BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Every time it seemed like California might be ready to mount a comeback, Oregon’s opportunistic defense stepped up and delivered. A week after a crushing collapse, the Ducks responded with a…
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Every time it seemed like California might be ready to mount a comeback, Oregon’s opportunistic defense stepped up and delivered.
A week after a crushing collapse, the Ducks responded with a resilient performance for their first Pac-12 road win since 2016.
Justin Herbert threw two touchdown passes to help No. 19 Oregon build a big lead and the Ducks used five takeaways and two defensive touchdowns to avoid a repeat of last week’s loss to Stanford, beating No. 24 California 42-24 on Saturday night.
“We had a lot of naysayers saying we were going to be back to the old Oregon way,” linebacker Troy Dye said. “We had a bad taste in our mouth. We had a lot to prove this week. We came out and we proved some points.”
La’Mar Winston Jr. returned a fumble for a touchdown in the first half and Ugochukwu Amadi had an interception return for a TD in the second half for the Ducks (4-1, 1-1), who blew a 17-point, second-half lead in an overtime loss to Stanford.
Travis Dye ran for 115 yards and a touchdown, and C.J. Vardell ran for 106 yards to give Oregon a big road win against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1) after losing all four conference games away from home a year ago.
The Ducks broke out to a 35-10 lead early in the third quarter before Cal responded with a TD run by Patrick Laird. The Bears had chances to cut further into the deficit after Travis Dye lost a fumble.
But the Oregon defense responded well this week, intercepting a pass from Chase Garbers in the end zone and stopping Brandon McIlwain for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1 early in the fourth quarter. Amadi sealed the game with a 32-yard interception return against McIlwain for a TD that made it 42-24.
“The mindset was to redeem ourselves,” Amadi said. “We were eager to get back on the field. We wanted to give the world what they needed to see and that was playing Oregon football.”
Cal started well in its first game as a ranked team in three years by holding the ball for nearly half the first quarter before settling for a field goal on the opening drive. The Bears went back ahead 10-7 early in the second quarter on a 28-yard keeper by McIlwain.
But the Ducks scored three TDs in the final 5:44 of the half to put away the game. Dye scored on a 45-yard run and Herbert connected on a 36-yard TD pass to Dillon Mitchell.
Then with the Bears driving and looking to cut into an 11-point deficit, the Ducks seized momentum in the final seconds of the half. Drayton Carlberg sacked McIlwain and knocked the ball loose. Winston scooped it up and raced 61 yards for the score that made it 28-10 with 18 seconds left in the half.
“Everybody feels awful,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “You invest so much time and energy and when it doesn’t go like you want it to go, it stings. You only get so many opportunities to go out and play, so it hurts and it should hurt. We’ll learn from it.”
Vardell had a 74-yard run to the 1 on the opening play of the third quarter for the Ducks to set up another TD.
Oregon: Herbert was sharp as usual, completing 16 of 22 passes for 225 yards. But he got plenty of help from a strong ground game and the big plays by the defense. There were two defensive TDs, Amadi and Jevon Holland each had two interceptions, and Troy Dye made the big fourth-down stop against McIlwain.
California: The Bears figure to have a short stay in the poll. They allowed far too many big plays defensively and couldn’t develop any consistency throwing the ball. Cal used Garbers and McIlwain throughout the game but neither quarterback was effective throwing the ball. McIlwain had two interceptions and lost a fumble, and Garbers also was intercepted twice.
“There’s definitely more that we could’ve done,” McIlwain said. “Five turnovers is never acceptable. We’ve got to do a better job and especially myself, I’ve got to do a better job of being able to take care of the ball and get it to my receivers and it to the running backs and let them have the opportunity to make a play.”
RUN TO DAYLIGHT
McIlwain did do some damage running the ball. He had 15 carries for 123 yards against a defense that had held three straight opponents under 100 yards. He became the first Cal QB to rush for 100 yards in a game since Joe Kapp in 1958.
Oregon: Host No. 11 Washington on Oct. 13.
California: Visit Arizona on Saturday.
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