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Cal Football

Oregon Brings Balance to Berkeley

October 27, 2022

Bo Knows.

Bo Nix, that is.

Bo knows touchdowns. Bo knows passing success. Bo knows rushing success.

About the only thing Bo doesn’t know on the football field is negative numbers. In seven games, he has had exactly two plays that produced minus yardage, including one sack for minus one yard and a two-yard rushing loss. That’s it.

Now, as a running quarterback, you might think he’s gotten the benefit of the doubt on sacks, maybe with some home cooking from the stats crew.

Nope. First off, I’ve worked many games embedded in the Ducks’ stat crew – they are among the very best in the conference, probably second only to the Huskies’ crew, which perennially does the Rose Bowl.  Second of all, TWO minus-yardage plays in seven games. There simply haven’t been any “was that a sack or a run?” opportunities.

Oregon is a very, very good football team --- offensively. They unquestionably soiled the sheets in the season opener against Georgia, but since then, juggernaut. They come to Strawberry Canyon riding a six-game win streak. They haven’t won seven straight since 2019, nor have they been 5-0 in conference play since 2019.

But take a closer look at some of the numbers, and there is a glimmer of hope for the Golden Bears.

Cal receiver J.Michael Sturdivant said this week that Cal “could beat any team.” While that may seem like castles in the sky, it is useful to remember that NO player should take the field feeling any other way. Football can be a dangerous and violent game; the only way it can be played is with the mindset of victory, and that is exactly the sentiment you want to hear from a player, even if it seems to fly in the face of recent results.

Where can Cal look for opportunities? Let’s start with field position. Cal has returned just seven kickoffs in seven games for an average return of just over 14 yards. But Oregon has allowed 17 kick returns over their first seven contests, averaging just under 25 yards per return. The Ducks have surrendered almost 15 yards per punt return (on the rare occasions they have punted), and even the few times Oregon has been intercepted (five) the picks have been returned for an average of 25 yards.

Georgia held the Ducks to three points. Since then, Oregon has matched up against a pair of ranked teams – BYU (then #12) and UCLA (then #9) and put up more than 40 points in each contest. I think it can safely be said, without qualifiers, that Cal can not win a shootout – this Ducks team is averaging 49 points per game in their win streak – so the defense is going to have to control the game as much as possible. The Golden Bears are allowing just over 22 points per game, but this will be their sternest test of the year.

Oregon has the leading rushing offense in the conference (#2 in the nation), averaging 6.14 yards per rush. Their quarterback is averaging 7.96 yards per carry, ranking him 5th in the country. They average a bit over 244 yards per game rushing and have 20 rushing TDs this year. So, stack the box?

Not so fast. While Nix is not thought of as a pure passer, he’s way more than adequate at that job, too. He has completed more than 71% of his passes this year and has 17 throwing TDs to go with eight on the ground. Since the Georgia game, Nix has 17 TD passes and ONE interception, and his 41 completions in the red zone are tops in the country. On defense, Cal has to play balanced, plug gaps, hold assignments in the secondary, and expect every series to be four-down territory, as Oregon is 12-for-13 on fourth down this year.

Nix’s favorite target is wideout Troy Franklin, with 35 balls and 5 TDs. Franklin is averaging just over 80 yards receiving per game. Tight end Terrance Ferguson also has 5 TD catches on just 18 balls caught; he’s a go-to receiver in the red zone. Wide receiver Chase Cota is second in receptions with 23 and averages 13.6 yards per catch.

Tailback Bucky Irving enjoyed his first 100-yard rushing game last weekend, and he leads the team in all-purpose yards at 99.7 per game.

Oregon is deadly in the red zone, having scored on 92% of their possessions, including a 74% touchdown rate. When they don’t punch it in, their field goal kicker is a perfect 8-for-8 this year.
Turnovers just aren’t much of a thing when Oregon plays. They have not lost a fumble this season, but have only recovered three. Interceptions are essentially a wash – they’ve thrown five and picked off six.

Keys to a Cal win are: time of possession, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides, getting Jayden Ott the ball in space, and having a huge day from the passing game. Oregon has allowed over 273 yards per game through the air.

Kickoff is at 12:30 from FTX field; the game is on FS1 with Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman mikeside.

Other stories:

Williams Talks About Cal OV

Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast E44: Cal-UW Recap -Audio & Video

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Oregon Brings Balance to Berkeley

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