Too Much Cal Spells Oregon Loss

Berkeley, Calif. -- Charged up by an intense home crowd the California Gold Bears made short work of Oregon and handed the Ducks their first loss of the season in a one-sided, 45-24 game at Memorial Stadium. The Ducks committed four turnovers and while only managing to pick off one of Nate Longshore's passes, plus giving up a special teams touchdown to pour salt in the wound.

(PHOTO) Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti saw the game get away early, as his Ducks lost 45-24 to the Cal Bears on Saturday night in Berkeley, Calif. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"You can't go into somebody's house against a very good football team and turn the ball over as much as we did and expect to win," said Bellotti after the game. "That's unfortunate. We weren't very efficient on third downs. I thought our defense played well early and then got tired and worn down a little bit, which has been somewhat of a pattern. I'm more concerned with us limiting mistakes and certainly turnovers are the key."

For a team that had its best defensive effort in years against Arizona State last week, this week's version of the Ducks seemed a step slow and unable to deal with the crowd noise and team speed of the Bears. For as badly outclassed on the scoreboard, oddly enough the Ducks did manage to gain more yards passing (288 yards to 189 yards) but the amount of rushing was indicative of the way the night went.

The Ducks couldn't get the running game going.

Jonathan Stewart had his lowest yardage total of the season by only picking up a net 25 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Dennis Dixon was the leading ground gainer for the Ducks picking up 45 yards on 11 carries and aside from the three interceptions, Dixon had a decent night passing. He was 20-for-35 with two touchdowns but the turnovers are really the thing that people will remember about this game. According Bellotti, pressure was not the problem for Dixon but rather the Ducks inability to run the ball.

"I don't think pressure was a factor," commented Bellotti. "I think it was interesting for Dennis to have some bad throws and mistakes and come back from it. When you don't run the ball or can't run the ball or you're behind and need to throw, obviously it plays into the defense's hands in terms of pressure. I think their run defense was the best thing they did."

At every turn the Cal defense looked faster and stronger than Oregon and even though the Ducks managed to mount a couple of drives late in the game that resulted in scores, it was too little too late – and something the Ducks are very much unaccustomed to.

"They were the better team," said Stewart of California. "They came out in the first quarter and they were ready. We thought we were ready but we just didn't come out to play. It seemed like they were right on op of our whole game plan."

The California defense had its way and as Stewart bluntly stated afterward, "Cal seemed to be in every gap."

Oregon's sole bright spot for the night was Jordan Kent who finished up with 113 yards of receiving on six catches including a long of 44 in the waning moments of the game. Kent is in his second year of organized football but may have a very good assessment of what happened.

"It was just a game where I don't think we executed well on offense," Kent said of the contest. "We came out and were just a bit antsy, it seemed like, each person. We just needed to settle down and be a little more patient."

Cal was on top of the Oregon offensive game plan and it didn't help for the Ducks to put themselves in the hole on the first play of the game. Brandon Hicks picked off Dixon's first pass and from that point all the energy the California faithful could generate was directed right at the Ducks.

"It was huge," said California Head Coach Jeff Tedford. "Right out of the chute, to come up with a turnover and have it that close and be able to capitalize and score a touchdown right away was great."

Besides the turnovers though, Cal had a couple of weapons Oregon had no answer for – Nate Longshore and DeSean Jackson. Longshore finished the game going 14-for-26, 189 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson had two catches for 77 yards and a touchdown but he also electrified the crowd with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown.

"DeSean Jackson has great speed and he's catching the ball well this year," observed Bellotti. "DeSean Jackson is making plays."

Bellotti had hoped that the Ducks could put enough pressure on Longshore to keep him from staying in the pocket long enough to pick out target, but for too many times in the game that is exactly what he did.

"Nate Longshore is making great passes and he's tough in the pocket," Bellotti said of the Cal signal caller. "If you don't destroy his rhythm, he can beat you. I think the biggest difference in the Cal's team from last year to this is Nate Longstreet. He's the missing ingredient that they didn't have last year."

Obviously after the final whistle sounded the Ducks walked off the field wondering where their offense had gone and what will they need to do to get it back. Oregon knows there is still lots of football to be played yet this year and just as in Cal's case after losing badly to Tennessee in the opening game of the year there is still time for redemption. Was there anything to be gleaned out this disaster that can carry the Ducks through next week?

"Cal lost a game on the road early and people had written them off and certainly they have revived themselves very well and played good football," reflected Bellotti of the loss. "I think we can do the same thing. It's probably not a good gut check but it is a gut check. What we take away from this is that you can't make mistakes and turn the ball over and expect to win on the road."

Oregon will host UCLA next week and the road to recovery starts tomorrow when the Ducks return to the film room and take stock of what went right and what went wrong.

"It's a tough loss, but we're not going to let it beat us twice," concluded Kent on his thoughts about the game. "This team never gives up and we'll be ready for next week, definitely. It is a little frustrating, but you've just got to keep working. The fact that we didn't get that win is tough."

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