November 10th, 2012 | by JOHN LOCANTHI |

Almost Live: Oregon vs California

Struggling Golden Bears attempt to beat the spread against undefeated Oregon

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You are looking live a California Memorial Stadium as the 9-0 Oregon Ducks bring their high-powered offense to face the struggling Golden Bears of California. If that sounds familiar, there’s a reason: This is the exact same script as 2010. Those Ducks limped out of the stadium that day with a 15-13 win, the second-lowest point total of the Chip Kelly era. Oregon would go on to play for the national title; Cal would go on to continue being, well, Cal.

Allow me to be frank at the commencement: I do not like Cal. There is nothing approaching the century’s worth of bullying, blowouts, and dog shit that makes Oregon-Washington so heated. There is nothing resembling the Twins dynamic of the Civil War—though make no mistake, the Golden Bears’ football program is the California schools’ equivalent of homuncular leftover shit that Danny DeVito played in the film. And yet this crew of flunkies ignites a similar level of ire.

Our story begins way back in 2002. Following the Ducks’ Fiesta Bowl win and a #2 ranking in the final polls, a struggling wretch of a football program hired away Oregon’s star offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford. The turnaround at Cal was immediate. Suddenly, the Bears were going to bowl games. Suddenly, Oregon wasn’t just competing with Cal for recruits: We were losing to them. Suddenly, a top 15 Oregon squad was being tarred and feathered by a Cal team wearing lightning yellow jerseys on national TV in 2006.

In just a few scant years, Cal had risen from the cellar and stolen the Ducks’ mojo.

And then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the program returned to its traditional mediocre self. Increasingly elusive Cal fans, once so wont to brag about prehistoric national championships, were forced to acknowledge that the program hadn’t been to a Rose Bowl in over 50 years. Lowering the admission standards for recruits did little more than give the program the lowest graduation rate in the Pac-12. After finally raising the $321 million to improve the Bears’ decrepit football stadium, Jeff Tedford is in the same boat as Karl Rove, desperately trying to convince millionaires that their money was not wasted. Perhaps most damning of all, Oski remains the most deeply unsettling Pac-12 mascot this side of RoboDuck.

In truth, the most memorable thing about the past few seasons of Cal football is faking injuries.


And here we are today. An undefeated Oregon Ducks team steamrolling its way to the national title game faces a Cal team that won’t be participating in the postseason this year. Coaching staffs are the same—sans Tosh “Xbox” Lupoi, progenitor of injury-faking—as before. A similar corps of players on both sides as before. The same stadium as before in that 15-13 game. Oregon is favored by 28 points this time. At least Cal fans will always be able to look back on those early halcyon years of the Godford Tedford era. No one will ever forget the Insight Bowl, the Holiday Bowls and that one time they beat USC.

The chatter around the press box is that this year's Cal team brings back memories of Holmoe's final year (1-10) and that the BART line over to the stadium was 80% Ducks fans. At least someone decided to show up.
I get it, Cal fans/students, your team is wretched but have some pride

 

14:10 Oregon 0, California 0
California's offense turns a promising kick return into a 4th and 14. Oregon's defense is looking sharp, notching its first of likely many sacks. Cal's offensive line has been atrocious this season, which is exactly what this Oregon defense needs following a sack-free game against USC.

10:41 Oregon 7, California 0
A quick series of successful plays later and the Ducks are on the board. Mariota and Co. are showing the Cal Bears what a competent offense looks like. A hold on the fake PAT negates an Oregon 2-point conversion but, well, can't be perfect at everything. "Anyone want a dollar bet? I think we'll hold [the Ducks] under 40 at halftime" - guy in the press box.

9:24 Oregon 7, California 0
Two pass interference penalties against Oregon in a row. Looks like Pac-12 officiating has picked up right where it left off last week. This could prove to be a serious problem if it weens the Ducks off of physical play in the secondary once Oregon plays in a game where pass defense is allowed. [Like every other conference in the country—Ed.]

8:04 Oregon 7, California 7
Bears drive the field on a few successful runs, a few pass interference penalties and well-designed play to score the touchdown. The Bears' drive was faster than Oregon's. Cal sportswriter is now discussing looking up the greatest upsets in Cal history. These guys are just incorrigible.

7:05
Following a stop by the California defense, we (might) have our first noteworthy event of the game: Oregon's first punt in the first quarter this season.

5:47
Cal just Cal'd it. Wide open receiver on 3rd and short and the QB straight up misses him.
2:34

Cal fans chanting "California!" with the fervor of an SEC fan. A fellow Ducks fan offers his take on the play:
1:41 Oregon 14, California 7
Byron Marshall takes the field following a potential injury to Barner and plunges in for a touchdown. Cal's defense is looking more intense, faster, and better coached than USC's did in the game last week. They've also seemed to adopt a gameplan of making sure to hit as hard as possible, even if they give up 20+ yards on the play.

End of the First Quarter: Oregon 14, California 7
The Golden Bears came to play tonight and were driving as the quarter came to an end. The Ducks offense is looking crisp in the passing game. Running game is having to work much harder to gain yards than it did last week. Barner's injury isn't going to help—he was taken to the locker room. The defense is beginning to wear down to injuries. It's down three defensive lineman, which Cal's offense has taken advantage of, and Avery Patterson was injured on the last play of the quarter. The Ducks have also breached decorum on the field for a total of 55 yards worth of penalties.

12:11 Oregon 14, California 10
After being gashed on runs by the Cal offense, the Ducks make a series of solid defensive plays to hold them to a field goal. While the Ducks' offense has been its usual consistent self, this is beginning to feel like the dog fight down in Berkley two years ago... I almost typed that with a straight face.

9:37
Teams continue to trade punts after Cal just Cal'd on 3rd and long again. The trick seems to be leaving these guys wide open. Cal QB gets nervous and throws it 10-yards over the receiver's head.

6:28
Ducks get into the red zone until Mariota suffers an apparent left wrist injury on a scramble. While we wait during Cal's timeout. Please join me in a round of prayer/40 pouring for the injured Oregon hero.

6:24 Oregon 17, California 10
Field goal is good but the tension is palpable. The press box is subdued. The Twittersphere appears to be exploding.
4:15
Cal Cal's it again but is bailed out after the referees decided that hitting with the shoulderpads is now a personal foul. 

2:02
The Bears drive stalls, field goal attempt is wide right, and (drumroll please) MARIOTA IS BACK IN THE GAME. Referees currently feel obligated to explain every routine play in detail right now.

0:44 Oregon 24, California 10
Josh Huff makes a remarkable diving grab in the end zone for the touchdown. Quick strike from the Mariota-led Oregon attack. The Ducks have played around with these adorable, little teddy bears long enough.

Halftime: Oregon 24, California 10
And that is your first half. Injuries are a major concern so far but it looks like Oregon is on the verge of putting away a very game Cal team. Somewhere between the Bears' missed field goal and Mariota's quick touchdown, a shift in momentum took place. Oregon gets the ball to start the second half. An excellent opportunity for the final shiv.

Which brings me to more interesting half-time musings: Alabama [More like aLOLbama, amirite?—Ed.] lost to the fightin' Jonny Footballs. That's right, that dominant superpower, that paragon of the trench warfare that is SEC manball, fell to a spread team run by a freshman QB. I'm sad that Oregon won't get a shot at the Bammers this year but we just might get that Kansas State-Oregon game that was supposed to happen earlier this year. Or the Ducks could face Notre Dame... giggle.
10:07 Oregon 24, California 17
Cal runs down the field for a score. The Bears seem to have found something along the left side of the line, perhaps that most of the Oregon defensive line is bandaged up and hobbling around on crutches. It's not everyday one sees the worst offensive line in the conference shove around a top team's defense, especially this year's once-sturdy Oregon defense.


6:28
Boseko Lokombo intercepts the attempted screen and the rumbles, bumbles, and stumbles his way out of bounds.

6:20 Oregon 31, Cal 17
Mariota completes the quick pass to Josh Huff who sprints down the field and into the end zone. After unloading a metric ton of derp to start the second half, the Oregon offense is back. Defense set it up with a wonderful defensive series. See, my championship talk at halftime was in no way premature. And by the way, Oregon just set the record for most consecutive games scoring 30+ points with 23-straight.

4:41
In a brilliant ploy to keep this game close, the Oregon Ducks continue to angle their kickoffs to the right side of the field—as they did against USC last week. Much like what happened last week, Cal returns the kickoff 50 some odd yards. Doesn't hurt Oregon as Cal's quarterback Cal's it again by throwing the pass to nowhere on 3rd and long. Followed by another incomplete pass on 4th down.

2:36 Oregon 38, Cal 17
Mariota completes his 3rd touchdown pass to Josh Huff of the game, this one a beautiful 39-yarder. The running game still isn't clicking—credit Cal's defense for that—but Mariota and Huff are putting on a clinic. Cal fans can only sit and stare forlornly as they think back to the days when there was a competent quarterback in Berkeley. Cal sports press now whining about Oregon bandwagon fans in the booth.
Start of the 4th Quarter: Oregon 45, Cal 17
Colt Lyerla scores on the second play of the quarter. This one's getting ugly, folks. Josh Huff is looking absolutely uncoverable for the second-straight week. Mariota is on pace for the greatest season an Oregon quarterback has ever had—and he's only a redshirt freshman. Injury scares aside, Cal is proving to be excellent live-game practice for a large number of defensive freshman tonight.

12:45
Oregon's Brandon Jackson intercepts a pass and returns it to the 25-yard line.

11:43 Oregon 52, Cal 17
A few plays later and Mariota tosses another touchdown pass.

 9:21

It's officially the Brian Bennet & Byron Marshall show now, folks.

3:46 Oregon 59, California 17

Brian Bennet completes a pass to B.J. Kelley for the touchdown. Solid drive by the back-ups. While Cal gave the Ducks a solid half of competition, it was nice of them to also provide Oregon's back ups with a scrimmage. Cal's marching band appears to be playing their "We Just Gave Up Another Touchdown" song. The stands are nearly empty now.

FINAL SCORE: Oregon 59, California 17

Not many teams can play a subpar game and win by 42 points. Not sure what else to say, other than injuries are becoming a serious problem. Just not serious enough for Cal to play a competitive game with Oregon. College Gameday could be headed to Eugene next weekend for the Stanford game. And guess who's back, Cardinal:

 
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