BERKELEY, Calif. — Quarterback Jared Goff doesn’t seem too concerned that time is running out for California to clinch a bowl bid.
With only three games left heading into Saturday night’s matchup with Oregon State, the Golden Bears need just one win to secure a spot in the postseason. That’s the same scenario coach Sonny Dykes’ team has been in for more than a month, only now the stakes are getting higher as the calendar winds down.
A once-promising 5-0 start has been muffled by four consecutive losses that have threatened to wipe out Cal’shopes of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2011.
If there is pressure on the Bears, Goff insists he isn’t feeling it.
“We played four really good teams and easily could have very easily won two of them,” Goff said. “I’m not looking for moral victories — no one is — but we understand that we are still a good team. We still have a really good chance to finish this season with eight wins and go to a bowl game.”
The path to the postseason might not be as easy as Goff thinks.
Although Oregon State (2-7, 0-6 Pac-12) is riding a six-game losing streak, the Beavers have historically played well on the road against the Bears.
Cal (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) hasn’t beaten Oregon State at Memorial Stadium since 1997. The Bears defeated the Beavers in a home game that was played at San Francisco’s AT&T Park in 2011 but have dropped six straight in Berkeley to their conference rival.
After playing Oregon State, Cal travels to face No. 7 Stanford then closes out the regular season at home against an Arizona State team that is also holding onto slim bowl hopes. The Sun Devils have a win over UCLA and took defending Pac-12 champ Oregon to triple overtime before losing 61-55 on Oct. 29.
The Bears will have to beat at least one of their remaining three opponents to get into the bowl picture.
“There have been different things in games that have hurt us,” Dykes said. “We need to be a little mentally tougher. I’ve challenged them about doing that.”
Here are some things to watch when Oregon State visits Cal:
STICKING WITH THE FRESHMAN: Oregon State quarterback Nick Mitchell fumbled once and threw three interceptions which led to 20 points for UCLA but first-year Beavers coach Gary Andersen said he is sticking with the redshirt freshman while starter Seth Collins continues to rest his injured left knee.
In all, Oregon State has used three different quarterbacks this season. Dykes can relate to what the Beavers are going through.
“I went through that my first year at Louisiana Tech,” Dykes said. “I think we played like four or five different quarterbacks. We had a kind of a revolving door. It just makes it hard. You can’t grow as fast as you’d like to because reps are so important for that position.”
SPREADING THE LOVE: One of the reasons Goff is so high on the radar of pro scouts — he’s a projected first-round pick if he decides to forgo his senior year — is because of his ability to read defenses and his passing accuracy.
Goff has also done a phenomenal job of spreading the ball around. Sixteen different Cal players have caught at least one pass from Goff. Six players have 20 or more receptions, with three having 30 or more.
BLOCK PARTY: While Goff and the offense have received most of the attention this season, the Bears also have a pretty solid special teams unit. Cal blocked two punts in last week’s loss to Oregon, marking the first time since 2003 that the Bears had two in one game. Hamilton Anoa’i, who blocked one of the punts and returned the other, was named conference special teams player of the week.
BARKING BEAVERS: Oregon State didn’t go down quietly in its 41-0 loss to No. 18 UCLA last week. According to several Bruins, including quarterback Josh Rosen, the Beavers were barking out signals and cadences at the line of scrimmage in order to disrupt UCLA’s offense.
Dykes chuckled when asked how that might disrupt Cal’s offense.
“That’s part of football,” Dykes said. “We’ve played people that have from time to time called defensive signals the same we were calling the offensive signals. You can talk to the officials about it and get upset. We just try to adjust and move on.”