BERKELEY, Calif. — Kieran McDonagh couldn’t help but think about what might have been after watching Portland State let a fourth quarter lead and a possible upset slip away against California.
McDonagh and the Vikings went toe-to-toe with the bigger, faster Golden Bears for most of the afternoon but unraveled in the second half amid an aerial onslaught from Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff.
So much for ending Portland State’s winless skid against the Pac-12.
McDonagh, a graduate of Skyview High School, passed for 308 yards and one touchdown and scored a second on the ground in the Vikings 37-30 loss to the Bears on Saturday.
“Up front they did some things differently (and) they started pressuring us more,” said McDonagh, who completed 13 of 28 attempts. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot. I thought we had a good chance to win. We set ourselves up early and just didn’t finish.”
The Vikings built an early 20-10 lead and were clinging to a 30-27 lead early in the third quarter before Goff rallied the Bears to a pair of scoring drives.
Goff completed 33 of 51 attempts for 485 yards and two touchdowns to give coach Sonny Dykes his first win at Cal. Goff also became the first Cal quarterback since 1996 to throw for 400 yards or more in back-to-back games.
“He’s going to be a star and I think that’s obvious,” Portland State coach Nigel Burton said. “He’s a big guy and he’s mobile enough to buy some time with his feet, which bit us in the butt a couple of times on third down.”
The two teams combined for 1,169 yards of total offense and 54 first downs. There were 42 plays of 10 yards or more, including four that went 50 or longer.
DJ Adams rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns for Portland State (1-1), which couldn’t sustain its momentum after its big first half.
“They came out in a formation we’ve never seen before,” Cal linebacker Jalen Jefferson said. “It was hard to adjust and get the right fits in. Once we made the right adjustment, we settled down and stopped them for the most part.”
Goff scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and threw a 10-yard touchdown to Maurice Harris in the first half, then connected with Richard Rodgers on a 75-yard score in the third quarter to help the Bears complete a comeback after falling behind 20-10.
Vincenzo D’Amato added two field goals for the Bears, who face four ranked teams over the next six weeks including back-to-back games against No. 3 Ohio State and No.2 Oregon.
Cal needed every bit of it against a plucky but overmatched Vikings team that rattled the Bears early.
“We were fortunate to win,” Dykes said. “They outplayed us and outcoached us.”
The two teams went back-and-forth in a first half that was full of big plays.
On the second play of the game McDonagh got Cal safety Alex Logan to bite on a play-fake and found Kasey Closs streaking past the coverage for an 89-yard touchdown. Closs later left the game with an injury in the second quarter.
After Cal quickly tied it on running back Khalfani Muhammad’s 4-yard run, Portland State again exploited gaping holes in the Bears defense. McDonagh and Closs connected twice for 47 yards, and running back DJ Adams went 12 yards untouched into the end zone to help put the Vikings up 14-7.
Adams scored again on a 25-yard run to make it 20-10 with 13:33 left in the first half before the Bears seized momentum following a fumble by the Vikings.
“We came into this game expecting to do the things that we do,” Adams said. “We just ended up a little bit short.”
Goff, a true freshman quarterback, connected with Bryce Treggs on a 50-yard pass down to the Portland 1-yard line, then scored on a keeper up the middle.
After Portland State went three-and-out on its next series, Goff engineered a 13-play scoring drive capped by his 10-yard touchdown throw to Harris. Harris beat cornerback Aaron Sibley off the line of scrimmage then had to make a leaping one-handed grab at the back of the end zone to help give Cal its first lead at 27-20.
Nick Fernandez’s 46-yard field goal pulled the Vikings within 27-23 at the half.