It’s been a long while since the Ducks played this poorly on offense, but tonight was the night and Cal took full advantage.
Oregon was shut out in the second half and Cal hung on for a 21-17 win in Berkeley. The Ducks fell to 3-2 on the season. Although they have lost two straight, the Ducks still have a chance to win the North thanks to Stanford’s upset win over Washington.
After being maligned last week in the loss to Oregon State for a bad performance, the Duck defense came to play and more than did their part to hold the Bears at bay. The defense had been giving up 260 yards on the ground before this game. That average will go down significantly as Oregon held the Bears to just 88 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately for Andy Avalos group, the offense didn’t hold up their end of the bargain and it wasn’t because of the lack of chances.
Oregon had seven possessions in the second half that resulted in four punts, two turnovers, and one failed fourth-down attempt. It wasn’t exactly what head coach Mario Cristobal drew on the chalkboard when game-planning this week.
The lack of success was rather shocking considering how the first half ended for the Ducks.
Down 14-10, Oregon took over on its own 25-yard line with just 43 seconds left. Instead of just calling it a half and regrouping in the locker room, the Ducks were aggressive. Tyler Shough found Travis Dye wide open on a wheel route done the right sideline. The tailback went 67 yards down to the eight. Two plays later, Cyrus Habibi-Likio punched it in and Oregon had a 17-14 lead.
Both teams traded punts twice in the third quarter before the Bears finally took over the lead when Chase Garbers found Nikko Remigio for a 28-yard touchdown with 5:12 left. That would be the last score of the night.
Although the fourth quarter didn’t feature any scoring, that doesn’t mean it was lacking action. Both teams had plenty of chances to score. For Cal, it was a chance to pull away and for the Ducks, it was a chance, or chances to pull this one out.
Oregon’s best chance to take the lead was when they were able to drive the ball down to the Cal 42 with nine minutes to go. But on a 2nd-and-10 play, Shough scrambled and gained a few yards. The sophomore tried to muscle his way for a couple of more yards, but in his efforts, Shough was stripped of the ball, and Cal recovered.
Oregon’s defense rose to the challenge and held Cal to a three-and-out. Oregon was pinned back to their own goal line and was forced to punt, giving the Bears a short field as they started on the Duck 42.
California drove down to the 25 and was faced with a fourth-and-5. Instead of kicking a 42-yard field goal, Cal coach ad former Duck safety Justin Wilcox decided to go for it. Garbers threw an incomplete pass, giving the ball to Shough and company with just 2:02 left and two timeouts to work with.
Shough was able to move down the field, eventually to the Cal 38 with just over a minute left. Shough then hit Johnny Johnson III on a crossing route where he was then stripped of the ball and California recovered, ending the would-be rally and the game.
Now the regular-season finale is next on the docket as Washington is scheduled to come into Autzen Stadium next Saturday. The Huskies are 3-1 after losing to Stanford 31-26. They are a game short because the Apple cup with WSU was canceled. The kickoff time and television network is still being worked out.
But after a loss at Cal, next week’s game time and TV is the last of Oregon’s worries.
~ Don Smalley