BERKELEY, Calif. - Playing with its No. 2 quarterback, California squandered a chance to grab the No. 1 ranking.
Yvenson Bernard leaped into the end zone on fourth down from the 1 with 8:30 remaining and Oregon State delivered the latest shocker in an upset-filled season, beating the second-ranked Golden Bears and backup quarterback Kevin Riley, 31-28, yesterday.
The win wasn't sealed until Riley inexplicably tried to scramble from the 12 with 14 seconds remaining and no timeouts. He was tackled after a 2-yard gain and the clock ran out before the field goal unit could get on the field. Riley had orchestrated a near-perfect drive up to that point from his 5 with 1:27 remaining. But his inexperience showed at the end.
"I saw the field and I thought I could get around that guy," Riley said. "It just didn't happen."
Coach Jeff Tedford said he didn't consider kicking a field goal on the play because the Bears had time to take a shot at the end zone. But he wouldn't blame Riley for how the game ended.
"It's not his fault," Tedford said. "He played his heart out at the end to get us in that situation. We didn't lose the game because of that play."
Cal (5-1, 2-1 Pac-10) looked poised to move into the top spot for the first time in 56 years after No. 1 LSU's triple-overtime loss at Kentucky earlier in the day. But the Bears were unable to handle their own business, becoming the 10th team ranked in the top 10 to lose to an unranked team this season.
Now it looks like No. 3 Ohio State will move up to No. 1 and Cal can only lament its lost opportunity after Oregon State (4-3, 2-2) beat a team ranked this high for the first time since upsetting O.J. Simpson and Southern Cal, 3-0, on Nov. 11, 1967.
"It looked like overtime, but that's why you play all 60 minutes," coach Mike Riley said. "When he started running I knew they didn't have a chance."
The day got off to a bad start for Cal when quarterback Nate Longshore was unable to start because of a sprained right ankle. Riley was inconsistent in his first start, throwing an interception and failing to get star receiver DeSean Jackson involved in the offense. Jackson had four catches for 5 yards.
Bernard leaped over the pile for the go-ahead score on fourth and goal from the 1 to give the Beavers the lead for good. Sean Canfield hit Anthony Brown on the 2-point conversion to make it 28-21. After Jahvid Best fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Alexis Serna kicked his third field goal of the game to make it 31-21.
Riley threw three straight incompletions on the next drive before connecting with Lavelle Hawkins on a 64-yard score with 2:31 to go to cut the lead to 31-28.
Oregon State recovered the onside kick and Serna pinned Cal at the 5 with 1:27 left and no timeouts with a perfect punt.
The news of LSU's loss reached Berkeley almost instantaneously, with fans standing up to cheer and chant, "We're No. 1! We're No. 1!" The Bears didn't respond like a top-ranked team, committing a delay of game penalty on their next play. That proved to be a sign of things to come.