The No. 9 Oregon Ducks‘ trip to the Bay Area this weekend to play the unranked California Golden Bears had all the makings of a midseason trap game. The Ducks (7-1, 5-0) had fallen victim to these types of matchups before, especially coming off a big win the previous week for ESPN Gameday.
In 2009, Oregon was ranked No. 8 and undefeated in the Pac-12 heading into a road matchup against Stanford. The previous week, the Ducks had pulled off a huge upset over then No. 5 USC Trojans at Autzen Stadium for ESPN Gameday. The Ducks’ disappointing season-opening loss to Boise State appeared to be in the rearview mirror and first-year Oregon head coach Chip Kelly‘s team was in the driver’s seat for a possible national championship appearance. But the Cardinal had other plans, handing the Ducks their first (and only) conference loss of the season.
Last Saturday, Oregon cruised past the previously undefeated No. 12 UCLA Bruins, 45-30, in front of the ESPN Gameday crew, setting up a similar trap game this week against the lowly Bears. While there are plenty of correlations between this season and 2009 — both teams were led by first-year head coaches, both lost their non-conference season openers and both went undefeated in the conference through October — history, thankfully, didn’t repeat itself in Berkeley.
The first quarter was rough for the Ducks, who struggled to jumpstart their high-powered offense. But Oregon quarterback Bo Nix delivered a stellar performance — again — delivering six touchdowns in the Ducks’ 42-24 victory over Cal. Nix went 27-of-35 passing for 412 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Auburn transfer also rushed for 59 yards and three touchdowns against the Golden Bears, who fall to 3-5 overall after the loss.
Oregon RB Noah Whittington rushed for 66 yards, along with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Bucky Irving had 32 yards rushing and three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Patrick Herbert had a 40-yard touchdown catch, his first trip to the end zone this year.
The Ducks’ offensive line notched another game without a quarterback sack, making them the only team in the country to allow just one sack through eight games. By contrast, Cal quarterback Jack Plummer has been sacked 25 times this year, two of those delivered by Oregon outside linebacker DJ Johnson.
On a side note…There were lots of rumblings before the season about Cal head coach Justin Wilcox reportedly turning down an offer to replace outgoing Mario Cristobal. I honestly think the Ducks dodged a bullet by not hiring Wilcox. Look, he’s a smart, likable guy, but his coaching record at Cal leaves much to be desired.
Since 2017, Wilcox has produced two winning seasons (2018, 2019) and has never had a winning conference record. This year, the Bears’ trajectory is aimed squarely at another sub-.500 performance under Wilcox. Is the seat warming up for Wilcox, or is he a legacy guy that will coach for 30 years, occasionally delivering a winning season?
I’m not trying to dump on the guy, but I’m sure glad the Ducks went another route with Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, who has developed one of the nation’s premier college football teams — a team that takes care of business on the road, avoiding Gameday hangovers and silly trap games against mediocre teams.
Jordan is a lifelong Duck fan currently living in San Diego. Jordan graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, after serving a prestigious fellowship with the Washington State House of Representatives. Upon graduation, he worked as an English language teaching assistant for the Spanish Ministry of Education’s Ambassadorial Program in Monforte de Lemos, Spain. Jordan has worked as a journalist, writer, and editor in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and California, covering a wide range of topics, including sports, local politics, and crime. He is VERY excited to be writing about his beloved Oregon Ducks.
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