Looking back on 2006: The Oregon State game

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with Oregon State.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota, Portland State and Arizona State.  Also note that because this game was not televised and that I couldn’t find a feed to review the radio broadcast, this review is based entirely on a textual play-by-play review.)

The storyline:
In a game between a shaky 2-1 Oregon St., who’s only test and loss came in a 14-42 beat down courtesy of Boise St., and a re-energized and confident Cal squad, the highly favored Cal team dismantled Oregon St. in a 41-13 victory.  The game was further proof that the Cal squad was on their way to great things, although those conclusions were tempered by what appeared to be a weak Oregon State team.

The reality:
While at the time it didn’t seem that this game was very meaningful, in retrospect this was a very impressive win for Cal.  Oregon State went on to win 8 of their last 10 games including beating USC, placing 3rd in the Pac-10 behind Cal and USC and winning the Sun Bowl.  Considering that the Oregon State defense led the way for the remainder of the season, Cal’s ability to score on all 5 of their first half possessions, all from sustained drives starting in Cal territory, and 50% of their 2nd half possessions showed just how potent Cal’s offense was.  Only Boise St., who ended up 13-0 including beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, was able to score more points (42) on Oregon State in 2006.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was that after Cal drove the length of the field on their opening possession to score their first touchdown, Oregon State responded with their own drive that, luckily for Cal, ended with a fumble on the Cal 5 yard line.  That was a huge psychological blow for the Beavers and may have made all the difference in Cal’s domination throughout the game, particularly considering the team that Oregon State proved to be. 

The 2006 learnings:
By the time this game was in the books, it was finally clear just how potent Cal’s deep passing threat was.  Through most of the early season, defenses had been focusing on containing the running game of Lynch and the short passing game which was expected from a hybrid west-coast/spread offense.  This game proved that it was no fluke.

The 2007 learnings:
It’s harder to derive conclusions for 2007 from this game because it was not televised and much of what one could garner from talent evaluation is not so easy over other media.  Perhaps one learning for the Athletic Office was just how much the Cal faithful were coming to expect Cal games to be televised.  This would be the last game for which dedicated fans in northern California didn’t have a televised option (albeit for WSU the only option was to go to Memorial Stadium to watch on the JumboTron).  Returning to the game, this game is the prototype for how Cal can stretch the field in 2007 and I’m sure Tedford and staff have analyzed this game over and over to see how they can continue to take advantage of the deep passing threat.  Finally, with Oregon State returning most of their team sans their QB, there is both reason to be hopeful that Cal can handle OSU in 2007 (based on 2006’s result) and that this is a team to worry about (based on OSU’s later performance).

The Conclusion:
What struck me about this game was how every concern the coaching staff had mentioned in previous games was addressed.  Scoring in the 2nd half: done.  Controlling the game with the running game: check.  Keeping the running game of OSU in check: with authority.  Win on the road: double check.  In every aspect of the game Cal dominated and considering the team OSU proved to be and that this was Cal’s first trip back onto the road after Tennessee, this makes OSU the most impressive win of the 2006 season as far as I’m concerned.

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