Last week, No. 19 Oregon lost a heartbreaker with a second half to forget against rival Stanford. Hitting the road for the first time this season, the Ducks put that outing behind them and closed things out much more memorably against No. 24 California as they looked impressive on both sides of the ball in an 42-24 win that keeps them afloat in the Pac-12 North race.
Justin Herbert was naturally leading the way offensively for Oregon even if the quarterback had a few more incompletions than his last game. Playing in front of former Bears QB and the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Jared Goff, the lanky signal-caller from Eugene looked at times like a guy who could wind up in the same draft position at some point in the next two years and did so against a group that was the fifth-stingiest against the pass in the country. He finished the night with a modest 225 yards and pair of touchdowns but the Ducks averaged just under eight yards per play.
The threat of Herbert going down the field opened up a lot of things in the ground game as a result against a very salty Cal defense that was among the better units in the conference so far this year. C.J. Verdell ripped off a 74 yard run on his way to 106 yards while Travis Dye punched it in the end zone once and added another 115 yards rushing. Freshman back Cyrus Habibi-Likio continues to vulture touchdowns at the goal line and had 12 yards to go along with his one score.
Defensively, Oregon got after things up front with two sacks and five TFL’s. Most notably the group saw Drayton Carlberg force a fumble that La’Mar Winston Jr. scooped-and-scored with on a 61-yard touchdown return. That play in particular, just before halftime, seemed to completely stymie any momentum that Cal had early and kept the visitors firmly in control of things with a comfortable margin on the scoreboard. Ugochukwu Amadi added a late pick-six for good measure too.
The Bears had their own positives to takeaway but will likely go back to the drawing board offensively. Chase Garbers got the start under center but threw two interceptions in an ineffective outing that saw him pass for only 44 yards. Backup Brandon McIlwain wasn’t significantly better through the air (11/21, 128 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) but did rush for 123 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Patrick Laird was the only other source of reliable offense with 80 yards and a touchdown of his own.
The loss does hand Justin Wilcox’s crew their first loss of the season and will likely take them out of the polls come Sunday. Even so, the team fought hard once again and this will be no easy out in conference play the rest of the way as you can see the makings of a squad that can reach that ever important bowl game.
The Ducks on the other hand, are setup well to make more waves in the Pac-12. They will head home for their off week at 4-1 on the season and then will host bitter rival Washington next in mid-October. There’s still plenty to work on for Mario Cristobal’s staff going forward after Saturday night in Berkeley but Oregon secured their first road win in Pac-12 play in nearly two years and will have plenty of momentum heading into that upcoming Pacific Northwest showdown.