The Oregon Ducks had a wild game Oct. 21 as they went on the road to visit the California Golden Bears, following a bye week. The Ducks have struggled this season, entering the game with a 2-4 season record. One of the big questions was if Oregon had improved its defense, one of the worst in the country this season. Another question mark for UO was freshman quarterback Justin Herbert, making just his second career start and his first on the road.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, it looked as if nothing had changed early on. Oregon fell into a 21-0 hole early in the second quarter, before finally scoring two touchdowns and trailing 31-14 at halftime. Many Duck fans had seen this movie before and feared it was only going to get worse. This was not that movie, however. Oregon’s defense made a couple of huge stops in the third quarter, allowing Cal to only score three points, and the Duck offense finally got into a rhythm, scoring two touchdowns to pull Oregon to within six points.
Early in the fourth, the Ducks scored again, giving them a 35-34 lead, their first of the game. The Oregon sideline was jumping, and momentum was on their side. For about three minutes, anyway – then Cal scored and converted a two-point conversion, giving them a 42-35 lead.
UO’s next drive stalled and they gave the ball back to Cal, putting all the pressure on Oregon’s struggling defense. The Ducks managed to pull off a huge stop, giving the offense a chance to tie the game. After a good start to their drive, Oregon faced a 3rd-and-19 with 5:35 remaining and the game on the line. Herbert’s pass fell incomplete; however, Cal was called for defensive holding, giving Oregon five yards and an automatic first down. That penalty led to an Oregon touchdown with 3:15 left in the game, and a 42-42 tie.
The Golden Bears drove down the field and set up for a 41-yard field goal with just three seconds left, but the game-winning field goal attempt barely missed to the left.
In overtime Oregon, scored in two quick plays, taking a 49-42 lead. California responded with a score of its own. The Golden Bears began the second overtime with possession first, and the Duck defense came up huge with a stop, making Cal settle for a field goal.
A touchdown for the Ducks would win the game; a field goal would have sent the game into a third overtime. But, on second down, Herbert threw an interception, ending the game and Cal won 52-49.
It wasn’t all bad news for Oregon: Their defense made big plays that they hadn’t made earlier this season, and Herbert looked good despite the late turnover.
Oregon will need to improve before Saturday’s game against Arizona State on not allowing big plays on defense, which was a significant problem against Cal. The Ducks also need to limit their penalties. In Berkeley, Oregon had 14 penalties that cost them 134 yards.