With one of the worst nights of weather for an Oregon game since the 1983 Toilet Bowl, the Ducks achieved a much different outcome than they did 30 years ago.
Among the critical differences between then and now are talent, quickness, desire and athleticism: on this treacherous Saturday there were 10 fumbles in the slippery conditions, and the Ducks recovered 8 of them, four of Cal’s and four of their own.
The stats might suggest that the Oregon offense was out of synch, but with expectations adjusted slightly for the conditions, they did fine. The Ducks had four td drives of 38 yards or less, and scored twice without an offensive possession on two spectacular punt returns by Bralon Addison. For the game the Ducks scored their 55 points with just 381 yards from scrimmage.
Blocking in the kicking game was superb. Coach Mark Helfrich pointed out after the game that on both of Addison’s record-tying td returns there were not only several great blocks, but several great non-blocks as the Duck return squad avoided penalties as Bralon weaved through the Bear defense. Oregon’s #4 Erick Dargan got a perfectly-timed block on the safety, #11, the last defender with a clear shot as the shifty return man cuts back to the middle of the field and then left.
Even on the opening kickoff where DAT was injured, watch the Ducks get three key blocks where the wedged was formed, every California player picked up. Keanon Lowe cuts upfield ahead of his return mate to wall off #27. Thomas only has to beat the safety, but his ankle slips away from him as he cuts.
Bralon Addison gets great blocking on his 11-yard td run to start the scoring. There’s a nice kickout block by Johnny Mundt, Tyler Johnstone ties up the playside tackle, and Grasu and Jake Fisher double team the linebacker. Colt Lyerla seals off the backside. All that’s left is for Marshall to scoot to the end zone. He showed good vision and decisiveness throughout the night, running for a career-high 130 yards on 19 carries.
On Marcus Mariota’s two yard touchdown run midway through the highlight, everyone carries out their assignment perfectly, and Mariota just beats the unblocked defender one-on-one. The speedy quarterback freezes him with a slight shoulder feint and just dives inside him for an easy td.
The Ducks made the most of the conditions and minimized their mistakes. It was a horrid night to throw and catch the football, but they were so effective in other areas that it didn’t matter.
And what is it about games with the Cal Bears? The last several years have seen a game interrupted by a power outage at the stadium, a game played on a lake at Memorial Stadium, a game that ended with Cameron Colvin’s agonizing fumble at the goal line for a touchback, Ed Dickson rescued off the milk carton to score three touchdowns, a bizarre night of no offense and a decisive drive that resulted in no points, Marcus Mariota tossing six touchdowns in a Saturday night massacre, and a game played in a monsoon.
Something about the annual picnic with the Bears brings out the drama.