For the first time all season, Oregon State put away any doubt early against an opponent.
At no point in Saturday's game did the Cal Golden Bears appear to be gaining momentum, and an early knee injury suffered by QB Kevin Riley added salt to the turf-stung wound of Cal's offense. Don't worry, Cal fans, you get a consolation prize—Washington State is up next.
More importantly for Oregon State, a blowout win is just what the doctor ordered. After a debilitating loss in double-overtime to the Washington Huskies, the Beavers reasserted the hopes of the Black and Orange faithful by putting the game away in the first half.
Quarterback Ryan Katz was affective, although not dominating. He threw for 191 yards while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. Jacquizz Rodgers also had a solid game, rushing for 119 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for another.
Perhaps the most important part of the game was the Oregon State defense. For the first time this season, the defense seemed to control the pace of the game, continually shutting down Cal's offense, with the Golden Bears struggling to make do.
The Beavers held Cal to just 206 yards and gained a much-needed confidence booster. Momentum will be on Oregon State's side as they enter the Rose Bowl and face UCLA, another Pac-10 opponent the Beavs have had recent success against.
The Bruins are in the midst of a unpredictable season. While they dominated then-No. 7 Texas, the Bruins were utterly dismantled by an Oregon Ducks team poised for a national title run and an Arizona Wildcats squad looking for a Rose Bowl berth.
The Beavers are on the edge of the Pac-10 race. Just a game separates them from three teams ranked in the AP Top 15 (No. 2 Oregon, No. 10 Stanford and No. 13 Arizona) while UCLA is all but out of the conference picture at just 1-4 in Pac-10 play.
For two teams going in opposite directions, Saturday represents a stepping stone towards conference relevance for Oregon State, and a chance to steal a game closer to a small bowl for UCLA.
The Bruins may provide another chance for Oregon State's defense to lower their season averages, just in time to go up against Washington State, a program in the middle of darker years. The Beaver D will see pros and cons over the next couple weeks: Beating up on UCLA and WSU will be a much needed boost, but it may not prepare them for the USC Trojans, and certainly both "warm-ups" should not be overlooked.
The key to the game for the Beavers on Saturday will be focusing on offensive play-calling and defensive schemes. The toughest conference games of the year are still ahead for the Beavers, as USC, Stanford and Oregon remain on the schedule.
Look for the Beavers to take a less drastic approach than blue turf to prepare for the Bruins, and look for them to use the Bruins to prepare for the Trojans.