Coming off a bye week, the Oregon Ducks had two weeks to prepare for another air-raid team, facing the California Golden Bears. Oregon came into Friday’s game hoping to get their first conference win and snap a four straight game losing streak.
However, Friday’s game definitely didn’t go anywhere near as planned in the first half, given that California (who played like Oregon’s team from years past) virtually dominated and shut down the Oregon team by a score of 31-7. But the second half turned out to be a whole different game with Oregon showing their heart, and eventually roaring back to tie the game early in the fourth quarter.
The Pac-12 After-Dark game would need double-overtime to determine a winner, but unfortunately for Oregon, California would go on to win by a score of 52-49. This is the fifth consecutive loss for Oregon, which hasn’t happened since 1996 (losing to 25th ranked Washington State, sixth ranked Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford, and 23rd ranked ranked Washington) when Mike Bellotti was Oregon’s Head Coach.
After the game, an almost tearful Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich said, “it was tough, tough just how the guys battled, battled back in that position”, Helfrich also said “there were too many others whether its missed tackles, penalties, a bunch of things that hurt us.”
The Ducks once again struggled in the penalty area, wrapping up a whopping 14 penalties for 134 yards, which hampered some big plays and a touchdown that was called back. And Oregon continues to have trouble producing on third down (converting only 4-13).
The Ducks’ defense once again struggled to make key tackles and contain the running/passing game, by giving up 636 total offensive yards. In addition, Oregon had trouble penetrating the front line and getting into the California backfield, which allowed California to succeed on 21 separate plays that gained ten or more yards.
After the game, Oregon Defensive Coordinator, Brady Hoke, commented on the defensive play, by saying, “whatever you want to believe about this football team those son of a guns have stayed together and fought together” and that it “tore his heart out.”
Injuries continue to plague Oregon as Austin Maloata, Drayton Carlberg, and Khalil Oliver, Charles Nelson, Tony Brooks-James, A.J. Hotchkins, Troy Dye, and Rex Manu were all injured several times throughout the game.
As expected, Oregon started their freshman quarterback, Justin Herbert, and at times was having difficulty over and under throwing receivers, which forced him to scramble away from pressure nine times. But the Eugene native also showed great promise and determination, by completing 22-40 passes for 258 yards, six touchdowns, one interception, and gaining 56 yards rushing.
After the game Herbert was in tears, but summed up his performance saying, “it’s progress, it’s a step in the right direction, but definitely not the way we wanted it to end.” All in all, Herbert said, he made a mistake in the final play and feels that he let the team down.
There is no doubt that the Oregon Ducks’ workhorse, Royce Freeman was not 100% and accumulating 15 carries for only ten yards. However running backs Tony Brooks- James and Taj Griffin continued to show their talent by combining for 126 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Oregon offensive weapons Darren Carrington, Johnny Mundt, Pharaoh Brown and Charles Nelson also shined, combining for 16 receptions, gaining 198 yards. And even though Carrington did not lead the with receptions, Herbert progressed by making use of its other key receivers.
For California, the Golden Bears put up 325 passing yards and 311 rushing yards totaling 636 yards of offense.
Oregon had tremendous difficulty containing California’s running backs, Tre’ Watson and Khalil Muhammad who combined for 51 carries, rushing for 302 yards, but scored no touchdowns.
And, the Ducks also had difficulty covering California’s top wide receivers and stopping them from breaking out into the open field, as Vic Wharton III, Demetris Robertson, Tre’ Watson, and Bug Rivera combined for 22 receptions, 191 yards of offense, and four touchdowns.
Without a doubt, the star of the game from California had to be quarterback Davis Webb, who exploited the Duck’s defense, effectively extending the Golden Bears’ lead from inside the pocket. Webb completed 42-61 passes, for 325 yards, including five touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also scrambled away from pressure six times, while gaining nine yards.
If there’s one thing to take away from this game for the fans’, it’s that even though the Ducks’ lost, they showed tremendous in the second half and came together once again as a team.
Next week, Oregon will re-group and need the support of Autzen Stadium’s 55,000 strong as they prepare to host a run-heavy team in Arizona State.