Entering Saturday’s match-up with the Oregon Ducks (3-1, 1-0 Pacific-10 Conference), the No. 6 California Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1) offense was deemed one of the most potent units in the nation. But as they slowly wandered off the field at Autzen Stadium after a crushing 42-3 defeat, it looked as though they were starting over from scratch.
“I told them that we got beat today by a better team,” Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said. “Oregon did a nice job. I’ve got to give them credit. We got out-played. We got out-coached.”
Through Cal’s first three games, the team averaged 488.7 yards per game — No. 11 in the country — while putting up 48.7 points per contest. Yet even with Heisman Trophy hopeful running back Jahvid Best, the Bears were unable to get anything going offensively.
The Bears tallied just 207 yards of total offense and were held scoreless after Vince D’Amato’s 47-yard field goal on their opening drive. While Oregon converted on all five of its red zone attempts, Cal did not reach the Ducks’ 20-yard line at any point in the game.
“Even with us knowing that they were going to bring the house, we couldn’t really do much on offense,” senior offensive lineman Mike Tepper said. “As an elder of the team, I think I want to put a lot of it on myself and the offensive line. We couldn’t open the holes up for Jahvid (Best) or Vereen or any of the backs back there.”
Best, who put on a show running the ball through the first three games, was held to 55 yards on 16 carries and also pulled in two receptions for 14 yards. He was held scoreless for the first time this season — a sizable feat for the Oregon defense considering Best reached the end zone five times last week at Minnesota.
“They were just beating us at the point of attack,” Tedford said. “We weren’t getting any movement up front. I was really impressed with their defensive front. They did a great job in the run game and did a great job rushing the passer.”
Oregon’s defense was able to keep junior quarterback Kevin Riley in check as well, holding him to 12-of-31 passing for 123 yards, while sacking him four times.
“We just took turns messing up,” Riley said. “I’d miss a throw, something would go wrong with a block. We put a lot on that first fumble. That was me. That was my fault.”
The Cal defense had a tough day as well, allowing 236 yards rushing and 288 yards passing, while giving up five touchdowns, two field goals and a two-point conversion. But both teams had a tough time hanging on to the ball as they coughed it up seven times combined.
The Autzen crowd was in full form throughout the day and undoubtedly had an effect on the communication of the Bears offense.
“This is the toughest place to play in our conference and one of the toughest in the nation,” Tedford said.
Riley and Tepper both felt that the crowd noise was only a factor for so long, and that they eventually just needed to execute but were unable to do so.
“People saw us today and people have seen us before and know this isn’t how we play,” Riley said. “Oregon did a good job taking us out of our game but it was more us than them. We’ll come back and surprise people with how we play next week.”