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The Cal Golden Bears defense put together an amazing performance last night against a prolific Oregon Ducks offense, but they came up just short in the end. The Ducks won 15-13 thanks to some huge special teams plays and strong defense (or horrible Cal offense depending on how you look at it). The Cal offense arguably did just enough to win if not for the field goal miss, but at the end of the day it was not quite enough. Here’s what folks have to say about the loss:
Cal Loses By The Slimmest of Margins – San Francisco Chronicle: “They played their hearts out, no question,” Tedford said of his defense. “To give up one touchdown against that offense, they played great. The defensive coaches had a great plan and the kids executed it. It’s a shame. I feel sick for the kids. … It hurts even worse to have a chance to win the game and not get it done.”
Inexperience Shows For Brock Mansion – San Francisco Chronicle: Mansion completed only 10 of his 28 passes for a paltry 69 yards. He was consistently off on his throws, either skipping them to his receivers on a bounce or sailing them well over their heads.
“I feel like I was playing a little too fast,” Mansion said. “I put a lot on my shoulders, especially in the first half. I was making all my reads. Every guy I threw to was wide open. It was (a matter of) me settling down and trying to get in a good rhythm.”
That never happened, though, and the Bears ended up paying the price.
Is there a roadmap for beating Oregon? – ESPN’s Pac-10 Blog: Oregon’s offense isn’t unstoppable: Did California provide a map for at least slowing down the Oregon offense? The Bears didn’t do anything fancy. They mostly just played man coverage, used seven guys in the box to stop the run and the defensive line played downhill, driving to penetrate, making it hard for Oregon’s spread-option to move laterally in the backfield. Or was it just a bad day for the Ducks? In any event, the performance by the Bears showed that — as good as the Ducks are — Oregon’s offense isn’t a supernatural force.
Cal Dares To Shutdown the Mighty Oregon Ducks – California Golden Blogs: When it comes to our team in big games, the Cal defense appears to be Matt Cain, and the Cal offense are the Giants hitters not giving him any run support. And the Cal special teams are like the opposite of Brian Wilson—no one fears the Giorgio Tavecchio porn-stache. Those who had us losing this one because our field goal kicker false started himself (which I didn’t even know was possible) are all dirty liars or Google super computers. It certainly is a new way for our Golden Bears to lose. It’s something we’ve become particularly adept at over the years.
USA Today: Jeff Maehl (FSY) caught a 29-yard pass for the Ducks’ only offensive touchdown, and No. 1 Oregon caught a huge break on an illegal motion penalty against California’s kicker during a 15-13 victory on Saturday night, keeping the Ducks on course for the BCS title game.
Cliff Harris returned a punt 64 yards for the only touchdown in the first half for the Ducks (10-0, 7-0 Pac-10), who undeniably wobbled on the road to a shot at the national championship. Oregon’s offense managed a season-low 317 yards and went scoreless in two quarters — yet the defense largely shut down Cal after its opening drive.
The California Golden Bears came up just short in their bid for a monumental upset of the No. 1 Oregon Ducks, falling 15-13. Cal had a shot to take the lead late on a field goal attempt by Giorgio Tavecchio, but a huge mental error cost him five yards and he missed a re-kick. The two teams gave the ball back and forth a couple times after that before Oregon ran out the final 9:25 with a punishing drive.
Oregon operates a high flying hurry-up offense, but the Cal defense did as good a job as anybody has done this season in containing them. They held Oregon to one offensive touchdown and a season low in points. Almost every time Oregon got going with the ball Cal found a way to stop them short of a touchdown. Unfortunately, all the hard work caught up with them as they were worn down by the time Oregon took over on the final drive.
Oregon showed they can win ugly with a grind it out drive at the end of the game. Oregon drove 60 yards over nine-plus minutes and basically imposed their will on the Cal defense at that point. Cal had four different opportunities to force a fourth down but was unable to end the drive. Oregon wrapped things up with a pair of knees and escaped Memorial Stadium with a 15-13 victory.
Cal certainly should be proud of their defensive effort, given how explosive the Oregon offense has been all season. However, the Cal offense was about as bad as could be for a vast majority of the game. Aside from the first quarter touchdown drive and the drive that led to Tavecchio’s miss, they could get virtually nothing going. Oregon has a lot of speedy athletes on defense but Brock Mansion spent most of the game looking like he couldn’t have done much against anybody in the Pac-10.
Cal gets no respite as they get another crack at a top team when Stanford comes up the Bay for The Big Game next Saturday. The Golden Bears have had a disappointing season but an upset of a strong Stanford squad would certainly ease that pain a little bit. The two teams will meet up next Saturday at 12:30 pacific time.
California blew an amazing chance to take a lead as Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 29 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. This miss hurt even more after Tavecchio made the field goal but then was penalized five yards for his own illegal motion. Tavecchio was moving forward before the snap, which negated his 24 yard make. On the next attempt he pulled it wide right for the miss.
The field goal attempt came after a Cal drive that benefited from 20 yards of Oregon penalties. Cal’s offense had done next to nothing since their first quarter touchdown, but the penalties helped instill some confidence. Brock Mansion connected on a big pass to Marvin Jones and Shane Vereen rolled through the Oregon defense. Unfortunately the offense stalled out inside the Oregon five, leading to the above sequence of events.
Cal’s defense finds itself back in a position requiring some kind of stop. The Oregon offense has been contained thus far but that kind of offense is usually not contained for sixty minutes. The Bears offense needs to get its act together if they want to win this.
The California Golden Bears may be getting virtually nothing from Brock Mansion, but the rest of the team is doing whatever is necessary to keep the Bears alive in this game. After Cal was forced to punt, Oregon started out on their own 12 yard line.
On the first play after the punt, Darron Thomas dropped back to pass and was stripped of the ball before his arm came forward. The ball bounced into the end zone and Derrick Hill fell on it to cut the Oregon lead to 15-13. Cal went for the two point conversion to tie but Mansion threw the ball a bit too hard out of the left side of the end zone.
At this point, with under eight minutes to go in the third quarter, Cal remains alive. Oregon has been a beast in the second half so the Cal defense has its work cut out for them. They’ve forced a punt on the subsequent Oregon drive and Cal will start on the 10 yard line. We’ll see if the offense can figure something out.
The California Golden Bears have managed to hang tight with the Oregon Ducks after one half of football, trailing 8-7. The Bears defense has been incredibly stout and has yet to give up any points to the normally prolific Oregon offense. The lone Ducks touchdown came courtesy of a punt return for a touchdown by Cliff Harris followed by a two point conversion for the one point lead.
The Cal defense has been throwing out everything but the kitchen sink in an attempt to slow down the Ducks offense. They brought down Darron Thomas with one sack but have made a couple big hits as he released the ball. The pressure has been on reason Oregon has yet to completely establish their offense.
Additionally, the Cal defense has seen several players “cramp up” throughout the half. In a strategy often used against Peyton Manning in the NFL, cramps force trainers on to the field and stop the offense. Considering how quickly the Ducks move from play to play, I’d suspect some of the cramps might not be as bad as the players would indicate. Of course, when you’re going up against the best team in the country, sometimes you have to do whatever it takes.
Cal is hanging tough thus far, but one has to wonder if the defense will be able to keep up with the Oregon offense. The Ducks offense closed into field goal range late in the half but missed a 37-yard attempt. The Ducks figure to get more opportunities to score. Additionally, the Cal offense has stalled out as Brock Mansion is struggling immensely with his accuracy. You can’t win if you don’t score and Cal is barely moving the ball at this point. They need to step up in a big way if they want to spring this upset.
The Oregon Ducks have finally struck back against Cal taking an 8-7 lead, but it was due to their special teams and defense, as opposed to their offense. After the Cal defense stopped the Ducks on the Cal 41 and forced a punt, Oregon punter Jackson Rice dropped a beautiful kick down at the Cal 3 yard line.
The Ducks defense came on the field and forced a three and out, forcing Cal to punt from their own 7 yard line. Cal punter booted a monster 57 yard punt but it was past his punt return coverage and Ducks return man Cliff Harris continued his all-world season, taking the punt to the house for his fourth punt return for a touchdown this season. Oregon coach Chip Kelly continued his wild ways by going for two, which Oregon converted for an 8-7 lead.
The Cal defense has played tremendously well so far, but it’s going to be tough for the Bears to keep up the effort. Oregon runs plays faster than anybody in the country, which inevitably wears down a defense. The Bears best chance is continuing to establish Shane Vereen in the running game. Vereen was spectacular on the first drive but has since been mostly shut down.
The California Golden Bears might have found an early answer to the dominant Oregon offense: chew up the clock and the field with running back Shane Vereen. After stopping the Ducks on a fourth down try, Cal running back Shane Vereen had little trouble running down the short field to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
Cal’s defense contained the Oregon offense early on as the Ducks appeared to show little concern for the Cal offense or defense. The Ducks went for it on a pair of fourth downs, converting the first time but getting stuffed the second time. Cal took over at the Oregon 49 and Shane Vereen took over form there. After junior QB Brock Mansion threw an incomplete pass on the first play, Vereen rushed five times for 49 yards and a touchdown. The drive was highlighted by a 31 yard rush early on. If Cal is going to pull out what would be a monumental upset, Vereen and the defense will be key.
Oregon is not only riding high toward the BCS National Championship, they have pretty much a clean bill of health so far this season. Other than the season-ending injury to Nate Costa, only leading receiver Jeff Maehl seems to be in danger of not playing in Strawberry Canyon. He’s listed as questionable.
Maehl suffered a shoulder injury in the week 10 victory over the Huskies and is questionable to play Saturday at Cal. The senior leads the team in receiving this year with 746 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Due to Jeff Tedford restricting information on injuries, it’s hard to figure out who’s healthy and who’s not. So let’s say most of these injuries are official—they’re italicized. The rest are based on guesses of who’s been playing the past few weeks.
OUT: Quarterback Kevin Riley (season is over; Brock Mansion is starting), third string running back Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson (who tweeted his season is over, injury is undisclosed)
Questionable: NT Derrick Hill (didn’t play against Washington St, shoulder issue, this is partially why we saw Trevor Guyton on the inside), OLB Keith Browner (suited up, but only played sparingly), backup NT Kendrick Payne (also did not play against the Cougars).
Probable: WR Keenan Allen (tweaked something in pregame warmups), ILB Mike Mohamed (broken finger, wearing a cast), ILB D.J. Holt (looked limited against the Cougars Saturday, was often subbed out).
The big question is Hill, who is really needed to combat center Jordan Holmes in the trenches this week. No one else has the girth and physical ability of Hill to occupy the inside gaps. If Hill can’t go, the Golden Bears could try and go to a three defensive end look with Guyton occupying the middle like against the Cougars. This could cause size issues, although it would get the three most experienced defensive linemen on the field against the Ducks.
Holt and Mohamed have had to handle a lot of responsibility without any adequate replacements behind them ready to fill in and play up to their level. This Cal front seven could be very thin on Saturday.
Poor Nate. Rob Moseley of the Register-Guard with more.
Nate Costa’s playing career with the Oregon football team ended with “a twist, and kind of a crunch, and a little pop mixed in there.”
That was Costa’s description of the knee injury he suffered on a botched field-goal attempt against Washington on Saturday. An MRI on Monday revealed significant enough damage to end Costa’s career after 23 appearances, one start, 71 passing attempts and three season-ending knee injuries.
Why is this important? Well in 2007, Oregon was cruising to what seemed like a sure national championship bid at 8-1…and then Dennis Dixon leg gave out on a Thursday night in Tucson. And that was the end, because Costa (guess) injured his knee for the first time and Brady Leaf was a statue in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo attack. The Ducks lost their final three games and ended up in the Sun Bowl.
Now, we have Bryan Bennett backing up DT. And while Bennett has by all accounts been impressive in practice this season, he’s a true freshman that hasn’t taken a snap in a game all season. You don’t really want to have to throw him in a game in the middle of a national title chase..
Things aren’t quite as dire—an Oregon loss doesn’t necessarily eliminate them from the BCS title game, and they’d still control their fate in the Pac-10 championship race.
What does it mean for the Cal game? Well, Kelly might be hesitant to burn Bennett’s redshirt…which could mean Thomas is on the field the entire game, regardless of score. Which could mean Thomas gets hit a lot more, which increases his chances of getting injured. Safe to say Oregon fans aren’t breathing until they see “12-0”.
Nope, not happening. Kelly’s got nothing but respectful phrases for the Cal head coach. Steve Summers at eDuck with the story.
“The running game, first and foremost,” responded Kelly to the question of what concerns him most about the California offense. “(Shane) Vareen is averaging close to 100-yards a game. I think he’s run 886 (yards) in nine games. They’ll run some wildcat with direct snaps to him. There will always be a wrinkle or two in there. Jeff (Teford) is going to do something funky that you have to adjust to. He really taxes you with his formations and motions and things like that to see if he can outnumber you at the point of attack. It starts with the run game and if you gang too much then he really hurts people with the play action pass.”
“When I watch the tape, it is a Jeff Tedford offense,” admitted Kelly. “You’re going to see a lot of running the football, what Cal does. They have a lot of motion and shifting. They have some outstanding receivers. They are really good at play-action pass, and that has always been a staple of their offense.”
Likewise, Tedford shows mutual admiration.
On the other side of the field, Tedford isn’t so comfortable with Oregon’s offense or defense. “They just have so many weapons and they spread you over the field so much and they’re so fast,” Tedford said of Oregon. “With the running back that they have, it starts with being able to try to slow the run down. They wear you down. LaMichael James, they play at such a fast tempo and if he finds a crease, he can make such big plays.”
“Their offense gets a lot of attention but their defense plays great, they really do,” observed Tedford of the Oregon defense. “The team speed that they have on defense, they love to pressure you.”
Yeah, it’s pretty boring here. They might as well be ordering lattes at Peet’s and discussing geopolitics.
After a close-to-the-vest affair in Pullman where the California Golden Bears barely beat the worst team in the conference 20-13, Cal turns around and begins their final home stretch of the season at Memorial Stadium.
The big question is whether the Bears can actually do anything to beat the number one team in the country, or if they're hopelessly overmatched this year. The Cal players certainly believe they have a chance to shock the college football nation on Saturday.
- Safety Sean Cattouse: "It’s motivating. You don’t get a chance very often to play the No. 1 team in the nation. It’s what every competitor lives for."
- Linebacker D.J. Holt: "They’re a team just like us, student-athletes going to school and playing football. They happen to be really good at what they do. We’re all excited and ready to play this weekend. I wish it was today."
- Coach Jeff Tedford: "They’re an excellent football team, no question about it. They deserve their No. 1 ranking. They’ve proven that. It’s going to be a major, major test for us. We’re going to have to be on top of our game."
Cal is currently 5-4 and out of the running for any major bowl bids, but they are a win away from at least ensuring a bowl bid of some sort in December or January. Unfortunately, the Golden Bears will have to go through the Ducks, their cross-Bay rivals the Stanford Cardinal (who are currently also a top ten team), and wrap up the season with the Washington Huskies. Although all their games are at home in Memorial (where they're 4-0), Cal has yet to face any opponents of Oregon or Stanford's caliber.
Stay on this stream for further updates leading up to this week's game.