High-scoring Bears set to face Ducks’ solid defense
On paper, Saturday’s game between the No. 6 California Golden Bears and the Oregon Ducks ought to be no contest.
Cal outranks the Ducks in every single offensive category and does so in dominant fashion. The Golden Bears are in the top 12 in the nation in three out of the four major offensive breakdowns with 488.7 total yards per game (11th), 250.3 rushing yards per game (10th), and 48.7 points per game (second). Oregon on the other hand, does not rank in the top 60 in any of the four major categories.
But when kickoff happens at 12:30 p.m., everything on paper goes out the window and the Autzen faithful will get to see just what this year’s team is made of. Heading into Saturday’s game against the nation’s top running back in Jahvid Best, the Ducks have been able to keep their focus and leave the rankings and statistical banter out of site and out of mind.
Junior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said focusing on the team has been key.
“We don’t really worry about outside distractions and what people our saying about us,” he said. “We just come here and work every day to get better.”
Masoli, who has recorded four of Oregon’s seven rushing touchdowns this season, will look to reach the end zone through the air for the first time this year after meeting with a frustrated receiving corps last Saturday.
“We all talked after the game last week and we just kind of told each other, it’s time to step up and shine,” he said.
While the offense has been able to improve little by little over the first three games, Oregon’s focus today will be aimed at slowing down Heisman Trophy hopeful Best.
Best has run wild in Cal’s first three games, tallying 429 yards on the ground with eight touchdowns, while also pulling in seven receptions for 59 yards and another score.
“I thought he was the best running back in the country last year,” said first-year Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. “We need to get 11 guys flying to the ball.”
And just how does Kelly plan to stop the best running back in the nation? “Tackle him,” he said.
Kelly said it’s more than Best alone that makes the Bears offense.
“They’re not a one-dimensional team on the offensive side of the ball,” he said. “They have a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball that we have to contain.”
Riley has gone 46 of 71 for 698 yards and five touchdowns this season, while backup running back Shane Vereen has rushed 30 times for 124 yards and four touchdowns in his limited relief of Best.
The Oregon running game was able to find a little more identity last week against Utah as redshirt freshman LaMichael James ran for an Oregon freshman single-game rushing record with 152 yards on 27 carries and reached the end zone for the first time in his collegiate career.
Kelly was not at all surprised at the performance James had on Saturday, especially after seeing him have similar success last season on the scout team offense.
“That’s kind of what I expected from LaMichael,” Kelly said. “He’s a lot tougher than I think people give him credit for because he’s small. He’s a tough sucker.”
While Cal will bring in one of the fastest offenses in the country, the Oregon defense has plenty of speed to counter their attack.
“We’ve just got to play our game,” Oregon cornerback Talmadge Jackson III said. “Stick to our rules and our keys on defense and just go out and play our game.”
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