Oregon unable to make the last catch

As unfair as it might seem, football sometimes comes down to one play. Two weeks ago against Stanford, quarterback Kellen Clemens and wide receiver Keith Allen hooked up for one of the most dramatic plays of the season. This week however, the same pair could not quite make things happen and the No. 4 California Bears escaped with a 28-27 victory over the Oregon Ducks. Even though the Ducks came close to knocking off the Bears, it was no consolation to Mike Bellotti.

"There are no moral victories," said Bellotti. "It doesn't get us to where we want to go."

The game from Oregon's standpoint could well have come down to a play when they were fourth-and-10 on Cal's 41-yard line with 1:39 showing on the clock in the fourth quarter and trailing by a point. Clemens spotted a wide-open Allen well beyond the necessary first down mark and threw a strike. Allen slightly turned his head as the ball arrived and that motion was enough to cause him to bobble the perfectly thrown pass. Had Allen caught the ball he was in position to put the Ducks into field goal range or even score a touchdown. Instead, the ball bounced onto the turf of Memorial Stadium and the crowd of 65,615 groaned in a sigh of relief or agony depending if they were Duck or Bear fans.

"I beat him (Bear's defensive back) bad on that play," solemnly explained Allen of the Ducks final offensive possession. "I dropped it (the pass)."

Realistically though, there were a number of things the Ducks could look at that would account for losing a 27-21 half time lead. In the second half, Cal was able to control the clock and run the ball. The Ducks conversely only had 10 snaps for the entire third quarter.

While the Ducks were able to jump out to a 20-14 first quarter lead and build as much as a 13 points in the second quarter the Bears were determined to show why they are in consideration for a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in January. Led by the passing of quarterback Aaron Rogers and the running J.J. Arrington, California methodically burned up the clock and time of possession in the third quarter and finally took the lead four plays into the fourth quarter. Arrington proved why he was has been named Pac-10 Player of the week on two occasions this season. Arrington rushed for 188 yards on 26 carries, scoring one touchdown. Rogers meanwhile, was artful in his passing and threw for 275 yards, going 21-for-32 and three touchdowns.

"I'm extremely proud of our kids and the character they showed in the second half," said California Head Coach Jeff Tedford. "I the first half, we had a little bit of trouble slowing them down. But there was never any doubt. We came out and moved the ball very well in the second half."

On the other side of the field, Tedford's former boss at Oregon, Mike Bellotti, was thinking that the critical play on the line of scrimmage – which team controlled the line surge was a big factor on the outcome.

"I think we only had one series in the third quarter," remarked Bellotti of his team's performance in the second half of the game. "They (California) controlled the ball, kept it away from us. We just didn't execute the way that we should. They controlled the line of scrimmage – that's probably what gave them the chance to win."

The Ducks looked like it was going to be their day for an upset early on. The Bears scored first on an 81-yard drive when Arrington ran into the end zone from 30 yards off the left guard. Oregon responded with a scoring drive of its own. Clemens was 5-for-5 on a 71-yard drive. Clemens hit Tim Day with a 1-yard score. The Ducks tried an on-side kick that was called back and then tried it again but were unable to recover giving the Bears great field position at the Duck 49. Cal drove the short field and scored on an Aaron Rodgers-to-redshirt freshman tight end Craig Stevens for the touchdown. Ryan Shaw returned the the ball 53 yards on the ensuing kickoff and Oregon starts off at the Bear 38. On the first play of that drive, Clemens hit Dante Rosario on a 38-yard bomb to even things up. The Ducks kicked off and Cal fumbled the ball on the return. Oregon recovered and was in business on the California 27. Three plays later, Clemens hit Day for a second touchdown pass of 16 yards. Fate then struck as normally automatic place kicker Jared Siegel hit the right upright on the point after missing the attempt, but the Ducks led 20-14. The first quarter ended with Oregon leading and Clemens was spectacular in throwing three touchdown passes and was 10-for-12, 115 yards. He also rushed for 39 yards. Clemens would throw his fourth touchdown pass to Marcus Maxwell in the second quarter giving Oregon a 27-14 lead. The Bears mounted a drive in the final two minutes of the half that ended up cutting Oregon's lead back to six, 27-21. Clemens finished the day 19-of-33, 218 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and he also rushed for total of 81 yards (net 53 yards) but was sacked five times.

"Cal's a good football team," said Clemens after the game. "We jumped on them early but they fought back."

Two of the Ducks' major offensive weapons, Day and wide receiver Demetrius Williams were slowed down due to nagging injuries. Day had a sore ankle and Williams has a turf toe. Several of the back-up receivers were called into action in the fourth quarter, but for many the problem of finishing the catch plagued them.

"We make those plays everyday in practice," said freshman Cameron Colvin. "We didn't make the big plays today, and it's frustrating. We're receivers, we're supposed to make catches."

Colvin had one catch for 5 yards. Maxwell was the leading receiver with five catches for 53 yards and the touchdown. Day finished the day with five catches for 46 yards and two scores. Rosario had three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.

Terrence Whitehead was Oregon's leading rusher with 91 yards on 15 carries.

The loss snapped a four-game win streak for the Ducks and seven-game win streak against the Bears. The Ducks are now 5-4 for the season and 4-2 in Pac-10 play. They need one more win in the remaining two games against UCLA at home next week at Autzen Stadium or on the road at Corvallis against Oregon State to become bowl eligible.

The loss against California is not insurmountable and Oregon proved to anyone watching the game how potent a team they could be. They also demonstrated that there is still some work to do in catching the ball.

Kick off for next week's game is scheduled for 12:30 unless the time is changed for a television broadcast.

Notes: Bellotti reported that in addition to Day and Williams, the only other injury was to tackle Robin Knebel (sore ankle).

Box Score from www.GoDucks.com.

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