Cal Football: Laird Does Heavy Lifting In Bears’ Fifth Win

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Patrick Laird
BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Patrick Laird /

Cal Football is just one win away from eligibility after Patrick Laird did the heavy lifting in leading them to a 37-23 victory over Oregon State.

Patrick Laird only scored one of Cal Football’s four touchdowns on Saturday, but on Senior Day, the junior did the heavy lifting for the Bears en route to their fifth win, a 37-23 decision against the Oregon State Beavers.

The Beavers opened the game with a touchdown on the first drive, but the Bears, led by Laird, took over from there. Cal used nine plays to move the ball 75 yards, handing the ball to Laird four times and throwing to him once to eat up 39 of those yards. The final play of the drive was a 12-yard touchdown run by Laird, during which he received great block and dragged a couple of defenders the final couple yards for the score.

That was just the start of a huge day for Laird. He carried the ball 11 times in the first quarter alone, racking up 76 yards on the ground. Before two minutes were gone in the second quarter, Laird had already racked up 116 yards. By the time the final whistle sounded, Laird had piled up career-highs with 33 carries and 214 yards.

Laird’s 214 yards stand as the 10th-best rushing day in school history, and according to Jeff Faraudo, he became the second Cal rusher to accrue at least 190 yards twice in his career. Earlier this season, Laird rand for 191 yards on 12 carries against Weber State for the first instance.

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It was a complete reversal of fortune from the meeting these two had in 2016. Oregon State’s running back, Ryan Nall, ran wild over the Bears’ defense for a career-high 221 yards and three touchdowns on only 14 carries. Though Laird didn’t attain the gaudy yards per carry number that Nall did, he did more than his fair share to lead the Bears to their fifth win and get them within a single victory of Bowl eligibility.

It wasn’t just Laird that got them to the win, as plenty of seniors did their part in their last game at Memorial Stadium. Kicker Matt Anderson nailed all three of his field goal attempts, hitting from 49, 45, and 31. He also added four extra-point attempts, bringing him to 297 career points and making him the school’s all-time leading scorer. He passed Doug Brien, whose 288 points scored from 1991 to 1993 were the previous record.

Running back Vic Enwere only carried six times for 21 yards, but he put the final nail in the coffin on Senior Day. He scored the game’s last touchdown, following a block from Malik McMorris and taking it eight yards to the house. Receiver Jordan Veasy caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Safety Luke Rubenzer totaled six tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss. Linebacker Raymond Davison III and lineman James Looney combined for the Bears’ lone sack on the day. All of those seniors played a big part in the win, sending themselves off in style.

The underclassmen gave them plenty of help as well. Sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers played a hugely efficient game, taking what the defense gave him and keeping the chains moving all day. He completed 24 of his 30 pass attempts, good for 80 percent, for 259 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Both of his touchdown passes were pearls, dropping dimes to Vic Wharton in the first quarter and to Veasy in the third quarter. Overall, Wharton caught eight balls for 121 yards, his second 100+ yard game of the season. Kanawai Noa didn’t have a huge game statistically, catching four passes for 41 yards, but he demanded a lot of attention from the Beavers’ secondary and allowed his other receivers, namely Wharton, to have big days.

The Bears were efficient all day. Of their 10 drives, none ended with a punt and only one ended with a turnover.

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Cal is now just one win away from Bowl eligibility, and they’ll have two chances to reach that six-victory mark. Next on the schedule is the Big Game, Cal’s annual meeting with their cross-town rivals, the Stanford Cardinal. After that, the season ends with the UCLA Bruins, which might represent their best opportunity to reach six wins.