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Backup QB critical as Oregon State clashes with Cal

Nov 4, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon State Beavers quarterback Ben Gulbranson (17) passes against the Washington Huskies during the third quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the College Football Playoff poll after a last-second loss at Washington, Oregon State sets its sights on a strong finish.

The Beavers, also chasing a prestigious bowl bid, are leaning on backup quarterback Ben Gulbranson, starting with Saturday night’s home game against Pac-12 Conference foe California.

Gulbranson is 3-1 in a starting role since Chance Nolan suffered a neck injury in the Beavers’ October 1 loss at Utah. In last week’s defeat, Gulbranson threw for just 87 yards. He completed 12 of 19, missing open receivers downfield on more than one occasion.

“He’s got a couple of guys running wide open, he’s got to hit them,” said Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith. “It needs to be better. We’ve chosen a brand of football with our current staff. But we’ve got to get better in the passing game.”

The Beavers (6-3, 3-3) have gotten a combined 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions from Nolan and Gulbranson. Nolan tossed six picks in his last five quarters, including four in a narrow September home loss to USC.

Meanwhile, the Golden Bears (3-6, 1-5) must win out to become bowl-eligible. With arch-rival Stanford and UCLA remaining after this week, it seems like a long shot. They nearly pulled a major upset last week but lost 41-35 at No. 8 USC.

Cal trailed 27-7 in the third quarter, but rallied behind three second half touchdown passes from Jack Plummer. The Bears pulled within six points with just under three minutes left but couldn’t make a defensive stop to give themselves a chance to steal victory.

“The expectations was to play better football,” said Cal coach Justin Wilcox. “I loved the competitiveness, but where we really played poorly was at the end of the half. We could have played that much better.”

Plummer’s lone interception late in the half set up a Trojan touchdown that made it 20-7 at the half. But his 406 yards made him the first Bears’ quarterback in six years to crack the 400 mark in a game.

–Field Level Media