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Oregon Football: Pride Not Enough

Oregon v California
BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 21: Justin Herbert #10 of the Oregon Ducks passes the ball against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on October 21, 2016 in Berkeley, California.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

On an eerie Friday night in Berkeley, California the Men of Oregon showed something, something that has been missing for much of the season: pride. After opening the game with a 21-0 deficit, it looked like yet another painful loss was in store for the Ducks. But this night was different. The Ducks showed signs of a heartbeat. Though the game finished 52-49 in favor of the Bears, the Ducks mounted a comeback that would make Tommy John himself proud.

Going into the game the California Bears and the Oregon Ducks both featured units that ranked in the top thirty nationally in scoring offense and bottom six nationally in scoring defense. Vegas gave the contest an 89.5 over/under, which, in layman’s terms, is a lot. 89.5 is the highest over/under since 1980 when the database started collecting information. And, believe it or not, the 89.5 over/under was beat, and beat considerably. Fact is, despite the 2-5 record, the Duck’s offense still scores points at a relatively efficient rate.

There are a lot of positive things that the Ducks coaching staff can take away from Friday night’s double overtime loss against the California Bears. The most positive thing of all might just be the play of the youngster Justin Herbert. Before an untimely tip at the line caused an interception in the second overtime, Herbert had passed for 258 yards and 6 TD’s. In doing so, Herbert tied the Oregon single game record for passing touchdowns. He joined the company of Oregon legends Joey Harrington, Danny O’neil, and the Heisman winner himself, Marcus Mariota. On the defensive side of the ball, Troy Dye continued to shine. He finished the contest with a game high fourteen tackles, including five solo.

On the other hand, there are still glaring problems that the Ducks must correct in order to start winning games. The defensive struggles have continued. The defense has reached rock bottom, literally. Oregon ranks 128 out of 128 teams in average yards allowed per game with an astounding 539. Though the Duck’s defense was able to come up with some key stops to help spurn the late comeback, the Bears still finished the game with a whopping 636 yards of total offense.

Offensively, things still seem to be sputtering. Thought they finished the game with 49 points, there were times where players were clearly not on the same page. The offensive line continues to be a major issue. The failure of the offensive line to get a strong push up the middle has resulted in a miserable season for running back Royce Freeman. He finished the game with a mere 10 net yards on 15 carries. Injuries are also really becoming a problem at wide receiver, a position where the Ducks were loaded to start the season. U.S. Olympian Devon Allen is out with a season-ending knee injury he sustained at Washington State, and Dillon Mitchell hasn’t had much of an impact after he injured his knee in fall camp. Because of this, Herbert has had to depend more on his tight ends. In the Cal game alone he passed three touchdowns to all three tight ends: Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt.

Heart, pride, or whatever you want to call it, was not enough to beat a Cal team who has been mediocre at best this season. Next week the Ducks face Arizona State, a game where the Ducks have opened as a 7 1/2–point favorite.