CORVALLIS — There could be a lot of finality for California at No. 15 Oregon State tonight, and not just because it is the Golden Bears’ last game in a disappointing season.
The game could close the chapter on the 11-season tenure of Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, who has come under increasing scrutiny this season. It could also be the culmination of the star Bears wide receiver Keenan Allen’s college career.
For certain it is the finale for senior quarterback Zach Maynard. But what is sadder is that Maynard and Allen, his half-brother, won’t even play — both have been ruled out because of injuries.
It is almost a fitting end for a team that is just 3-8 overall this season and just 2-6 in the Pac-12 conference.
“Things haven’t gone as we wanted,” senior offensive lineman Tyler Rigsbee said. “But this is one more chance to put that helmet on and go play for our group of guys, our coaches and fans and everybody. It’s a great opportunity for us to try to go out on the right note.”
Allen, who is sitting out of his third game with a left knee injury, is projected by some to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. If so, he leaves Cal as the school’s all-time leader in career receptions with 205. He is third on the career list with 2,570 receiving yards, and he has 17 touchdowns. He has caught at least one pass in each of the 33 games he has played for the Bears.
Maynard, who is sitting out his second game with a left knee injury, will finish 10th on Cal’s career list for passing yards (5,204 yards) and total offense (5,350 yards). One of the best games of his career came this season when he passed for 295 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score against UCLA.
Tedford is Cal’s winningest coach ever, with an 82-56 record in 138 games. But the Bears are having their worst season since they finished 1-10 in 2001 and fired Tom Holmoe.
The Bears’ season ends tonight without a bowl appearance for the second straight year.
Tedford said he expects to meet next week with California athletic director Sandy Barbour. If Tedford is let go, Cal would owe him $6.9 million for the final three years of his contract.
“He’s one of the hardest-working guys you’ll ever be around,” Rigsbee said of Tedford. “He’s kept a great attitude and kept this team together, which is not easy to do, especially this year with some really tough losses. Teams will disintegrate or guys will start bickering at each other. He’s done a good job keeping us as a family. He’s going to go back to the drawing board and work as hard as he can to get us in the position to win games.”
With Maynard out, Cal will start Allan Bridgford, who passed for 113 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions last week in Cal’s 59-17 home loss to No. 1 Oregon.
The Beavers (7-2, 5-2) are also coming into tonight’s game on a down note. Their hopes for a shot at the Pac-12 championship game and a trip to the Rose Bowl were dashed last weekend with a 27-23 loss at Stanford.
But Oregon State is still going to a bowl game — a dramatic turnaround for a team that finished just 3-9 last season and was picked to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12 North this year. After Cal, the Beavers host No. 1 Oregon in the annual Civil War rivalry game over Thanksgiving weekend.
Against the Golden Bears, Oregon State’s biggest issue is at quarterback. Junior Cody Vaz, who started last week against the Cardinal, injured his left ankle on the final drive of the game. He did not practice this week.
That means the Beavers will go with sophomore Sean Mannion, who started the first four games of the season, passing for an average of 339 yards a game with seven touchdowns. Vaz took over when Mannion hurt his left knee and required surgery.
“You always have to be confident in yourself,” Mannion said. “I don’t try to be arrogant, but I like to think when I’m out there I can make some plays. It’s really all about working hard and practicing. That’s all I try to do. I let my play take care of itself.”
Last season, Cal hosted the Beavers at AT&T Park in San Francisco while Memorial Stadium in Berkeley underwent renovations. The Golden Bears won that one, 23-6, with Isi Sofele rushing for a career-high 190 yards and a score.
This season, Sofele needs 109 yards for 10th place on the school’s career rushing list. Last week, he rushed for a season-best 134 yards against Oregon.
Oregon State will pose a challenge for him. The Beavers are allowing opponents an average of just 99.7 yards per game on the ground, 10th in the nation and second in the conference behind Stanford.
“We’ll attack this thing and finish strong,” Tedford said. “The mood was upbeat at practice. We worked hard. Looking forward to going and competing against a great team.”