Big plays propel OSU to first win
Already with two losses, Oregon State wouldn't back down Saturday at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.
It was big plays galore for the Beavers — including Jermar Jefferson's 75-yard TD run to start the game, Jesiah Irish's blocked punt and John McCartan's interception off an Akili Arnold batted pass — and Oregon State beat California 31-27 for its first win of the season.
Trailing 27-24, Irish burst in to block the Cal punt and, three plays later, QB Tristan Gebbia finished off his own personal trifecta with a 1-yard TD plunge to make it 31-27 with 4:30 left. Gebbia, who had a costly interception earlier in the fourth quarter, had a TD pass, run and catch in the game.
Then, Cal QB Chase Garbers led the Bears downfield. The Beavers forced a fourth-and-5 play, but officials called Alex Austin for holding to give the Bears an automatic first down at the OSU 10. On the first play, Arnold batted Garbers' pass, the ball went high into the air, and McCartan caught it for the interception.
Jefferson, who had 196 yards on 18 carries and the long TD run, scampered 65 yards on second down and the Beavers ended the game in victory formation.
Now, it's on to the Oregon game — formerly known as the Civil War game — for the Beavers (1-2), 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27 at Reser Stadium. Oregon (3-0) edged UCLA 38-35 to remain unbeaten.
"That was a hard-fought game, a lot of momentum swings," OSU coach Jonathan Smith said of the win over Cal. "Last year's game against Cal came down to last minute; the first couple games this season came down to the fourth quarter. Proud and happy for these guys. They believe. They compete for four quarters."
Gebbia, who started in place of injured Jake Luton in last year's Civil War game, had an up-and-down game against the Bears.
He went 12 of 20 for 147 yards and a TD, but he also caught a TD pass from Tyjon Lindsey and scored the eventual game-winning points on a TD run. He also had a pass picked off near the end of the first half that Cal turned into points, and the bad fourth-quarter interception.
Garbers had a good game for the Bears (0-2), going 28 of 42 for 315 yards and three touchdowns and scrambling well, but the Beavers intercepted him twice. The Bears had 439 yards offense, and had more than 38 minutes of possession to OSU's 22.
Irish said the blocked punt happened because of an opportunity.
In a game of big plays, none stood out more than Irish's block.
"We had a return set up for (Trevon Bradford), the gap looked good enough for me to split it, I put my hand out there to get the block," he said. "Pretty crazy, surreal. A life-changing experience, for real."
Said Smith: "He's listed as a receiver and has talent as receiver, but he might be our best special teams player. That was a huge play. It's not like we called an all-out block, he's just doing his job. Believing he can make a play and changed the game."
Then, after the OSU go-ahead score, the batted pass intercepted by McCartan finished the game.
"Goes back to the resilience of the team," Smith said.
Jefferson exploded on the game's first play, going through a huge hole on the left side of the line for a 75-yard TD run. From there, he was held in check until the big 65-yard run.
"Tristan checked to a wide zone play to weak side," Jefferson said. "When Tristan said 'Hike' I saw daylight."
Cal tied it 7-7, as Garbers hit Kekoa Crawford for 44 yards — Crawford had 10 catches for 141 yards — and Garbers tossed a 7-yard TD pass to Makai Polk.
The Bears had an 89-yard punt return for touchdown nullified by a penalty and, after a Cal punt, Oregon State had the ball at the Cal 35 and scored on Gebbia's 35-yard TD pass to tight end Teagan Quitoriano.
"It was a perfect ball," Quitoriano said.
Cal responded to draw within 14-10 on Dario Longhetto's 26-yard field goal.
Oregon State's made a big play on the next Cal possession. Garbers hit Polk for 52 yards and Cal had the ball at the OSU 13. But, the Beavers forced fourth down, and Nashon Wright picked off Garberrs in the end zone.
Still, the Bears forced a punt and went ahead 17-14 on Garbers' 21-yard TD pass to Crawford.
Josh Drayden picked off Gebbia near the end of the first half, and Cal managed a 52-yard Longhetto field goal to make it 20-14.
Oregon State scored on its first possession of the second half on Everett Hayes' 35-yard field goal, making it 20-17.
Early in the fourth quarter, Bradford had a big punt return and Gebbia found Quitoriano for 22 yards and then the Beavers' trick plays worked — B.J. Baylor took a handoff and pitched to Lindsey, who moved right and found an open Gebbia for an 8-yard TD pass play and OSU led 24-20. Interestingly, the two had been roommates at Nebraska, and they joked later about how it was the receiver throwing to the QB for their first hookup at OSU.
"(Coordinator) Brian Lindgren does a great job of calling plays in the right situations. That's something we worked on in practice," Smith said. "Tyjon can throw it pretty well. Obviously it worked well."
Said Gebbia: "Definitely first time I caught a TD pass, that was pretty cool."
But, Gebbia's second interception nearly cost Oregon State the game. He threw into traffic and Elijah Hicks picked him off at the OSU 32. Pass interference penalties on Omar Speights and Isaiah Dunn kept the Cal drive alive, and Garbers found Tonges for a 2-yard TD pass and Cal led 27-24.
"I made a mistake. I'm going to continue growing and learning," Gebbia said of the late pick. "Making mistakes like that definitely are hard to overcome. Kept think it's a fourth-quarter fight. (Teammates) definitley helped me out today."
Then, the heroics of Irish, Gebbia, and McCartan happened, and Oregon State beat Cal for the second year in a row with a fourth-quarter rally.
"This is some momentum we can carry into the rest of the season," Gebbia said.
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