Cal has to look at its 59-17 loss to Oregon on Nov. 10 as a decent result.
That conclusion, despite the 42-point loss, tells you a lot about Oregon (10-0) and the state of Cal football. But it also indicates that the final margin certainly did not reflect how competitive Cal was for most of the game, which was played in Berkeley.
Despite being without starting quarterback Zach Maynard and its best player, wide receiver Keenan Allen, both out with knee injuries, Cal moved the ball effectively against the Ducks' banged-up defense and was very much in the game midway through the third quarter, trailing just 24-17.
Cal had momentum very much on its side at that point, having just scored on a long drive, mostly on the running of Isi Sofele, who finished with 134 yards rushing.
It appeared the Bears had a flicker of hope to pull off a monumental upset.
It all fell apart in a quick sequence that sent Cal (3-8) to its fourth straight loss with only a road game remaining against Oregon State.
. The game turned when Oregon's Boseko Lokombo intercepted a pass from Maynard's replacement, Allan Bridgford, at the Cal 35-yard line. On the next play, Marcus Mariota threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Josh Huff to make it 31-17 midway through the third quarter.
"I think that two-play sequence may have been the game-changer," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said.
Soon thereafter, Mariota threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Huff to make it 38-17, and the game was essentially over.
The fact that Cal hung with the Ducks for 2 1/2 quarters, and even dominated the first half of the third quarter, despite the Bears' injury situation and recent struggles was more than most expected from Cal.
WHAT'S AHEAD: Cal plays Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., on Nov. 17 in its final game of the season. The Beavers (7-2) are coming off a 27-23 loss to Stanford and have lost two of three since their 6-0 start. But they have a lot more to play for than the Bears, who are simply trying to avoid a fifth straight loss to end their season.
--Cal did an excellent job of shutting down the run against Oregon, which came into the game second in the nation in rushing offense. Kenjon Barner, who had rushed for a school-record 321 yards the previous week against USC, had just 65 yards against the Bears. However, that left passing opportunities for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had the best game of his career, completing 27 of 34 passes for a career-high 377 yards and six touchdowns, which tied a school record.
--It's unclear how Cal's showing against Oregon will affect Jeff Tedford's job status. A 42-point loss certainly does not look good, but the Bears showed they have not quit and were very much in the game in the third quarter. If the Bears play well against Oregon State, it may save Tedford's job, or maybe not.
--Cal's 3-8 record assures it of its worst season under Tedford. A loss to Oregon State would end the Bears' season at 3-9, and only once in the past 25 years have the Bears had records as bad as that. Cal went 1-10 in 2001, the year before Tedford arrived, but its final record has been better than 3-9 every other year since 1986. (Cal won four games in 1999, although officially those wins were wiped out by NCAA sanctions.)
--Injuries will continue to plague Cal in its finale. WR Keenan Allen is unlikely to play against Oregon State and QB Zach Maynard is questionable with a knee injury.
--In his second career start, QB Allan Bridgford was far from great, but he showed improvement after entering the game 4 of 16 for the season in passing. He finished the game 9 of 21 for 113 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Cal TB Isi Sofele had a season-high 134 rushing yards and was the chief reason the Bears were in the game in the third quarter. Sofele has had a disappointing season after rushing for 1,322 yards a year ago, but showed he still has the ability to squirt through holes in a hurry if given a little room. Oregon's defensive line had a lot of players out with injuries, so it will be interesting to see whether Sofele can continue to be productive against Oregon State.
LOOKING GOOD: The Bears' rushing defense had yielded 4.2 yards per running attempt, eighth in the Pac-12, before the Nov. 10 game against Oregon. But Cal effectively shut down the running game of the Ducks, who entered the game ranked second in the country in rushing. Kenjon Barner had just 65 yards on 20 carries (3.2 yards per attempt), and De'Anthony Thomas had just 13 yards on five carries (2.6 yards a carry).
STILL NEEDS WORK: The passing game -- offensively and defensively -- was a problem for Cal, although there were logical explanations. Allan Bridgford was forced into starting because of an injury to Zach Maynard, and he was just 9 of 21, numbers that usually don't win ballgames in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Cal focused so much defensive attention on stopping the run that it opened things up for Marcus Mariota, who threw for 377 yards and six touchdowns.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's very disappointing. We were playing well when we stopped them the first series (of the second half) and came down the field and scored. It was a very tight game, and everything was very competitive. As they do, in the second half, they made a lot of big plays. Their big plays tonight came in the pass game." - Cal coach Jeff Tedford, following the 59-17 loss to Oregon.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--TB Isi Sofele had a season-high 134 yards rushing against Oregon. It leaves him with just 653 yards for the season, less than half of his 2011 season total.
--TB Brendan Bigelow had a season-long 57-yard kickoff return.
--QB Allan Bridgford was 9 of 21 against Oregon and has completed 13 of 37 passes (35.1 percent) for the season.
--Freshman Chris Harper had two catches, giving him 38 for the season, second on the team to Keenan Allen's 61 receptions.
--LB Nick Forbes had 10 tackles against Oregon, giving him a team-high 84 tackles for the season. He also had a tackle for loss, giving him 4.5 for the year.
--WR Keenan Allen did not play against Oregon because of a knee injury suffered against Utah, and he is doubtful for the Nov. 17 game against Oregon State.
--QB Zach Maynard did not play against Oregon because of a knee injury, and he is questionable for the game against Oregon State.
--CB Marc Anthony returned to the starting lineup against Oregon after missing the previous game with a concussion.
--Senior WR Ross Bostock made his first career start against Oregon.
--OT Matt Summers-Gavin did not play against Oregon because of a knee injury, but he might play in the game against Oregon State.