Cal was flagged for a whopping 15 penalties Saturday at AT&T Park, stopping its own offense much better than Oregon State could have hoped to.
The Bears' 23-6 victory over the Beavers wasn't one of their prettiest performances, but this day was all about the bottom line.
In beating Oregon State for just the third time in the last 13 tries, Cal notched the all-important sixth victory that makes it eligible for a bowl.
That means a lot to returning players still feeling the sting of last season's 5-7 season, when the Bears saw a string of seven straight bowl appearances snapped.
"Only getting five wins left a salty taste in all of our mouths -- not getting a chance to play football in December," junior right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin said. "It's a good (accomplishment), but the season ain't over."
The 114th Big Game awaits next weekend against Stanford in Palo Alto, followed by the regular-season finale at Arizona State on Nov. 25. It's no secret that winning either of those games will be a tall order, so taking care of business against the Beavers (2-8, 2-5 Pac-12) was crucial.
It was no surprise that Cal exploited Oregon State's porous running defense. Junior tailback Isi Sofele was the beneficiary, ripping off a career-high 190 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown.
That came on the heels of last week's 138-yard performance against Washington State, and with Saturday's output, Sofele became Cal's ninth 1,000-yard rusher in the past 10 seasons. He sits at 1,029 yards for the year.
Sofele found the end zone on a 20-yard run around left end that put the Bears (6-4, 3-4) ahead 20-6 with 10:01 left in the third quarter.
He tried to celebrate by chest-bumping right guard Justin Cheadle, which didn't go as planned. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Sofele wound up flat on his back after the collision.
"I got excited and forgot I outweigh him by about 125 pounds," said Cheadle, listed at 295 pounds.
Cal's offensive line blew open holes for not only Sofele but also backup tailback C.J. Anderson, who added 96 yards on 14 carries. It was the biggest game of the season for Anderson, a junior transfer from Laney College-Oakland.
Cal wore down Oregon State with two first-half touchdown drives of 90-plus yards, including a 16-play, 96-yard march in the second quarter that ate up 9:04 of the clock. Quarterback Zach Maynard scored on a 5-yard keeper to give Cal a 14-3 lead.
The Bears have churned out 584 rushing yards in the past two weeks.
"When you're successful running the ball, it makes it a lot easier to stay with it," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.
Anderson had the misfortune of getting two touchdowns called back by holding penalties in the second half, one by Summers-Gavin and another by center Dominic Galas. Galas had consecutive holding penalties -- the second one wiped out a Sofele score -- as the Bears were penalized 15 times for 130 yards.
"In a closer game, three touchdowns being called back would be devastating," Tedford said. "We need to correct it."
Oregon State was hurt by two second-half turnovers deep in Cal territory. Cal cornerback Steve Williams deflected a pass intended for James Rodgers at the goal line, and safety D.J. Campbell intercepted it.
The Beavers trailed 20-6 but were poised to pull closer in the fourth. On third-and-goal from the 1, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion couldn't reach Jovan Stevenson with the handoff, the ball hit the ground and Cal's Sean Cattouse recovered at the 3.