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Football Recap - Ducks Overcome Slow Start, Anemic Play Late to Beat Cal

Ducks Take Control in Second Quarter, Take Foot Off Gas in Fourth.

Oregon v California Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Oregon had a very slow start offensively against the California Golden Bears this afternoon, but the Ducks shook off a punchless first quarter, scored 42 points over the remainder of the contest, and won 42 - 24. Oregon moved to 7 - 1 overall and 5 - 0 and the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 Conference. Quarterback Bo Nix again led Oregon, going 27 - 35 for 412 yards. Nix accounted for all six Oregon touchdowns, throwing for 3 and running for another 3. Nix also threw 2 interceptions, one of which bounced off Troy Franklin’s hands at the Cal 4-yard line as the Ducks were looking to take a lead in the 2nd quarter. Noah Whittington led Oregon rushers with 66 yards on 10 carries, while Nix had 59 yards on 12 carries. Bucky Irving never really got going on the ground, gaining only 32 yards on 11 carries, but catching 3 passes for 61 yards. Whittington also had 5 catches for 67 yards, and Kris Hutson led the receiving core with 4 catches for 67 yards.


It was an up-and-down game on offense for Oregon, one of its least consistent this month. The Ducks scored 6 touchdowns, but took 12 possessions to do it, and the defense allowed Cal to move the ball, but stopped the Bears repeatedly, giving up most of Cal’s points only after the game was decided. Cal QB Jack Plummer played well and completed a number of long passes against Oregon’s defensive backs. After Plummer took a hard tackle while scrambling late in the third quarter he went to the sidelines and was replaced by Freshman Kai Millner for the fourth quarter. In garbage time, and with some bench-emptying by Oregon on defense, Millner carved up the Ducks going 8-11 for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns to make the game look much closer than it actually was.


Oregon kicked off to start the game, and the defense got off to a great start. Cal’s first two plays lost one yard, and Brian Addison intercepted Plummer’s third-down pass to set Oregon up at the 45-yard line. The Ducks could gain only 5 yards on 3 Irving runs and had to punt the ball away. Cal took over on their 15 and again Oregon’s defense gave the Bears only 7 yards on 3 plays, forcing a punt.

Oregon started on its own 37 and quickly moved the ball into the Red Zone with passes to Irving, Hutson and Moliki Matavao. Oregon got to the Cal 15 on a pass to Cam McCormick, but then a false start penalty moved them back to the 20. A 3rd and 10 pass to Chase Cota gained 6 yards and Oregon eschewed a field goal try. The 4th-down pass intended for Franklin was underthrown and Cal took over on their 14-yard line.

Cal was able to move the ball more effectively on its third drive through the air. The Golden Bears gained 35 yards on a first play of the drive pass to its 49 then picked up another 25 yards through the air on two plays to get into scoring position at the Oregon 15. The Duck defense held, giving up just 6 yards on two running plays, and then forcing an incomplete pass into the end zone on 3rd down. Cal settled for a 28-yard field goal and a 3 - 0 lead.

On Oregon’s next possession the Ducks again could not move the ball, running 6 plays for a total of 10 yards. This drive included another false start penalty and a dropped pass that would have likely given Oregon a first down. The Ducks had to punt, and Cal took over at its 28-yard line. Oregon’s defense was again excellent, forcing another Cal 3-and-out with huge pressure from DJ Johnson forcing an intentional grounding penalty on a third and 6. Oregon began its fourth possession with excellent field position after a Hutson punt return to the Cal 47 and 2:05 on the clock. The Ducks quickly moved the ball to a first and goal just inside the Cal 10-yard line, the big strike coming on a Nix screen pass to Sean Dollars for 31 yards. Jordan James took the ball to the 6-yard line as the quarter expired with Oregon knocking on the door but trailing 3 - 0.


As they have done several times this season, the Ducks punched the ball into the end zone on the first play of the quarter. Nix ran a designed keeper to the left side and scored. The Cameron Lewis extra point gave Oregon a 7 - 3 lead.

Cal had a quick answer, however, as they again hurt Oregon with a deep pass on the first play of their possession. Starting on their 25-yard-line after a touchback on the kickoff, Plummer threw a 57-yard strike down the left side of the field to set up the Bears on the Oregon 18. Cal got a first down at the Oregon 6, and then passed to the end zone to take a 10 - 7 lead.

Oregon’s next possession ended in the first Nix interception after the Ducks had moved the ball again into deep Cal territory. Nix had an 18-yard gain on a scramble early and late in the drive a personal foul on Cal moved the ball to the Cal 3. After losing 5 yards on a rushing play, Nix’s 2nd-down pass to Franklin bounced off his hands and was picked off. Oregon’s defense held, coming up with a 9-yard sack on 3rd and 9 from the Cal 20 and forcing the punt.

The Ducks got into the end zone again on their next drive as Oregon went 63 yards on 8 plays. A Nix pass to tight end Terrance Ferguson gained 22 yards to the Cal 24 and Oregon used 5 running plays to find the end zone. Nix scored on the quarterback sneak from the Cal 1-yard line and Oregon led 14 - 10. The Ducks defense again stopped the Golden Bears as Trikweze Bridges intercepted a 3rd and 4 pass after Cal had moved the ball to midfield.

Oregon brought out the “quick strike” offense, using just 3 plays to move 48 yards with Irving catching the touchdown pass from Nix in the left side of the end zone. Oregon had now opened a 21 - 10 lead with just 1:54 left in the half.

The defense again stepped up and forced Cal to punt after a holding penalty and a tackle-for-loss limited the Cal offense to just 4 plays before having to punt. Oregon had just 10 seconds left but managed to move the ball to the Cal 45 before a Nix Hail Mary pass ended the half with a meaningless Cal interception. Oregon went into the locker room leading 21 - 10.

For the half, Nix was 15 - 22 for 208 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions. The Ducks gained 315 yards to Cal’s 182. The Golden Bears gained only 8 rushing yards on 13 carries. Nine different Ducks caught a pass in the first half.


Oregon’s first drive of the half again found the end zone as the Ducks went 75 yards in just 2:15. The key to the score was great communication on the scoring throw from Nix to Whittington. Before the snap, center Alex Forsyth turned to let Nix know what he had seen in the Cal defense and Nix changed up the play to find Whittington wide open in the end zone. Oregon now had a comfortable 28 - 10 lead.

Cal’s next drive ended with a Christian Gonzalez block of a 39-yard field goal attempt which gave Oregon the ball on its own 33-yard line. Oregon again moved quickly down the field with a 24-yard Nix strike to Matavao the big gainer. But Oregon stalled again in the Red Zone, coming up short on a 4th and 1 from the Cal 5. Cal’s next possession again consisted of only one first down gained on a targeting call on Oregon’s Jeffrey Bassa and five total plays. Bassa will have to sit out the first half of next week’s Colorado tilt. Plummer also took a hard hit during this drive and was ultimately taken out of the game. Cal punted and Oregon ran out the clock on the third quarter, still leading 28 - 10. Cal had drives that consumed 8 minutes but scored no points in the quarter.

Oregon opened the FOURTH QUARTER with another scoring drive, using a 22-yard gain on a screen pass to Dollars to move into the Red Zone. Nix scored on a designed run to the right side from the Cal 1 and Oregon had the game in hand 35 - 10 with 12:19 left. The Ducks appeared to start substituting liberally on defense as Cal’s Freshman QB Kai Millner had little trouble moving the Bears down the field and ultimately completing an 11-yard touchdown pass to pull Cal within 35 - 17.

Oregon scored again on an 8-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 4 minutes and included a successful Nix sneak on 4th and 1 from the Oregon 34. A 40-yard Nix strike to Herbert put Oregon up 42 - 17. Cal would score again on a 3-play, 75-yard drive as the Duck defender fell down on the 55-yard touchdown pass. Oregon ran off the last 2:21 and the final of 42 - 24 was in the books.

Oregon now heads to Boulder next weekend for a road game against the Buffaloes with all its team goals still achievable.