Troy Wayrynen - USA Today Sports
It started bad early, as Oregon scored on their first three possessions. The Ducks went for a field goal on the first possession. Cal went three and out.
Then Oregon drove the field, with Royce Freeman and Justin Herbert providing big plays, finishing with a 37 yard post pattern to Brenden Schooler. Freeman went out on this drive. Cal quickly gave the ball back after six plays for 15 yards and a punt.
The Ducks drove right back down the field, as the Cal defensive line struggled to get penetration no matter who the running back was, and Herbert finished the drive with a 7 yard TD run. The biggest part of this drive? Herbert would leave the game with a shoulder injury.
Despite the injuries to Freeman, Herbert, and Dillon Mitchell, the Bears could only take a little bit of advantage, with Jordan Kunaszyk intercepting Taylor Alie and returning it 53 yards, with Ross Bowers throwing a drag to Jordan Veasy for a TD. The Bears went into the locker room with the ball to start the second half while only being down two scores.
Halftime stats. Rushing totals are not good pic.twitter.com/fc1199noc2
— Cal Rivals (@CalRivals) October 1, 2017
That hope was extinguished quick, with a quick 3 and out, followed by a 13 play 73 yard drive for the Ducks, where they mostly ran and Cal struggled to stop it. Even with Kanawai Noa getting a score on a beautifully thrown wheel route, there wasn't enough.
Cal got a stop, and a field goal with a bit of help from Oregon penalties, but then Oregon produced a couple killers. The first was a 68 yard run by Kani Benoit, as Rusty Becker got driven to the ground and Jordan Kunaszyk took a step inside, and Benoit was gone.
After that, the levy broke. Bowers got sacked twice, one when Jaylen Jelks annihilated Ross Bowers, the other when Justin Hollins came off the edge right around Pat Mekari for the strip sack. A short field gave Oregon a 38-17 advantage, and while Bowers found Wharton late on a skinny post, it didn't help, the subsequent onside kick went out of bounds, and the Bears couldn't create anything when they got the ball back. Even with Taylor Alie going out with an injury, forcing true freshman Braxton Burmeister into the game, the Bears just couldn't stop the run.
- Line play was not a plus for the Bears, as they allowed Ross Bowers to get sacked 7 times, allowed 11 tackles for loss, and only pushed forward for 8 net yards because of it. Valentino Daltoso went out with an injury, Kam Bennett frequently got destroyed, and Bowers had nowhere to go on a couple of occasions. Of the seven sacks, one was Bowers fault for holding the ball, one was a 6 man blitz where Pat Laird whiffed on a block, but the others were on the line
- The defensive line has their worst performance as well, with allowing 6.2 yards per carry before the final kneel downs. And this was after Herbert went out, where they knew the runs were coming due to Taylor Alie not having the same passing ability as Herbert. The group didn't get push, allowing easy 4-5 yard gains that the linebackers had to clean up.
- Speaking of linebackers, Devante Downs wasn't around as much, as he seemed to not be around after the first half. Jordan Kunaszyk led the team in tackles in his stead, and had a fantastic interception, but this group needs Downs to return to be effective.
- Kanawai Noa is tough as nails, and got to show the wheels with his 75 yard reception. Noa consistently tries for the hard catches, taking a targeting penalty early but getting his second career 100+ yard receiving game. Wheel routes worked well for the Bears
- Special teams doesn't have much to critique, other than Wharton's muffed punt, which Kunaszyk immediately nullified on the next play. Matt Anderson drove in his sole field goal attempt
- There were a few attempts at screen passes that just did not work against a fast Oregon defense. Pat Laird in space can make some plays, but those didn't give him a chance to make those plays.
- Lot more four wide sets, as receivers were still having trouble getting separation. Makes one wonder what this group would be like with Ray Hudson in the mix at TE
- 4-18 on 3rd down is not going to win many games, especially when the average of yards to gain is 8.8
- Only 3 TFLs for the Bears, though that was on not getting penetration
All in all, the Bears lost at the line. That's something that they can't do, something that will be reviewed during the week, and reshuffling up front will not be out of the question.