Cal football: How it went from bad to worse in loss to Oregon State

The big picture math for the Cal football team looks like this: Two games canceled, two lost, two players with COVID-19 and an unclear number of their teammates roped into quarantine as a result.

The Bears fell to 0-2 on Saturday, losing 31-27 to Oregon State in a game that featured three lead changes in the fourth quarter and a barrage of pregame bad news for the visitors.

Cal announced beforehand that three starting offensive linemen — seniors Jake Curhan and Valentino Daltoso and sophomore Will Craig — were out due to COVID-19 issues. One of them had tested positive and the others were shelved after contact tracing protocols.

A fourth starting lineman — center Michael Saffell — went down with a leg or foot injury in the second quarter and did not return. The Bears also played without three other starters — running back Christopher Brown Jr., tight end Collin Moore and linebacker Braxten Croteau — along with freshman nose guard Stanley McKenzie.

Two weeks earlier, Cal had one defensive lineman test positive, and that landed the entire position group in quarantine, which caused the season opener against Washington to be canceled. And when Arizona State had to cancel last week, the Bears rushed to Pasadena to play UCLA, only to lose 34-10.

In this one, the Bears were positioned to win at the finish. But Chase Garbers, who had passed for 315 yards and three touchdowns, had his first-down pass from the OSU 10-yard line tipped into the air and intercepted by linebacker John McCartan with 58 seconds left.

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“It’s a very frustrating loss,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “It’s frustrating for everyone. There were parts of the game when we did some things pretty well. Unfortunately, the critical errors in every phase were too much to overcome.”

Here are takeaways from this one as Cal heads into Big Game week, with a pair of winless rivals set to play at Memorial Stadium the day after Thanksgiving:

The COVID factor

Wilcox said he learned Friday morning that the three linemen would be unavailable and it seems doubtful any of them would be cleared to play in the Big Game, given the usual 10-to-14 day isolation requirement. 

The replacements for the starters were two redshirt freshmen and two sophomores. The entire offense clicked in the first half, piling up 20 points and 317 yards, but Cal scored just once more in the second half..

Asked about the young lineman, Wilcox said, “I don’t feel like they were the reason that we . . . they could have done better, I’m sure, but I thought they competed really hard.”

Not-so-special teams

The Bears’ various kicking teams sabotaged chances to win. 

Here’s the grim checklist: 

— Penalties wiped out an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown by Nikko Remigio and a 94-yard kickoff return by Remigio that would have seen Cal up at the 3-yard line.

— A blocked punt with 5:26 left set up the Beavers at the Cal 14-yard line and led to quarterback Tristan Gebbia’s 1-yard …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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