Cal shuts down Oregon's offense, but little things keep Ducks' national championship hopes alive

BERKELEY CA - NOVEMBER 13: Jeff Maehl #23 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after he scored a touchdown against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 13 2010 in Berkeley California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Exhale slowly.

This one wasn't pretty.  Cal's defense almost completely shut down Oregon's offense in this game.  But here's the truth of the matter:  every team has a game like this during the season.  The great ones find a way to survive them.  Survive it Oregon did with their 15-13 win, and the Ducks stand at 10-0 just the same as if they'd won 50-7.

Cal dominated the line of scrimmage, shutting down the Duck run game and getting all kinds of pressure on Darron Thomas.  The offensive line did not play well at all.  Yet, more than making up for this, Oregon's defense equally dominated Cal.  Other than the first drive of the game on a short field, Cal's offense didn't score, and threatened to score only once, on a missed field goal.  Other than that, Cal failed to cross midfield, and had only 193 yards on the game.  That's a heck of a performance by the defense.

What really stood out this game, though, was Oregon, despite the offense not getting it together all game, won due to other things they've done all season.  Cliff Harris took it to the house with an electrifying punt return.  The defense got a big turnover to set up the offense's only score.  And the two point difference?  Oregon going for two on the swinging gate after the first touchdown.  This caused Cal to have to go for two to match after their fumble recovery TD, and the Bears failed to convert.  Little things?  That little thing was the winning margin in the game.

However, what impressed me most was the way Oregon ran out the clock at the end.  Getting the ball with nine minutes left in the game, Oregon went on a 17 play drive deep into Cal territory, converting on four thrid downs and ran the clock down to zero (and for those who say Cal's kicker lost them the game with the missed field goal, please not that Oregon was in chip shot field goal range when the game ended, and were a good bet to score a TD that drive should they have needed one).  The fastest team in the country, known for taking almost no time to score, bled nine minutes off the clock.  Reminiscent of the Civil War last year, and it keeps our title hopes alive.

Give Cal a lot of credit.  They played a great game.  But up next for Oregon is a much needed bye week.  The offensive line needs to figure out what went wrong, and fast.  Rob Beard needs to get his confidence back after missing two field goals.  And Oregon seems to have a lot of injuries that could use some nursing (LaMichael James, Darrion Weems, Josh Huff, Jeff Maehl, and Lavasier Tuinei all stand out as being dinged up right now).

It wasn't pretty.  But there's no reason to go to bed mad.  No reason to freak out if we drop to #2 in the polls or the BCS.  We faced our biggest adversity of the season, when none of the big things went right, and the little things won the day for us.  That shouldn't be frightening.  That should be very comforting.

10-0.  Enjoy it.

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