Cal-Oregon: Five Observations

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By Ted Lee
Posted Sep 29, 2013
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2014 BearInsider.com


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Five observations from Oregon's 55-16 win over Cal on Saturday.
  1. If Cal and Oregon end up tied atop the Pac-12 North at the end of the season, the Ducks win gives them the tiebreaker.

OK, it's not all that likely that the Bears will win out, but even with their 1-3 start, they're just 0-1 in conference play. In losing to Northwestern, Ohio State, and Oregon, they've lost to three Top 20 games, including the second- and third-ranked teams in the country. The Bears' schedule does get a little lighter – while there aren't many games that could be considered walkovers, they stand a decent chance of being competitive in most of them. The question is how well the team will be able to bounce back after the last two losses; even with a bye week sandwiched in, Cal was beaten and beaten up. Most people who looked at the schedule would have guessed that the Bears' record would be what it is after four games – but how they play against Washington State will give a strong indication of how the rest of the season will play itself out.

  1. There is no quarterback controversy. For now.

Jared Goff had about as bad a start as quarterback could have. During his five possessions, the Bears had four turnovers and one three-and-out. Goff lost two of the fumbles, and had another one which he recovered. Following the three-and-out, Oregon scored a touchdown to go up 27-0. After that, Zach Kline was brought in and finished up the game, going 18-of-37 for 165 yards. In interviews at halftime and after the game, Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said the change was made because Goff had trouble holding onto the ball. This is a marked contrast from past years, when former head coach Jeff Tedford woud stubbornly stay with a struggling quarterback. While there's no reason to think that Goff won't be the starter against Washington State, if he has another bad start, don't be surprised to see Kline back in. Although Kline's numbers weren't especially impressive, he did have to throw in bad weather and also suffered from several drops.

  1. Fifty-five points reflects poorly on the defense.

Oregon's offense had short fields to work throughout the first half; their first six possessions began at the Oregon 43, Cal 25, Cal 33, Cal 23, Cal 40, and Cal 38. Of those possessions, the Ducks managed four touchdowns and turned the ball over on downs during the other two. The Ducks did ease up considerably in the second half – but managed just 381 yards on 74 plays. Part of is this is because they didn't have that far to travel for touchdowns, but another part of it was that they were denied two possessions because Bralon Addison returned two punts for long touchdowns.

  1. Injuries may be starting to take a toll.

Cal didn't have a lot of depth to begin with and the very nature of a long season means that the players will have to play with bumps and bruises. Alejandro Crosthwaite had to start at right guard in place of Matt Cochran. Defensive back Kameron Jackson had to leave the game in the first quarter after suffering a leg injury; another defensive back, Michael Lowe, who's been battling injuries all season was shaken up during the game and running back Khalfani Muhammad suffered an apparent concussion early in the game. If Jackson's out for any period of time, that will stretch an already-thin secondary. While the Bears can hope that some of its younger players will be ready to step up to more prominent roles; a lot of these issues are the result of recruiting holes from the past few years and can't be addressed until the offseason.

  1. The receivers will have to spend more time with the JUGS machine this week.

Catching the balls in the rain isn't easy. Heck, holding onto it wasn't any picnic either as both Cal and Oregon struggled with fumbles. But if you look at any team that's thrown the ball a lot and been successful during the past few years, a big reason those offenses worked is that the receivers didn't drop passes. Completed passes keep the offense moving upfield, put the defense on a back foot, limit the defense's ability to substitute, and increase the likelihood of getting the defense caught in a bad match up. A dropped pass stops the clock, thwarts momentum, allows teams to substitute more easily, and usually leaves the offense in a longer yardage situation. Rain or no rain, the Bears had at least a half-dozen passes that the receivers should have caught. Some of the passes might have been a little bit behind them, but were certainly close enough that they should have been caught.

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