1. The Bear defense limited Oregon's
top two rushers to 25 carries and 78 yards.
And in the end that had about as much
relevance to the outcome as the quality of the art on the Titanic.
The Bears were able to force Kenjon Barner (20 carries for 65 yards)
and De'Anthony Thomas (5 carries for 13 yards) out wide and they
weren't able to get outside and turn the corner. The longest run
that either Barner or Thomas had was 10 yards.
This marked the third straight year
that the Bears were able to play Oregon competitively for the first
half. In 2010, #1-ranked Oregon defeated Cal 15-13 and last year the
Bears led Oregon 15-14 in Eugene after the first half, and even
though Oregon had a 24-10 halftime lead, the Ducks managed that due
to a very late touchdown.
“The game was slower than last year
because of the scheme we had,” said linebacker Chris McCain.
“Oregon likes to do zone reads and cut it real tight off the
tackle. Every play we had somebody in the C-gap so they had to bounce
the ball outside. Ninety percent of the game, there was nowhere for
the back to go, and they had to push it outside. They did what we
wanted them to do.”
Still, it's not as if Thomas was a
non-factor. The Ducks did a good job of finding ways to get short
passes to him in open space – and he ended up being the game's
leading receiver with eight catches and his 101 yards just trailed
Josh Huff's 109.
2. Marcus Mariota is going to be a big
nuisance for the next three years.
If beforehand it was known that the
Bears would be able to shut down the Oregon rushing attack and force
Mariota to beat them with his arm, Cal might have liked their
chances. Coming into the game, in six conference contests, the
redshirt freshman quarterback from Honolulu, Hawaii threw for over
200 yards just twice. Yet on Saturday, against Cal, he was 27-for-34
for 377 yards and six touchdowns, in addition to running six times
for 42 yards.
His accuracy and decision-making were
equal to that of a quarterback with significantly more experience.
While one of the questions coming into the season was whether the
Ducks could find a quarterback to sufficiently replace Darron Thomas,
Mariota trumps Thomas in almost every category – as a passer, as a
runner, and as a quarterback who can run the offense.
After the game, he was quick to dismiss
the thought that Texas A&M's 29-24 upset of #1-ranked Alabama
might have helped motivate Oregon and its quest to finish in the BCS
top two to earn a spot in the national championship game.
“That has no effect on how we play,”
said Mariota. “That's just out of our control so we were just
focused on Cal and getting this win.”
3. It was a rough game for Allan
Having your first real start – with a
full week to prepare – against Oregon is no easy task and though
his stats (9-of-21 for 113 yards with one touchdown and two
interceptions) weren't spectacular he did a good job of keeping the
team in the game until an ill-fated third quarter interception.
“I thought Allan did a good job,”
said Tedford. “For starting against that team, he managed it well.
He kept his composure (and) he didn't panic. He tried to put some
balls in places. He threw on time and anticipated. On a couple of
them, the timing was a little ahead on both of the picks. He was
trying to make something happen because we needed to make something
Bridgford wasn't helped by the fact
that the Bears were without receivers Keenan Allen and Bryce Treggs;
in their place Ross Bostock and Darius Powe Jr. drew the starts, with
Maurice Harris seeing plenty of playing time. He didn't have a clear
go-to play or player that he could fall back upon on 3rd down plays.
Still, the Bears did have the ball down
seven, 24-17 with a chance to drive for a tying score. On a
3rd-and-9 from the Cal 30, Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead
went charging up the middle on a play where the Ducks were rushing
three players. Bridgford was backing up, but Armstead was coming so
quickly that he threw the ball sooner than he would have liked and
the pass, which was intended for tight end Richard Rodgers, missed
Rodgers by a bunch and fell into the arms of linebacker Boseko
On the next play, Mariota threw an out
pass to Josh Huff, who took advantage of a Bear defender who slipped
and raced 35 yards for a touchdown. That put Oregon up 31-17; and
soon Oregon was back to being Oregon, adding three touchdowns in the
4. Cal's offensive line had a decent
For the second consecutive week, the
Bears ran over 200 yards. Isi Sofele had his best game of the year
with 15 carries for 134 yards, while C.J. Anderson added 56 yards on
11 carries. Oregon's defensive line was missing starters due to
injury, so they weren't the most formidable opposition that the Bears
faced this season, but considering that the Bears were without right
tackle Matt Summers-Gavin and used right tackle Bill Tyndall in his
And this wasn't a case of shameless stat-padding once the game was out of control; the Bears ran for 106 yards at halftime and 200 yards by the end of the third quarter.
“We were running the ball really
well,” said Bridgford. “We started getting down a bit but we
wanted to stick with the run because it worked so well. That's the
tough thing about playing Oregon. If you don't score, they can get
ahead. Isi had an awesome game. That one drive, we did (the same)
three plays in a row and scored a touchdown.”
And while the rest of the unit –
featuring Tyler Rigsbee, Jordan Rigsbee, Brian Schwenke, and Chris
Adcock have had their issues, they did allow just one sack on
Saturday. But that also caused other issues, such as....
5. Penalties, penalties, penalties
Coming into the game, the Bears' margin
error was small – even if they managed to have zero turnover and
zero penalties, they were still going to have an uphill battle.
Unfortunately, Cal had three turnovers and seven penalties for 89
yards. Two of the penalties were critical; when the Bears were down
17-10 and had a 2nd-and-1 from the Oregon 23, a personal foul penalty
on Brian Schwenke gave the Bears a 2nd-and-16 from the Oregon 38,
that drive resulted in a missed 48-yard field goal. The second, Cal
had a 2nd-and-5 from the Oregon 30 when Tyler Rigsbee was penalized
for another personal foul. This put the ball on the 45 – but the
Bears had runs of 31, 10, and 4 yards, with the last one resulting in
a touchdown that brought Cal within 7, 24-17.
Oregon piled up 575
yards of offense and have enough firepower so that they can easily
shoulder 105 yards in penalties. For the Bears, scoring
opportunities against good teams are so few and far between, that
they can't afford to have those opportunities squandered by virtue of
Cal's offensive line penalty count
included Brian Schwenke (personal foul – hands to face), Tyler
Rigsbee (personal foul – late hit, and tripping)), Jordan Rigsbee
(holding), Bill Tyndall (false start)
6. The rolling punt tactic worked.
The Bears were generally successful in
limiting Thomas's damage. He was ineffective as a rusher, caused
them issues as a receiver although he didn't have any of his
field-flipping big gains, he gained just 26 yards on the kickoff
return, and he didn't have any punt returns.
For the most part the Bears used the
punt where punter Cole Leininger rolls to the right and then kicks a
low, short punt into the middle of the field. With the players all
running back upfield to either block or chase down the punt returner,
there's a decent chance that the ball could bounce off of one of the
receiving team's players and become a live ball. One one punt, the
ball did hit the back of an Oregon player's leg, but a fellow Duck
player fell on the ball.
With the ball bouncing around short and
every scrambling to find it, it meant the chances of Thomas coming up
to try to field the ball and return it were just about nil.
It's easy to want the punter to just
kick the ball as high and as deep as he can, but if kicking it
shorter meant sacrificing a few yards but neutralizing a plus-level
returner, it's not a bad risk to take.