Thearon W. Henderson
Our sturdy Golden bear gave Oregon something to think about for about two and half quarters and then the wheels fell off and and the Ducks started rolling. Let's see how the game unfolded.
Predictions of a Golden Bear massacre were widespread and abundant. Oregon needed some style points and a great margin of victory to make up some ground in the BCS standings and Cal was the patsy standing in their way ready to take the punch. And that was the storyline all week long. And then Alabama lost. And Memorial Stadium filled up on a beautiful Saturday night. And then the first two possessions for each team alternated punts and passing touchdowns. Suddenly, halfway through the first quarter, this contest really did feel like a game. Mariotta had gotten a passing touchdown, but Bridgeford had engineered a drive of his own that resulted in a great TD catch by Darius Powe. Cal's defense was playing inspired football and the offense looked like they could score and keep things close. Hope began welling up in the California faithful. The first quarter ended just after an Oregon touchdown by Byron Marshall which gave the Ducks a 14-7 lead, somewhat less than the barrage of points that had been predicted.
The Golden Bears opened the second quarter with a drive that turned into a D'Amato FG and the score was 14-10 Oregon. The Ducks responded with a FG of their own on the subsequent drive and pushed their lead back to 7. Cal then put together a long drive into Duck territory that stalled out with about 2 min left in the half. D'Amato missed the FG attempt and Oregon took over and marched straight down the field to score a touchdown with :44 left in the half. Cal ended the half with the ball and went into the locker room down 24-10.
But there was reason for hope. Oregon had suffered a few key injuries to Marriota and Kenjon Barner on offense and their status was not known but it was known that starting safety Avery Patterson would not be returning after suffering a knee injury on a devastating juke by Isi Sofele. Oregon had the ball to start the second half but the game really felt like Cal had a chance if they could hold them on the first drive and then score.
And that's exactly what happened. Oregon turned the ball over on downs on their first drive of the second half and Cal came back and rode the back of Isi Sofele down the field. He capped a great drive with a 4 yd TD run that put the score at 24-17 and put some serious doubt into Duck fans and pumped some serious sunshine into Cal fans. After an Oregon punt (this game was the best workout their punter has had all year) it really felt like Cal had to momentum and was in a place to make this game really interesting. But then Cal went away from the running game that had been so successful previously and then our old friend Arik Armstead got pressure on Bridgford as he threw up an interception. Oregon scored a TD on the next play and then poured it on from there, scoring 4 more TD's in the last quarter and a half while Cal went turnover on downs, punt, interception, punt, and fumble to end the game.
So while the final score was exactly as many predicted, the Golden Bears did a great job of holding Oregon down for almost 3 quarters and made this game feel much more exciting than people would think given the margin of victory. So chalk up another moral victory for the Bears, one of many this season, which are nice, but don't actually count in the standings. Isi Sofele hada great game going for 134 and a TD and CJ Anderson had some hard, punishing runs that netted him 56 yards. Allan Bridgford was a pedestrian 9 for 21 for 113, a TD and 2 INT and looked good throwing the ball North/South but terrible throwing it East/West. Didn't exactly light the world on fire, but we've come to expect that from our QB's the past few seasons. Either way, though, it was a good send-off for the seniors final home game in Memorial Stadium and was also a fitting good-bye for Jeff Tedford if he does indeed not remain at Cal after this season.