It very nearly rained during the first half in Autzen Stadium on Saturday.
Bo Nix threw an interception on the first play of the game, Oregon then forced two turnovers of their own, the special teams blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown, only to have it called back for an offsides penalty and a sideline interference call. The Ducks immediately got an interception. Later on, a touchdown was wiped off the board following an offensive pass interference call, followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving the Ducks 2nd down, 37 yards to go.
Tez Johnson caught a 48 yard touchdown pass on the ensuing play. After Cal turnover number two, Nix got a rare rushing touchdown, then Oregon allowed a field goal, botched a snap so bad that Cal scored off of it, tried a 53 yard field goal (it was a miss), and allowed an extended drive ending in a field goal.
If you didn’t watch the game and that sounds chaotic, it was. It was all so strange it might as well have rained.
But with the Ducks leading 14-13 with 11:22 left in the first half, Nix and the offense did what good teams do: shook off the wonky start. The ensuing drive effectively ended the game. Oregon went 12 plays, 74 yards, taking more than six minutes, and ending in a touchdown with 5:21 remaining in the half. How did the drive end the game in the second quarter? Cal only scored six points the rest of the game, meaning that had the Ducks stopped scoring with 5:21 remaining in the first half, they’d have won 21-19.
But they didn’t stop scoring. Oregon would go on to score 42 more points, turning an absurd game for the first quarter into a run-of-the-mill blowout by the time there were zero’s on the clock.
Few people are likely to remember much more than the first quarter of this game, but it was important. This is what great teams do when they start slow: they play well enough down the stretch that you look up and go; “Holy cow, how are they ahead by forty points!?”
The defense left a lot to be desired, allowing a few contested catches along with a long touchdown run, but they forced turnovers and made timely plays. Ultimately, they held a Golden Bears offense averaging 32.2 points per game to 12 total points (the California defense scored seven).
Offensively, it was another onslaught. Cal tackled well until later in the game, the forced multiple turnovers, Oregon had a million offensive penalties, and the Ducks could not stop scoring. With 11 minutes left in the first half it was a one point game, at halftime Oregon was ahead by 22. Cal scored easily coming out of the half, and the Ducks went three and out on their ensuing drive to make it a 16 point game. Oregon would only score once in the third quarter, making it 42-19 heading into the fourth.
And yet, Oregon would score 21 more points in the quarter. Some would call it running up the score, some would say they were style points for the CFP committee. Regardless, the Bears couldn’t stop the Ducks from flying in the fourth quarter, including the backup offense, led by Ty Thompson, who looked cool as a cucumber tossing the ball around.
Once again, there were some strange penalties called on Oregon. None more odd than:
“Personal foul, hitting a player on the ground.” (I could find no rule in the NCAA College Football Yearbook addressing hitting a player on the ground during a play)
The refs seemed to be having a competition to see who could make the worst call. With one ref spotting Nix a full yard short of a first down when he made the line to gain with the ref staring directly at him. The sideline interference call, which was not explained or elaborated on by the referees. Oregon ended the day with nine penalties for 98 yards. But it still didn’t matter…
Ultimately, the game will go down as a blowout, with plenty of things to take away for the coaching staff before a tough defensive assignment against USC next week. This is the season to believe, and it is getting harder and harder to deny that the Ducks might just get to the mountaintop this year…
Lastly, I would like to say that I hope Jaivian Thomas is able to make a full recovery after what looked like an scary injury. The whole Duck fandom is pulling for you.
Sierra Vista, Arizona
Top Photo By Craig Strobeck
Ryan Robertson is a defense contractor for the United States Marine Corps. A lifelong Duck fan from Grants Pass, he joined the Army out of high school. After four years as an Intelligence Analyst he decided it was time to further his education and pay more attention to his Ducks. One of Ryan’s first memories is of watching the Ducks, led by Joey Harrington, beating up on the Utah Utes in 2001. His grandfather ran track at Oregon in the ‘50s. He loves the Ducks, and has a passionate interest in reading every scrap of analysis centered around the football team.
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