BERKELEY, Calif. — As good as Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion and wide receiver Brandin Cooks are going right now, they hardly needed the help afforded by California’s porous defense.
Mannion, the nation’s leading passer, threw for 481 yards and four touchdowns, and Cooks caught 13 passes for a career-high 232 yards as the Beavers rolled to a 49-17 win against Cal on Saturday.
The duo dominated the first half, combining for 197 yards and helping open a 28-3 lead that proved the Beavers (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) were not overlooking a Golden Bears squad that came in ranked 121st out of 123 FBS teams in total defense.
To Cooks, that tight focus stems directly from Oregon State’s shocking loss to open the season against FCS opponent Eastern Washington. The Beavers have won six straight since then, the last three by a combined score of 145-58.
“This team, we know we can’t take anyone lightly, after what happened in week 1,” Cooks said. “This is college football. You don’t have the right to take anyone lightly… . We still have that chip on our shoulder. We understand that we could be 7-0 right now. That’s going to definitely be a motivating factor, to keep proving people wrong. Because a lot of people doubt us.”
Certainly not the Golden Bears (1-6, 0-4), who were outgained by the Beavers 570 yards to 366 and gave up big plays of 50, 38 and 34 yards to Cooks – the last one going for a touchdown late in the second quarter.
“(Cooks) sure is playing well,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “That’s an obvious thing to say. He’s very talented, very driven and very, very savvy. That’s because he cares and he’s spent a lot of time with football in his life. This is not an accident. This is the culmination of a lot of work, and a lot of great chemistry with his quarterback.”
Cal coach Sonny Dykes admitted his team didn’t have an answer for Cooks, who also scored on a 14-yard end around during the first-half onslaught.
“We tried to get our hands on him, rolled coverage to him, jammed him at the line of scrimmage, played a linebacker outside of the box more to his side,” Dykes said. “That is what good players do, make plays when they have an opportunity to do so. He did it over and over again.”
Mannion increased his per-game average to 427.4 yards after going 35 for 45 on the night. The Bay Area native found different receivers for each of his touchdown passes and pushed his nation-leading total in that category to 29. Mannion has thrown for at least 367 yards in every game this season.
Cal lost its 11th consecutive game to an FBS opponent, the longest such streak of any team in a BCS conference.
Golden Bears true freshman quarterback Jared Goff threw for 220 yards but committed three turnovers in his own half – an interception and two lost fumbles – before being replaced early in the third quarter by Zach Kline.
Kline immediately led Cal on an 88-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 7-yard swing pass to Darren Ervin. The redshirt freshman, who lost a preseason battle with Goff for the right to run Dykes’ Bear Raid offense, finished 11 for 16 for 71 yards and two touchdowns and added 28 yards rushing on four attempts.
Cal gave the crowd brief hope with a stop on Oregon State’s first drive, but the Beavers took their next possession 91 yards in less than 2 minutes for the game’s opening score. Storm Woods dove in for a 1-yard touchdown run.
Cal came back with a 22-yard field goal by Vincenzo D’Amato, but the Beavers were handed great field position late in the first quarter when Scott Critchton sacked Goff, forcing a fumble that Mana Rosa recovered at Cal’s 15. Three plays later, Mannion found Smith in the middle of the end zone for a 14-3 lead.
Cooks put Oregon State ahead 21-3 on the Beavers’ next possession when he took an end around on fourth-and-2 and outran the over pursuing Cal defenders to the end zone.
With 3:44 left in the half, Cooks and Mannion combined for their 13th touchdown connection of the season, a 34-yard catch-and-run from a middle screen.
Oregon State killed off any lingering suspense after halftime by marching downfield with the opening kickoff. The Beavers cashed in with another interior screen touchdown pass, this one a 28-yarder to Woods that made it 35-3.
The Beavers responded to Kline’s first touchdown pass with another impressive drive, ending in a simple 15-yard slant for a touchdown by Richard Mullaney and a 42-10 advantage.
Terron Ward added Oregon State’s final touchdown, walking in from 1 yard with 9:26 remaining.
Kline pulled another touchdown back for Cal with 3:44 left, converting on fourth-and-goal with a 1-yard pass to Jacob Wark.