown wide open down the right sideline for a 32-yard touchdown with 11:37 left in the period.

The Bears missed a chance to add to their lead when Dario Longhetto was wide left on a 48-yard field goal try. OSU closed within 24-17 with a 70-yard scoring drive that was triggered by a 40-yard completion to 5-foot-5, 142-pound Champ Flemings and capped by Deshaun Fenwick’s 4-yard TD run with 2:55 left in the quarter.

But the Bears’ special teams recaptured the momentum, with Nick Alftin blocking Luke Loecher’s punt to give Cal possession at the OSU 38.

Garbers wasted no time, throwing a 38-yard TD pass down the left sideline to Clark, extending the lead back to 31-17 on the final play of the third quarter.

Once again, the Beavers answered. They overcame offensive pass interference and holding penalties, pulling within 31-25 when Nolan threw a 46-yard TD pass to Trevon Bradford, then ran in the two-point try with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter.

The Bears led 17-3 until the final minute of the first half, when OSU got into the end zone for the first time on Chance Nolan’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Bradford.

But the Bears’ early advantage should have been greater. Ahead 7-0, Garbers threw a perfect pass in the end zone to sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter, who has been sure-handed this season. But he dropped what would have been a 27-yard TD and Cal settled for Longhetto’s 45-yard field goal with 4:39 left in the opening period.

Earlier, Garbers scored on a 3-yard keeper, his 10th career rushing touchdown to set a Cal record for quarterbacks. That came after linebacker Marqez Bimage wrestled the ball from OSU running back B.J. Baylor on the  game’s first play from scrimmage.

The Bears added to a 10-3 lead with a nine-play, 75-yard drive — all on the ground — capped by Moore’s 8-yard scoring run with 9:19 left in the half. It stayed that way until the final minutes before intermission.

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Author: Jeff Faraudo