AP Sports Writer
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — D.J. Uiagalelei threw three of his five touchdown passes to Jack Velling and No. 15 Oregon State beat California 52-40 on Saturday night.
The Beavers (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) struggled to slow down the Golden Bears (3-2, 1-2) for most of the night but did more than enough offensively to get off to their best start to a season since 2013.
“I’m not going to lie,” Uiagalelei said. “I was feeling it today. I felt good. I got going from the jump. I was ready to go.”
Uiagalelei completed 19 of 25 passes for 275 yards, backup Aidan Chiles threw a TD pass on a one drive cameo in the first half and Damien Martinez ran for 89 yards and a score.
Oregon State scored touchdowns on five straight drives and pulled away with two TDs in the opening three minutes of the fourth quarter to open up a 49-32 lead.
It was a big turnaround from last week when the Beavers won 21-7 against Utah.
“Hopefully we build some confidence knowing that we can win this way or we can play in a lower scoring game and find a way,” coach Jonathan Smith said. “You never know how each game is going to play out.”
Martinez scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down and then Uiagalelei found defensive lineman Isaac Hodgins for a 2-yard score following a fumble by Ashton Stredick.
Fernando Mendoza threw two TD passes in his first start and Isaiah Infanse scored three times for the Bears, who haven’t beaten a ranked team since the 2020 season.
Cal allowed more than 50 points for the second time this season and for the first at home in coach Justin Wilcox’s seven seasons.
“We’ll find out where the defenders are come next week, because boy — and this is not taking anything away from Oregon State because I really do think those guys do a great job coaching — but, man, ooh, that was bad defense right there by us,” Wilcox said.
The Beavers led 14-3 when a bold decision backfired and quickly put them in a hole. Coach Jonathan Smith called for a surprise onside kick that Ryan McCulloch recovered and returned to the 19. That set up a 9-yard TD pass from Mendoza to Infanse.
Silas Bolden then lost a fumble on the first play of the next drive and Cal turned that into a 1-yard TD run for Infanse and a 17-14 lead.
Smith remained aggressive and it paid off late in the first half when Uiagalelei found Velling for his second TD of the game on fourth down from the 3 to give the Beavers a 21-17 lead at the half.
That was one of five fourth-down conversions for the Beavers, including two that went for touchdowns.
“It feels like it’s Madden. I love it,” Uiagalelei said. “When I play Madden I don’t ever punt the ball wherever I’m at. That’s kind of our mentality. … I think everyone on offense loves it. It’s an aggressive mindset.”
Both teams scored twice on their only possessions of the third quarter before the Beavers took control in the fourth.
Oregon State: The Beavers came into the game fifth in the nation in run defense but were gashed for 128 yards in the first half with starters James Rawls and Calvin Hart Jr. serving a penalty for targeting last week. They gave up 241 yards rushing for the game.
California: The Bears went to their third starting QB of the season with Mendoza getting the nod over Sam Jackson V and Ben Finley. Mendoza played well but it wasn’t enough as Cal started a stretch of five straight games against teams currently in the AP poll with a loss. Mendoza will get the start again next week.
“I thought he did a heckuva job,” Wilcox said. “He did a great job. He was not perfect, but he brought energy to the game.”
Oregon State: Hosts UCLA on Saturday night.
California: Visits Utah on Saturday.